| Saints Row 2 (Xbox 360) |
Saints Row 2 returns to the city of Stilwater from the first game, but a lot of things have changed since the 3rd Street Saints successfully liberated the city from the gang wars threatening to tear it apart. The protagonist wakes up inside a maximum security prison and soon finds out from a fellow prisoner that they have been in a coma for the last 5 years after what happened at the end of the first game. The duo quickly decide to break themselves out and make a run for the city, but not before the game offers the player the chance to create their virtual avatar.
Character customization is much improved over the last game with dozens of new hair styles and personality options. The player character (quickly dubbed "The Boss" by their friends) can now be female and is no longer silent, with the game offering a total of 6 different voices for the player to choose from.
After escaping the prison island and safely making it to the shore the Boss and their new friend Carlos talk about what had happened while they were in a coma.
As it turns out, a new company named Ultor has taken over the city in all but name and several new gangs have formed to fill the power vacuum left at the end of the last game.
The remaining Saints, unable to compete without their leader or the Boss, soon fell apart with all the members either ending up dead or in jail. The Boss is shocked to hear this and promises to rebuild the Saints and restore them to their former glory. From that point on the player is free to explore the world as they see fit and rebuild the empire they had lost.
The gameplay is similar to the first game, but much improved with the addition of several new features and items. The city has been expanded greatly and now has much more content to offer. Along with hidden areas there are many new stores to shop at and places to eat.
The environment itself has also gotten a lot more diverse since the first game and now includes such places as a local collage, underground cave, trailer park, nuclear reactor and much more. The game doesn't end just because the story is completed and it will take players dozens of hours to find and do everything.
The plot and mission structure is pretty much the same as the first game, though this isn't a bad thing. The game once again tasks players with gaining respect to complete missions, but the wide array of ways to earn it and freedom to do mission storylines in any order don't make this mechanic feel like a chore.
The Saints start small once again, but they have set their sights much higher and quickly grow in power as the game progresses. The story is a bit darker than the last game and the Saints no longer hold the noble goal of cleaning up the city and making it safe. Instead they only want the power and influence running Stilwater would give them and are willing to cross even more lines than in the first game.
The game is most certainly not for children and adults who are easily offended may wish to skip it. The violence portrayed in the game is often extremely and gruesomely realistic despite being portrayed in an over the top fashion. At one point a person is strapped to the back of a truck and dragged along the road as a form of torture. Another person is buried alive after interrupting a funeral and yet another ends up being locked inside the trunk of a car and crushed to death. This along with heavy drug use and sexual content may turn away some players, but for the most part none of it is any worse than an R rated movie.
The game is a lot of fun to explore and is well paced, but its best feature is the inclusion of women alongside men in several important roles. Women can appear as police officers or gang members as well as men and several have high positions of power in the story as well. They fight and support their factions just as well as the men do, though most of the boss fights are men.
The game does allow nutshots, but the groin attack animation plays the same for both genders so I can't really complain there. The game treats both genders the game to the extent that even clothing items can be equipped to the opposite gender if the player wishes. Women can wear suits, men can wear dress, and the city doesn't seem to care one way or the other which gender the player is.
The only thing gender does seem to affect is voice options, but there really isn't anything stopping people from creating male avatars with females voices and vise versa. Saints Row 2 has solid gameplay, solid replay value, and a fairly open mind when it comes to gender stereotypes and expectations. Its a lot of fun for people who can take the craziness and is often cited as the best game in the series by longtime fans. Really, I couldn't agree more and highly recommend you check it out if you like open world sandbox games.
- Reviewed by Midnightundead
Rating: M (Blood and gore, intense violence, nudity, sexual content, strong language, use of drugs).