Silly, outrageous, profane, excessively violent, very naughty, and unapologetically so.
“One can never be too rich as to throw away a homie.” Thoughtful Dialogue. Charming Characters. Epic Storyline. Sweeping Soundtrack….Not in this game! Get your violence and profanity on with THQ’s latest bullet packed thrill ride.
I usually review RPGs and other sorts of Japanese Fluff for ZTGD. I can imagine Ken’s inner dialogue when I told him that I could provide a review of Saints Row 2 for his site. I played Grand Theft Auto IV for about two hours and did not enjoy it at all. Don’t really know why, just wasn’t my thing. I am, however, goofy about character creation (just ask my husband, I can spend two hours creating a character), and having had a bit of fun with the first Saints Row’s creator, I was at least looking forward to Saints Row 2’s robust character creation. I imagined I would create a character, fart around for an hour or so and be left wanting. Nine hours later, I am still having a great time with this profane, ridiculous, and hilariously energy drink fueled game.
Saints Row 2 begins with what I believe to be one of the best, if not the best, character creation system available. When I create a character, I judge the creators horsepower by choosing a picture of a random subject. I chose Discovery Channel’s Josh Bernstein as my test subject (don’t ask..). I was able to create an almost exact likeness, with the exception of his hair. You can choose to play as a male or female, create the look of the character. The creator also allows the option to choose their walk (love the Pimp Lean), Compliment (A-OK!) Taunt (Oh No You Di’int!!), and Voice. You can also choose a facial expression. While these were humorous to look at, I couldn’t play the entire game with any of these faces, the emotions expressed are all over the top exaggeration, and all appeared to be various stages of drunkenness. Most impressive, is that the character you create looks great in game. I’ve seen this before, a created character looks great…until you actually see them in game, where body proportions and appearance go all to hell. No complaints here…from walking animation to speaking the character looked great.
After creating your character, the game opens with a homie assisted jailbreak. After the jailbreak, the entire city of Stillwater is open for exploration. This is where Saints Row 2 shines, well shines perhaps isn’t the best word to use, let’s just say it is damn fun. After the jailbreak, you learn that your gang has lost status in Stillwater. You must take out the rival gangs to restore the Saints status. To begin the story related missions, and to gain homies, you must gain respect. This is done by doing a myriad of ridiculous activities and diversions. Activities such as Insurance Fraud, Impersonating Cops, Racing, and being a Hitman. Diversions such as Driving an Ambulance, Playing Poker, and Ho’ing. These not only gain respect, but give money and such valuables as the “Pimp Suit”. There is also the option to play a fun Zombie mini game in your crib. Yes, these activities and diversions are as outrageous as they sound. A game which allows you to drive a truck spraying poop all over buildings and people obviously doesn’t take itself too seriously.
The characters you will encounter range from pathetic bums to surly prostitutes and pimps to college students. The voice acting from the main characters to the NPCs are for the most part well above average. Interaction with the NPCs is somewhat limited. You can’t really have a conversation with them, so you can choose, as I did, to put surly folks who give sass in their place. Sometimes they will run away screaming, sometimes they will pull a weapon and attempt to put up a fight. They are clearly no challenge for the main character, however beating them up I found to be oddly satisfying and they will at times drop cash. You can also gain respect by dispensing of rival gang members you encounter while traversing Stillwater.
The combat is straightforward and responsive. Select your weapon of choice, and swing away with the trigger buttons. If you take too much damage consider yourself “smoked”. You then wake up in the hospital a bit poorer but ready to wreak more havoc. Oddly enough, I found it difficult at times to get the attention of Stillwater’s Finest. I could pummel an innocent within clear view of police, they wouldn’t react. If you do manage to attract the attention of police, simply find the nearest “Forgive and Forget” and cough up some change. This is a small price to pay for inflicting amnesia on all police in the vicinity.
Getting from place to place in Stillwater is easy. You can simply pull the driver out of a passing car and drive away. A plus is that you can stow stolen vehicles in your garage for later use. Or you can do the ethical thing and purchase your car. The GPS allows for simple navigation, you can select the activity via the Stillwater map and the path to the selected destination appears on screen. You can only hope that the person whose car you borrowed enjoys the same kind of music you do, as I was unable to change the radio station. This is sad because the game has a very nice pirated Indie Rock station with very nice tracks. Maybe I just couldn’t figure out how to change it, but it’s a con nonetheless. You can, however access and customize a playlist which I talk about a bit more later.
The graphics I thought were well done. I’ve read complaints elsewhere that this affected enjoyment and immersion of the game. I don’t share this opinion, again..this game does not take itself too seriously , and saying that my ’ho was graphically not up to snuff is kinda silly. While driving around the city, I was impressed at how it reflected a real city. You have your nice areas and your not so nice areas. To me, the graphics did not detract one bit in my enjoyment of the game. I do agree however, with others that the colors at times seemed washed out.
With the money gained from your character’s stealing, racing, ’ho delivering and what not…you can purchase new “cribs”, clothes, jewelry (I refuse to call it Bling), tracks for your playlist, booze, fast food and vehicles just to name a few things. You can also spend your ill-gotten gains customizing your house to gain style points.
The menu can be accessed using the start button, which allows you to use your phone, fiddle with the music, save and load. The option to purchase music is cool, you can customize (a bit klunkily) a playlist so that you aren’t forced to listen to the games soundtrack. The menu self explanatory and serves its purpose.
A session of Saints Row 2 might sound something like this:
Me: “Dammit!! My ’ho jumped out of the car…now I have to go find another one….”
My Husband: “Well, she was a bit fat and ugly. Perhaps there is a better one around…”
Me: “Oh well, I think I’ll finish the Hitman Missions in the Barrio.”
My Husband: “Remember, you get an achievement for nut shots…”
Saints Row 2 is the type of game soccer Moms will scream about. Why, I’m sure I don’t know because it is clearly not for kids. Silly, Outrageous, Profane, Excessively Violent, Very Naughty, and Unapologetically so. And it is a hell of a lot of fun. I can’t say though my character, dressed in argyle sweater vest riding a PeeWee cycle through traffic while avoiding pedestrians is the epitome of gangster. Just the opposite, in fact, which is what makes Saints Row 2 so entertaining. It is extremely funny to me to see my Mild Mannered well dressed character in such extremely over the top gangster life situations. There is no pretense here, the game knows full well it is silly. And if the purpose of a video game is to entertain, then Saints Row 2 hits it out of the park.