omali's Saints Row 2 (PlayStation Network (PS3)) review

Great In All The Right Places

I never managed to finish Saints Row 2 on the PC, so when I found out that copies of Saints Row: The Third on the Playstation 3 came with a free copy of Saints Row 2 (and Best Buy had the title on sale for $30), I found myself obligated to pick it up and finish the game. If you still have not picked up Saints Row 2, I recommend doing so on the 360 or Playstation 3, as the PC version has issues with 64-bit operating systems, namely running in fast-speed.

Saints Row 2 picks up after the end of Saints Row, which you did not play if you didn't own an xbox360. The original Saints Row sets up the plot, your muted protagonist is inducted into the 3rd Street Saints, a gang with the goal of eradicating the city of its gang problem and restoring peace. After accomplishing this, the game ends with your character being blown up on a boat by the real villain, a mayoral candidate who goaded the Saints into killing his only competition in the elections, with the intent on destroying the Saints.

The sequel picks up five years after the original. Your character has been in a coma, and after receiving some heavy plastic surgery, awakens in the hospital of a prison island only to break out and find the city changed completely. In your absence, the Third Street Saints have dissolved and your former boss Johnny Gat is on death row. Much of the city was destroyed when a massive earthquake hit, and has been rebuilt by the Ultor Corporation (canonically the same company from Red Faction). In your rise to glory, you must once again take down three stereotype gangs and an ultimate oppressor.

Saints Row 2 is overwhelming to say the least, but the game can be managed in bite sized chunks. Each of the three rival gangs has its own story line that can be completed in any order, or mixed together, but you might be better off completing one at a time to maintain a better sense of continuity. Engaging in a mission requires respect points, and this is how Saints Row eases you into the game's huge selection of activities. There are so many activities to choose from that any player should be able to complete the game without having to force themselves to play through mini-games they do not like.

The activities in Saints Row 2 are numerous, and occasionally jump out at you at moment's notice. You'll be doing everything from throwing yourself in front of cars to rack up insurance fraud, spraying houses with a sewage truck to lower property values, killing local pimps to recruit their ho's, and more. My personal favorite is Escort, where you pick up hookers and celebrities/politicians and drive them around, avoiding the paparazzi. The mini-games are not perfect, and occasionally feel bugged and impossible to complete.

The Respect for missions system is a great way to force the player's hand into the creative activities, but can be an annoyance in those moments where all you want to do is blow through the last few story missions and you suddenly find yourself out of points. Between story rewards and activity rewards, you'll end up with more money than the game will ever ask of you, for buying and outfitting your cribs, and stocking up on ammunition. I recommend playing the Sons of Samedi and Ronin missions first, as while the two are rather humorous and slapstick, the Brotherhood missions take a notably more serious turn of events as the two gangs try to outclass each other on who can be the most heartless bastards.

I have one complaint of Saints Row 2: Volition violates the PIE rule. The PIE rule stands for Perpetual Injury Exploit. I started this rule started back in Pokemon where, although unlikely, your Pokemon could spend the whole fight flinched. In Saints Row 2, this translates to being shot to death while on fire. As it turns out, your character is extremely flammable, and will completely set ablaze at the slightest touch to the tiniest fire, taking away half of your health and your ability to react. In other cases, my character would be sent into a never ending beating by gang members with melee weapons, knocked down perpetually while I can only sit and watch my slow death. If not that, your character often seems to be knocked over by slight budges, and due to some random bug refuses to stand up for an extended period of time, generally just long enough for every cop/gang member in the mission to stand over your body and convert you into Swiss cheese.

Also as you complete missions, the Saints take over more territory and supposedly the likelihood of your rival gangs fighting back increases. Over the course of the game, I had two territories attacked, while my memory of playing on the PC involved a territory under attack at least once per hour, so the frequency can change drastically per person. The game also features bosses, and while the game doesn't exactly go for realism, it still doesn't make sense in the context of the world presented to have unarmored people who can take an entire rifle magazine to the face and live to tell the tale.

Saints Row 2 is absolutely insane, and Volition's ability to throw in an enormous amount of content in the activities and diversions and still manage to keep each one unique shows the thought and creativity that went into this game. There does seem to be a lack of content control, and occasionally the scenery becomes so saturated with people and vehicles that the frame rate drops low, but I always found upon death that the game sort of calms itself down, and the next play through is not as chaotic. The missions also checkpoint you enough that you never lose out on too much time.

Pick up Saints Row 2 if you haven't already. Unless you only own a PC, in which case you're better off reading up on Wikipedia and just jumping into Saints Row: The Third.

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