All’s good, if a little unusual, in da hood
In the past 3 hours I’ve broken out of a prison, covered buildings in sewage, got a job as a body guard for celebrities, beaten a couple of innocent nudists to a pulp, blown up a hotel only to escape by jumping off the roof and deploying my parachute a centimeter away from the ground…and I got an achievement for singing along to ‘Take On Me’ on the radio
As you’ve probably guessed this isn’t an average day in my life, despite my weird addiction to ‘A-Ha’. This is a usual daily spectacle in the city of Stilwater, setting of Saints Row 2.
A lot has changed since the first game. Territories have been reclaimed by rival gangs, a majority of the streets have been cleaned up and a corrupt corporation known as ‘Ultor’ has made its mark in Stilwater with promises to erase gang life forever and by planning a massive 50 million story building in the middle of the city that looks like it should’ve featured in Blade Runner.
This is the city you wake up to from your 5 year coma after being blown up at the end of the first game. Although this didn’t seem to kill you (and perhaps gives you the ridiculous hope that you’re a superhero…which it did for me), it did require you to get yourself a new body, rather subtlety introducing the character customisation feature to you. This is possibly the most extensive character customisation I have ever seen in a game and began to get bloody ridiculous when it came to giving me options such as making you pick the depth of your eyeballs. It’s hard to make your character unique with facial features and only when you get into some of the most ludicrous features where you start having fun with it. Once these had been found, a huge smile appeared on my face and the adventures of my cockney mop headed, Fonz imitating, Michael Jackson fanatic began.
As soon as I stopped giggling to myself at the sound of my character trying to communicate with a bunch of American ‘Gangsta’ types with an overwhelmingly strong cockney accent, my attention turned to what I could get up to in the city. Simply by looking at the map, I found the streets completely littered with activities that had nothing to do with the overall plot. Such activities included rescuing prostitutes from abusive pimps, drug trafficking to clients around town and throwing myself in front of cars for insurance fraud purposes. Despite having approached these sub-missions with a raised eyebrow and as much knowledge into the world of crime as a Tweenie, I found most of the challenges enjoyable and actually managed to find the humorous side in most.
These zany challenges do make the main storyline look a bit stale in comparison, however. The game follows 3 storylines which focus on you destroying 3 separate gangs and gaining control of Stilwater.
the storyline is pretty mediocre at best
Although fun to begin with, you soon become aware that you’re doing the same old driving and killing missions again and again, just with a different destination to reach or target to kill. You also find that the storyline is pretty mediocre at best and only really find benefits when it comes to gaining control of areas. Even with a slight twist at the end, the plot does little but provoke a shrug of the shoulders.
Although SR2 is essentially a free roaming sandbox game, missions do tend to force you to visit all of the areas of the city, allowing you to explore and get the most out of the experience once you discover some free time from gunning down rivals. The design of Stilwater offers up some interesting landmarks and with distribution of activities spread out evenly, you’re never too far away from something new.
It seems that in order to fit in the huge amount of activities, though, the developers have had to turn their attention away from the practicalities of the programming. Not an hour went by where I didn’t discover a glitch which interrupted play and forced me to question whether this was a flaw or a deliberate piece of programming to fit in with the silly sense of humour. Some of my favourite glitches and programming errors include the general absence of cars to hijack which disappear entirely when they get halfway off of camera, your AI partner deciding the quickest way to ditch the police is to try driving through a tree followed by driving through a second tree and an unusual moment where a civilian got caught in my car door and started jittering like they were dry humping the cup holders. Needless to say these are minor when it compares to the glitches found in the previous Saints Row and the game is quick to fix them once they are discovered, yet they do distract from game play often.
It’s a shame that it is these particular moments which prevent Saints Row 2 becoming a fantastic game. Just when you become immersed, a glitch makes it painfully aware that you’re playing a videogame. Just as you begin to enjoy the soundtrack and the sound of your kick ass cockney vigilante tearing up the streets, your team-mates start spewing the same lines of dialogue stating that wounds hurt and that death is a bad experience and they must be at its door etc etc…
Despite these small negatives, Saints Row 2 ultimately succeeds in providing an enjoyable experience and finally manages to let go of GTA’s hand and develop its own identity as the class clown. If it was released having been a little more polished, however, it could easily compete with its grittier counterpart.
The Bad: Some achievements seem pointless or are worth less than what is asked of you, Rather glitchy, Missions only seem to be focused on shooting and driving
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