Review by YamiYaj
"Saints Row 2: Back To The Row For A Thorough Comparison To The Predecesor..."
When I picked up Saints Row 1 I was expecting nothing more than a fun game that added nothing to the Sandbox genre. As you can tell by my previous review, I was pleasantly surprised. So when I was hit with the news that a sequel was coming out I nearly cried from joy. When I found out that the sequel would feature ridiculous amounts of over-the-top activities I knew it was a game I had to pick up on release day. So I did...Needless to say... while I was no where near as disappointed as I was with Grand Theft Auto IV (Gasp! I said it!), this game was no Saints Row.
While the gameplay is moderately innovative, do mainly to the fact that the actions, physics and performance are so over the top, it never escapes its routes as a Sandboxer with a familiar style. The control scheme is different from years past, however this doesn't really merit a deduction, though at times you will find yourself fiddling with what you've preset in your mind. Exploding cars, the ability to use virtually anything as a weapon, cars that go flying in the air, flying vehicles, customization and tons more combine for one heck of a game experience. Perhaps what turns me on so much about the gameplay is that, while this game's missions are incredibly over the top and run the gamut from way to easy to way to hard, this game manages to remember the fact that this is a city. There is always something going on within this world, even if it doesn't pertain to you, such as encounters between citizens and police, pimps doing their "job", or even people robbing one another. These interactions serve for you to work around and allow for you to do more than play the missions necessary to progress through the story. One problem that I do find with the gameplay is that the problem from Saints Row of needing to do unnecessary side missions to get enough props to progress the story. Needless to say, however, is that all the previous things that merited a 9 in Saints Row in terms of gameplay return. In fact, the gameplay could very well be a 9.5, but the few glitches that result from the over-the-top aspects of the game denote a problem that results in a demerit.
While Grand Theft Auto surpasses Saints Row 2 in terms of graphics, Saints Row 2 is no failure in that department. While graphically superior to it's predecessor in terms of cutscenes and how they look, Saints Row 2 has some obvious flaws. Rarely are there framerate issues, but when there are they stand out tremendously. Additionally, while superior to it's counterpart in terms of rendering numerous different types of vehicles on screen at once, Saints Row 2 manages to have trouble keeping them on the screen once they leave your field of vision, which is very upsetting when chasing down a car that you would like. Everything that was stated about the predecessor remains true in the graphics category as well, however, the real-time shadowing is no longer as apparent, though they still remain and this seems like a fair trade off for the customization objects which allow you to make numerous characters, either original or from other media. Combining this with what is essentially customizing the way that everything about your lifestyle looks during the cutscenes, whether it be the actual flunkies that are following you, or how your surroundings inside your hideout look presents a beautiful game that's graphical "flaws" are merely preference and problems generating graphics in an open world consistently.
Somehow, despite not developing a great story like in the previous game, Volition has managed to do it again. Despite the fact that the story in this game is inferior in almost every possible way to it's predecessor, and, for the most part, ignores it's predecessor, it still comes out smelling like roses. As a stand alone story it's not bad, however it's incredibly over-the-top which takes away some of it's value. However, despite being over-the-top, Saints Row 2 still manages to immerse you into it's world like only the Saints Row series does in the sandbox genre. What merited Saints Row a ten was how strongly they fleshed out the characters down to the random gang members that showed signs of personality particular to the gang. Unfortunately that is not within this version, but Volition makes up for that through strong character development for just about everybody in the story, excluding your character. Like the predecessor, Volition keeps you guessing and you do not know the ending before it's coming. Unfortunately, despite excellent voice acting that is slightly inferior to Saints Row 1, some of the new characters, such as Pierce, are just uninteresting, but others make up for them.
Volition just knows how to do it. The soundscore for this game is amazing. I don't even know where to begin, but I'll start with the radio. The radio delivers a bevy of music for every genre and just about every station is bearable for extended periods of time. Even if you don't like the music, the comedy that one hopes to find in these sort of games is represented, and in my opinion, is the funniest that I've ever heard. Simply put? It's on another level. Just like the previous game the characters are voiced by a bevy of Hollywood actors that fit their roles perfectly. Minus a miss or two, which still fit their characters, the voice acting is perfect. When you realize that every line of dialogue spoken by the main character was done so in 6 different ways, it becomes evident how much Volition worked on this game. The sound of Stillwater still remains, and the music delivers a cinematic feel that is always appropriate. The loss of the custom soundtrack feature that was present in the first game is the only thing that hurts the sound score.
Losses to the majority of the online gameplay modes hurts the multiplayer aspect, however, as you'll note I gave this game a higher multiplayer rating than Saints Row. Why is that? Simple... Optional drop-in play in which a friend can drop into your story and play through the campaign with you. Together you don't even have to play the campaign, but can merely roam the city, purchase property, eliminate gang members, kill police officers, or simply melee attack the entire city of Stillwater. Your options are unlimited and this option is the most advanced multiplayer option that a sandbox game has ever seen.
Online multiplayer, co-op campaign, zombie uprising, and a sheer multitude of missions which are replayable even after you have beaten the game. If you just simply wish to rewatch this captivating story and its characters, you can view the cutscenes. Purchasing business, housing and cars around the city add to the replayability. Just as I replayed Saints Row, I can find myself picking this game up a year from now and replaying the entire campaign. Even if I don't do that, destroying the city alongside a friend is something that nobody can pass up.
Overall Score: 8.7/10
A great game, but not as good as it's predecesor. Simply put, that is how one should describe Saints Row 2. While it has Saints Row's familiar feel that makes it feel superior to the rest of the genre, the noticeable issues with graphics processing, the clear and present glitches and the story that, while good, virtually ignores it's predecessor in an attempt to set up another sequel makes this game inferior to Saints Row, but this game is still the best game of the genre released this year. Unfortunately it seems as if the genre has reached its limits, but Saints Row 2 does a good job of pushing those.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/23/08
Game Release: Saints Row 2 (US, 10/14/08)
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