I really do not have an explanation for what I decided to replay Saints Row 2, let along the vanilla version of a not very good PC port. I am aware that there is a supposedly awesome mod by the name of Gentlemen of the Row, but I forgot about it until I was nearly done with my 45 hour playthrough where I did just about everything I could do that wouldn’t be easily viewed as mindless busy work. However, this is not a review where I look back and question why I did not see faults with a title, but one where I actually come to terms with how I probably should have loved this title even more than I thought I did. Also, I want to review something happy on Christmas, unlike last year…
Saints Row 2 Review
Platforms: PC(Reviewed), PS3, Xbox 360
Developer: Volition Inc.
Publisher: THQ… or maybe Deep Silver, I dunno.
After a massive explosion that left the main character of the so-so original Saints Row in a coma where he was physically altered in just about every manner that can be conceived of by the player, the story of Saints Row 2 is very similar to its predecessor. You want the Saints to be the biggest baddest gang in town, and there are three rivals who want you where your brain damaged rump should’ve been years ago. A pretty basic way to put the overall story of Saints Row 2, which really does amount to a collection of missions with the goal of gaining territory and messing up everyone elses plans, as a rather pleasant folks of varying levels of psychotic partners help you to eventually take down a multi-billion dollar corporation who took over what was once the playable character’s city because… well, for one they are completely insane.
It is a very common joke to make in games about the player character being a looney psychopath as they enact whatever fantasies are possible through the game’s mechanics. Saints Row 2 right out of the gate acknowledges that the only bit of brain damage the main character got by being in a coma for five years was a complete loss of morals and justify it when player shoot old ladies with oxygen tanks in the face. With is or her, or even its if you want to swing towards the middle section of the gender slider, actions in both the story and gameplay only contradicting themselves in how they don’t just pull out a rifle of unlimited ammo instead of using a pistol. Though that detail is ultimately minor to the story which inspires the leader of the Saints to ingrain radioactive waste into a man’s face, which is actually rather comparable on its own. Intense moments, solid characters for both the protagonists and antagonists, and even a heap of funny lines and the best kind of juvenile humor thrown in for good measure. All of which is a very nice bit of semi-serious contrast for what you do the other seventy percent of the time in this sandbox, which is inact out every activity that could be jammed into the game.
Out of all the games I’ve gone through in my time reviewing, or perhaps out of all those I’ve played in my life, there is a certain charm to merely driving across the city of Stillwater that i can’t quite put my finger on. The set pieces in the city are varied and memorable with certain buildings going so far as to invoke some nostalgia in me. Maneuvering around it is rather delightful due to very tight driving controls that do have the cars float around and crash into things a whole bunch, but recovery is so easy that it was likely expected for you to ram into a skinny tree.
There are countless, well more like fifty here, eighty there, and technically 20,000 here- there are so many things to see happening due to hand placed action nodes that have incidental actions, such as spawning a barbershop quartet who sing a little diddy. While the game also happens to keep track of a laundry list of actions that the player may do for giggles, like shoot an opposing gang member in the nuts, or driving in the opposing lane, and actively reward them with points that unlock additional story missions. Though, I personally maxed mine out pretty early on due to how there are over one hundred side missions to do which reward you in a very similar manner, while also being a series of highlights for me.
From mastering the art of rag dolling to juggle yourself between cars in oncoming traffic, spraying the city with poop, driving a flaming buggy in a time trial where you need to ignite people and cars ablaze, the list goes on. Though, some are a bit more pedestrian, like needing to drive away from certain cars while some wack-a-doo sex happens in the back of your car. Launching missiles at gang vehicles and helicopters via your own helicopter. And escorting a drug dealer while you shoot out the tires of opposing gangs… Okay, so maybe I lied. Then there are incidental activities like starting a taxi service after hijacking one, becoming a firefighter, mugging a random mime you found juggling in the park, or roaming around the streets nakeder than the character’s ever been. All while listening to an assortment of rather keenly selected radio tracks that regularly gave the world more of a personality.
It is a delightful assortment of sheer anarchic bliss that does always have a silver lining of rightfulness in it despite how morally bankrupt the character you are leading is. However, going back to my claims of them being a psychopath, they very easily could be after customizing them through an equally massive number of clothes that can be toppled on one another to you can finally be an obese black man wearing a cat girl outfit under a tuxedo. Yet, with great freedom, often comes great cuts, and Saints Row 2 has one primary issue in that regard, that the game is among the jankiest jank that ever involved the word shank. Side missions are filtered with often random factors, when up against an army of cars, not even a rocket launcher can help you, and the quality and craftsmanship of the proper missions is iffy at times. With the objective often needing to be told to you by the game, as opposed to the characters. Who, in what could be carry over from the past games, are pretty solidly portrayed, helped by a quality voice cast. Also, it is pretty broken after you get unlimited submachine gun ammo for catching all the prostitutes in the financial district for a lazy redneck.
It is a truly wonderful experience, though it is also tied to a port that, from the sound of it, I was really lucky with because it only occasionally made an uh-oh. Cars pop in later than they should on long stretches of road, thanks to a poorly increased draw distance, objects occasionally clip through cars, clothing sometimes disobeys the options you bestow upon it while getting dressed, and some cutscenes look like absolute tripe due to a compensation for lower end machines. Not that the game looks all that good on the normal settings, as a colorful and vibrant world is given what at times looks like a grey overlay to it, while not being able to push its graphical fidelity much, as the game almost intentionally looks like something the cat dragged in. There is still enough variety, however, with the cars and non playable character often catching my eye, though that ended less than stellar to them, and I did spend well over a cumulative hour making sure my character was dressing like the mix between a nerdy teenage girl who could be attractive if she tried, and a British psychopathic male.
If that last statement did not summarize how involved and invested I am in Saints Row 2, I’m not sure what will. Looking back at what I assembled to be my favorite games over the year, I feel as if the concept of a game being fun is the most common reason for showering it with praise, though who can blame me. At the end of the day, video games are this wonderful mix between many mediums that came before it and the interactivity of playing with toys that vary in levels of scriptedness. And Saints Row 2 is among the most perfect examples in both execution and sheer unadulterated bliss.
Utter Delight (10/10)
A title that shall forever hold a super special place in my mind because everything that is may not be done extraordinarily well is merely a minor detail in a game that is not perfect, but is as good as it gets.