By Sam Coles:
If I say Saint’s Row these days you would associate it with bonkers off the wall humour where you can fly through the air and super punch someone across the map. However during its humble beginning it was nothing more than a Grand Theft Auto clone which was first released on the Xbox 360 exclusively. Saint’s Row 2 was the first game in the series that I played and it was released in 2008 on the Xbox 360 and PS3 and was still a GTA clone but had some unique features. It was still a grounded experience like the first game for the most part with the whole gang warfare aspect.
The story takes place directly after the events of the first game where you find yourself in prison injured after you’re taken into custody in isolation as you’re a very dangerous man, even the prison guards fear you. It’s not long until you wake up and this where you customise your appearance to an insane degree. You are freed by a fellow gang member and you find that Stillwater has been taken over by four factions and you must take it back. The factions are unique and fun you have the Sons of Samedi a gang that uses voodoo magic, the Ronin a Chinese based gang with swords, The Brotherhood the tattoo covered loons and Ultor a private security company that wants marshal law. The game’s story is fun and over the top but it does have some serious and emotional moments especially with a certain member of your gang being murdered you’ll know if you’ve played it.
The game if you can’t tell is an open world sandbox but unlike its competitor GTA IV at the time Saint’s Row 2 is brimming with content which all fun and varied from the ridiculous but fun insurance fraud where the rag doll physics give the finger to the laws of gravity to you flinging excrement at houses in a septic truck. The activities are a lot of fun and also necessary to progress in the game as the game will fold its arms until you have gained a certain amount of respect through the side activities so this gives you an incentive to try out each side mission as they reward you with progression through the story.
Driving is a lot of fun in this game as it does not take a realistic approach as it is a kin to something like Burnout with tight and arcady controls. It’s also fun to run people over as they don’t crack over your bonnet realistically but instead rocket into the sky like a cartoon character. Shooting on the other hand is rather clunky as you’re constantly in a free aim mode which usually isn’t a problem if you’re playing on a mouse and keyboard but on a controller it feels odd as it lacks auto targeting or targeting assist.
There are a plethora of cars to choose from and they can be customised to your hearts content this was a big selling point of Saints Row as it had more features than GTA IV at the time which GTA got rid of as they were testing the waters for then new 360 and PS3. It’s a lot of fun to customise your vehicle as you can add spikes to your car rims to take down other cars which is a lot of fun.
The presentation is okay not great but it’s not horrible, the character models especially have aged awfully with laughable animations during cutscenes, but to be fair this game is nearly 10 years old and was released during the early days of the 7th generation. The city looks great with heavy traffic and neon lights at night coupled with the beautiful sunrises.
Saint’s Row 2 is a great GTA style game that does not take itself seriously with over the top and cartoonish violence coupled with some fun gameplay mechanics. The game is super cheap these days you can pick it up for £2 these days so if you have your PS3 or 360 knocking about still dust it off and give it a go.