I knew nothing about Saints Row 2 before I downloaded it (which probably isn’t the cleverest thing to do – jumping into a sequel without playing the previous game or knowing anything but the title), what can I say, I’m impulsive. However I did first see a “review” of this game from The Escapist Magazine. I use the word “review” lightly because it is more Yahtzee just ranting about things. If you’d prefer not to watch it yourself (it’s animated and very funny) I’ll sum up why I trusted it of all things; Yahtzee always finds something to complain about in a game and usually takes the piss but with SR2 he didn’t. Well he did pick up on some things but it was generally very positive. I’ve watched a lot of Zero Punctuation’s vids and this review is probably the most complimentary of them all. So, without further ado, watch as I kneel at Saints Row 2′s alter of fun while laughing at Niko Bellic’s realistic and harsh environment in Grand Theft Auto 4…

The first thing that sort of sets the tone of the game is right at the beginning; the first thing you do is choose what your person looks like, acts like and sounds like – completely different to Grand Theft Auto. As for the tone, you can make the most masculine man with a tough guy hair-do, biceps as big as Hulk Hogan’s and so forth, but also give him a ladies voice and a very strange facial expression (anguish looks more like a stoke victim) and boobs. Yes, you can give your man boobs. Equipped with a pink bra to match, free of charge. I felt more attached to my normal looking, sassy red-headed woman straight off  rather than trying to be a character who was nothing like me. And who was a man. I could relate to the boobs though…

SR2 is basically just silliness with some story missions thrown in – you were the top dawg in Saints Row 1 and now your crew has pretty much disappeared except for you and one other guy, Johnny Gat. You two have to start up a new 3rd Street Saints and own the city of Stilwater by wiping out the other crews – The Brotherhood in red, Sons of Samedi ingreen and The Ronin in yellow who look like they just jumped out of Kill Bill. By completing missions you gain more members for 3rd Street and decrease the other crews presence, along with collecting guns, clothes, cars and properties which you can upgrade with the money you earn form basically killing people. Another interesting thing I noticed was that the Saints have a headquarters which is decrepit and invested with hobo’s which, as you progress through the game, gets rebuild by fairies and looks nicer and more respectable, along with gaining a lift which makes travelling from street level down to your homies a lot easier. A nice little touch, I thought.

To start the missions you need respect which requires completing activities in the most part, but can also be earned through buying clothes and vehicles, killing rival gang members and completing hitman or chop shop lists (killing certain people or collecting certain cars from a list). This can get tedious after awhile, especially when you have completed the easiest activities but are stuck on the highest levels of the harder ones.

Speaking of which, there are 12 activities (a lot I know but they are spread out with only 6 levels) – FUZZ (pretending to be the police and killing people), TRAILBLAZING (riding a quad bike around the city blowing cars and people up on a timer), DRUG TRAFFICKING (riding shotgun and protecting the drug dealer as they make their rounds), FIGHT CLUB (punching people to death, self explanatory really), SEPTIC AVENGER (probably my fav, driving a septic truck around and spraying poop onto people and properties), DEMOLITION DERBY (making cars explode by driving into them), ESCORT (driving around a prostitute and a ‘client’ while being chased by the paparazzi), SNATCH (stealin’ ho’s of the street away from pimps and giving them to someone else), MAYHEM (destroying the neighbourhood with your weapons, RPG’s always a good tool), HELI ASSAULT (flying a chopper around Stilwater watching over your peeps), INSURANCE FRAUD (diving in front of cars and being catapulted into the air) and CROWD CONTROL (protecting a ‘celebrity’ by attacking their slightly more eccentric fans, at certain points you can throw them off a tall building, into aeroplane engines and in front of a train). Most are quite easy to complete – Septic Avenger just takes time, Mayhem needs a good area – TIP fences are very good for money – Fuzz requires you kill people in certain ways to get footage which makes the police look bad.

