Review by remf18

"The true GTA sequel"

I never gave SR1 the time of day. It was just a super buggy clone of GTA3. GTA only got better and better. Vice City gave driving a backseat to awesome over the top story telling, even more awesome characters and music, and a very colorful world. GTA: San Andreas gave story, characters, and music a backseat to a huge sandbox world, customization, and exploration. Then GTAIV came out and axed pretty much 90% of all the awesome additions it had made since 3. In its place, the new additions all encouraged the player to not play the game (sit and read at a net café, go home and watch TV or see a stage show, ride the train or a cab). Customization was gone. The world shrunk. Planes got the axe. Clothes shopping became so limited it might as well have been axed, and forget about making your main man a beefcake. Let's not speak of how atrocious driving is or how tedious the 100% regurgitated missions are. GTAIV was 1 step forward in terms of graphic realism, and then so many steps back that it was more like taking 1 step up towards the peek of the mountain only to fall all the way to its base. GTAIV is the point where GTA stopped being GTA. That's where SR2 stepped in, and it' how it found its way into my collection.

I bought GTAIV, and I pretty much hated it from the second hour through to completion (both bad endings) and beyond. The game never was fun. If anything, the entirety of the game felt like tedious work. My real job is more fun. I found myself being harassed by characters constantly, driving a plethora of vehicles that even +50 hours into the game I couldn't fully control, and when the missions I had played multiple times over had all ended, I was left with nothing to do. GTAIV got sold after a few short weeks to fund a Silent Hill 4, which sucked, but much less than GTA4. In my hunger for a true sandbox experience in a big city, I picked up a newly released Saints Row 2. I was pretty much blown away from the get go.

Firstly, the missions are over the top ridiculous awesome from the first missions up until the last. The game says "screw reality", and we go to a full blown action movie. The thing I noticed while playing through the first missions and in the entire game from that point on was, "this game has color." More specifically, it had color like I haven't seen in a game since Dark Cloud 2. All next gen games aim at this realism which for some reason comes with a brown, gray, or green tinted filter. The world of reality is ugly and drab with ridiculous amounts of bloom and pitch black shadows. SR2 isn't of this bleak and terrible future. It's somewhere between realistic character models and cell shaded. For all the polish GTAIV had behind its grit filters, I found myself saying that SR2 was the far better looking game.

Next on the notice block was that the game had customization like San Andreas, only multiplied by 10 to the 10 millionth power. I spent 2 hours making my person before the game even started, and then I ended up tweaking her (him on second play through) several hours more in the future. Taunts, compliments, voice, make-up, build, skin color, hair style, expressions... The amount of customization is almost excessive. Then came clothes shopping. The number of clothing choices is pretty damn large, but its made even better with the ability to custom color anything. Some clothes even have different pattern choices and multiple ways of wearing the item. Clothes can be worn in numerous layers and with accessories. It's almost unreal.

Then come the guns and weapons. Inventive and awesome sums up the stuff you find. There's the standard and then there's the other stuff. The taser is a blast. The pimp cane rocks, and did I mention it's a shotgun? Dual wielding is present for most weapons. And there are several fighting styles, though you must beat gang missions to unlock them. Can we say break dancing tweaker? Oh yeah!

There's so much to do and so much variety, it's hard to even explain. It's almost the Matrix. "No one can be told what Saints Row 2 is. You have to experience it for yourself." The closest I can come is by saying that SR2 is the one TRUE GTA sequel. SR2 is what GTAIV should have been, and then some. The game repeatedly left me saying, "this is awesome, but I wish I could do..." and it responded "oh you can, and more!" Car hunting for chop shops or finding hit man targets can suck in these huge worlds, but SR2 tells you where to find them, and then when the vehicles spawn, it maps them for you on the GPS. What a time and energy saver! The garages of my properties spawn all of the vehicles I own, and if I destroy or abandon my vehicle, it warps back to my garage. I can do some ridiculous customization on most all of the vehicles, with the sad lack of this option for boats, planes, and helicopters, which there are a lot of. I can swim in water, so no watery death, though this game has far less of an island feel than all 4 modern GTA games combined. And if I do get stuck in the ocean, press triangle to warp to land. Every acquired weapon in the game goes to my home, where I can take anything I want when I want it. And it goes on and on like this. The developers clearly had making a game that was fun to play in mind from beginning to end, which seems stupid to say, but looking over all the junk we've been getting fed for years, how many games actually deliver the experience we are all buying them for.

I'd have written a review months ago, but I've been playing this since I bought it, and I haven't had time for reviews, lol. Okay, so there was a little other gaming in there too but I came back to this after all that time, and that says a lot about the game's long term value, doesn't it.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 04/27/09

Game Release: Saints Row 2 (US, 10/14/08)

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