Saints Row 2 PlayStation 3
Published by: THQ
Developed by: Volition
Release Date: Out Now
Saints Row 2 is set a few years after the events of the original Saints Row. The game begins with your character in a prison hospital wrapped in bandages having just awoken from a five-year coma and before the bandages are taken off, you'll get to choose whether your character is male or female and what they look like and some of the options available are simply bizarre. Thankfully your character isn't behind bars for long as you're assisted in escaping but escaping from prison is the least of your character's problems. You soon learn that the overbearing Ultor Corporation has taken over the Stilwater area which your character once controlled and that the Saints, the gang you used to lead, have been broken up. Throughout the course of the game you'll be reuniting the Saints, seeing off rival gangs who operate in different sections of Stilwater and attempting to get rid of the Ultor Corporation.
If you're expecting Saints Row 2 to be a serious, gritty GTA IV style experience your hopes will be dashed at the character creation phase right at the beginning of the game. You can create just about any concoction you could possibly imagine, including characters that are simply a combination of male and female so if you want your male characters to have boobs (for whatever reason), you can. There are many things you can do in the game, that aren't even part of the main storyline, that are just flat out crazy. There are streaking missions, which involves your character running around in the buff (don't worry the rude parts are pixelated, although with Saints Row 2 being an 18 rated game you have to wonder why). There are missions where you have to commit insurance fraud (by crazily diving in front of moving cars), missions where you have to impersonate police officers, drive escort girls around whilst they satisfy their clients and there are even zombie hordes to wipe out. Whilst some of these activities might have a lot of potential to be offensive, you're never shown anything in the kind of detail in which it could cause offence. What I really like about the missions on offer in Saints Row 2 is that there always seems to be alternatives should you not like any of the missions.
The various activities you can engage in will earn you respect if you complete your objectives. You'll need to earn respect in order to move the storyline forward. Whilst the storyline isn't particularly engrossing, it's definitely humorous and it's practically impossible to take it seriously. This is something that works in the game's favour and makes it more accessible to those who just want a game world where they are allowed to do all kinds of crazy things without any serious consequences. Even the combat in the game has been kept simple with no need for utilising cover and advanced tactics. Of course you'll have to make money in the game and this can be done in a variety of ways but taking over the rival gangs territory and making money from real estate is probably the best way to go about making money. At no point does the game lose its humorous touch however and it's a game where you can be completely amoral without having to suffer any real consequences. It's also pretty impressive that you can play through the campaign co-operatively which adds replay to the experience.
Graphically Saints Row 2 looks decent but it's inevitably going to be compared to GTA IV and I think it's fair to say it comes up short in that comparison. Still that's not really a problem and it doesn't detract from the game in any respect. The general performance of the game isn't bad and whilst there are some frame rate dips, it's seldom problematic. I do wish there had been more camera angles available when you're driving however. When driving the larger vehicles you never feel as though the available camera angles are good enough to allow you a clear view of the road ahead and this led me to prefer driving the smaller vehicles which is a shame.
Saints Row 2 isn't as good an experience for deaf gamers as it could have been. The game is subtitled and you'll be able to follow the game's storyline. Tutorial messages are shown in text. All of the crucial dialogue is shown in text but virtually everything else isn't subtitled. Whilst you're on a mission you'll be oblivious of comments that are made toward your character. You'll also be unaware of comments that are made when you are taunting or flattering other characters in the game. There's quite a lot of spoken humour in the game and whilst some of this is in the game's cutscenes, which you'll be aware of, a lot of it is in the general comments that are made by characters who are simply walking the street, which you won't be aware of. Essentially then you won't find any real obstacles to playing the game but it's not as enjoyable for deaf gamers as it is for hearing gamers.
As long as you're not expecting Saints Row 2 to be anything wildly different from previous games in the genre, it's difficult to be disappointed with the game. Sure the provision for deaf gamers could have been better and graphically it could have also been improved upon. The AI of both your enemies and fellow gang members can be iffy at times, to say the least. However, it's a game that never takes itself seriously and regardless of how you play the game, it's very enjoyable. Volition have obviously decided that they wanted the game to avoid becoming overly serious in anyway and the emphasis is very much on providing a tongue-in-cheek experience and it's all the better for it.