Review by vgplaya89

"Call it a Ripoff, but it does what GTAIV forgot to do; Put FUN first, and realism out of the window."

In 2006, a little sandbox game by the name of Saints Row appeared on the scene, as a worthy contender to the Grand Theft Auto series' crown as king of the open world crime genre. many had tried, many had failed, but Saints Row proved itself to be a worthy contender.

fast forward two years and two million copies sold later, Saints Row 2 is on store shelves for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC, hot on the trail of Grand Theft Auto IV.

Story: The game picks up about five years after the original's True ending. you took over the city, but then were blown up on a boat. your body was maimed beyond recognition. a member of the Saints appears and helps you bust out of prison, but it's not the same Stillwater you remember. the Ultor corporation has spent years and millions of dollars rebuilding it, and the Saints have all but disbanded, along with all the other gangs. three new gangs, the Ronin, the Sons of Samedi, and The Brotherhood, all take their places. your job is to rebuild the Saints, and take back what's yours once again.

All in all, I liked the story. a lot of interesting twist and turns, and maintains the series's tasteless humor with a somewhat darker tone.

Graphics: Not as good as some of the games released this year, but they get the job done. the character models are much more detailed than the original, the characters move more fluidly, and there's more of a sense of speed in the vehicles. the city itself looks great. it's gone from a complete ghetto, to an urban utopia, that is nice to look at and explore.

Gameplay: Here's where the game really outdoes itself. in GTAIV, when you weren't going through the same old mundane "go here, kill him, escape" missions, weren't you hoping there would be a bit more variety, or more to do on the side? Saints Row 2 does that in spades.

The actual gameplay is quite improved. you can zoom in aim, take human shields, throw people, do melee combos, etc. you can also dual-wield some weapons, which there are many more of this time around.

all the weapons from the original make a comeback, with some new and fun additions such as the Stun Gun, Katana, Butterfly Knife, Grenade-equipped assault rifle, and the ability to pick up objects off the ground and use them to bludgeon people.

Volition obviously heard the complaints about the vehicles in the original. there are many cars, bikes, helicopters, boats, jet skis, even planes to toy around with. they all handle quite decently. where GTAIV tried to make the vehicles more realistic, for better or worse, SR2 goes the more arcadey route, letting you pull off turns and drifts with ease. add that with the fact that you can still customize vehicles all you want.

speaking of customization, it is still a staple of the Saints Row series. the plot device in the beginning of the game allows you to create a character of many races, and either gender. your character also has a voice and a personality this time around, and you can choose that as well. you can also choose the style of your gang, customize your cribs/safehouses, vehicles, etc.

nearly all the activities from the original, such as Snatch, Street Racing, Drug Trafficking, and Insurance Fraud return, and are reworked to be more fun, with a few more new ones on top of that. plus little diversions and minigames here and there that you can discover on your own. If you're the kind of gamer that likes to do and see everything the game has to offer, you will be playing this for many hours after the game's conclusion.

Online: This is one part of the game that is hit or miss. they took out a few modes of the original, leaving Gangsta Brawl and Team Gangsta Brawl, and the new mode, Strong Arm. Gangsta Brawl is somewhat fun, but cheapened by horrible spawn points and lack of balance. Strong Arm is quite fun however. you go through mini-versions of activities from the single player game on teams, in an effort to control as much territory as possible. there is enough variety in this mode to forgive the loss of Protect Tha Pimp and Big Chains. Blinged Out Ride is sorely missed though.

This is sweetened slightly by the fact that you can play the entire single player game with a friend via co-op, Crackdown style. it is quite a blast playing single player by yourself, but just imagine it with one of your own homies at your side, wreaking havoc.

Conclusion: Saints Row 2 is a more-than-worthy sequel, and in my opinion, more FUN than its obvious competition. I highly reccomend it to fans of sandbox games, especially those jaded by GTAIV's newfound realism.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 11/20/08

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

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