There are a lot of story missions and activities to do in the game so you won’t be short of things to do. Plus there is always a gun shop handy and an endless supply of innocent civilians and police officers who just love for their cars to be introduced to an RPG. If you are not in a destructive and/or homicidal mood, you can try the very PG street racing events which consist of racing against PC’s in cars or on motorbikes and completing checkpointed ones in the latter vehicles or a helicopter. Most races are very easy and if you don’t win first time round, you’ll get it after 2 or 3 tries. The trickiest ones which require skills I do not possess are the meticulously timed and tight spaced helicopter ones. They make you fly in between really close buildings which is highly unsafe considering I’m gonna crash that heli into the ground and passers-by quicker that a fat kid can create a tidal wave by bombing into a swimming pool. I love that, don’t you? The kid always really goes for it when they run up the diving board and then doesn’t get much height but creates the GREATEST splash you’ve ever seen. They get a lotta love and cheers after that pool party…

But I digress. There are a couple of neat little things that push this games like-ability up. Firstly, the fact that you can carry around 4 items of food which you can eat during a gun fight. It’s not just a choice of a burger or hot dog this time round, oh no! You can still have a burger but there’s also chicken nuggets, (ooh!) soda (aah!) and, wait for it … Chinese food! Oh yes, you can whip out “Sum Yung Guy” and start nibbling it to regenerate 75% health! … Hmm, I wonder what Sum Yung Guy sounds like … It’s quite similar to Sum Old Guy which just isn’t as good; it only regens 60% but is 25$ cheaper. You get this and more at Phuc Mi Phuc Yue Oriental-style food outlet. Stop sniggering it’s not that rude! 

Another neat little thing is cruise control. Now, I bet a lot of people won’t see the significance in this handy new feature, but trust me, I WISHED they had thought of it sooner and put it in Saints Row 1 because it saves so much time and patience. I can be chasing a guy who’s going full speed down a road or through a residential area with all its corners and I’m trying to shoot him so I’m faffin’ with the camera attempting to line up the shots but also trying to maintain my speed and not crash my car, I end up failing the mission because I can’t keep my speed and be accurate at the same time. Another instance is when I’m supposed to protect a truck or whatever and it is a lot slower than me so I’m speeding up and then down to keep level with it, while trying to shoot some guys behind. You may not care about cruise control but I sure as hell do!

My last nugget of goodness is something that makes a game seem more notable. Voice actors. I love ‘em. I love going on the IMDb website and checking out a games voice cast and seeing if I recognise them. Now, I don’t know many of the voice actors for Saints Row 2 (I recognise 2 of them) but it is more than GTA 4 (none). It may not seem like much but if I know and like the person who voices a character in a game, it’s going to effect how much I respond to them and overall how engaged I am. I played the whole game through without knowing or recognising any of the voices, then went on IMDb and shocked myself by not realising. It’s a bit shameful because I actually really like the 2 people. They are:

ELIZA DUSHKU  who voices SHAUNDI – in charge of the Sons of Samedi. My favourite character.

And …

NEIL PATRICK HARRIS who voices VETERAN CHILD – acclaimed DJ on Gen-X radio. Ex-boyfriend of SHAUNDI and minion of the Sons of Samedi. Unfortunately, SPOILER, you have to kill him – flashbang him, he’ll separate from Shaundi for a few seconds which is when you shoot at him. Rinse and repeat.

782662-vc large.jpg

So, what do I think after all this? Well, I will gladly play Saints Row 2 over Grand Theft Auto because, basically, it handles better, there is more to do, and I would prefer to listen to all the characters in this game speak rather than any in GTA (Roman, I love ya and everything but I really don’t want to go bowling, or listen to you talk about titties. Jeez … )

Complain if you want but I whole-heartedly prefer Saints Row 2. Go on, argue if ya like, I ain’t changing my mind. It’s just like that old proverb:

“Haters gonna hate, bakers gonna bake.”