The original Saints Row was released at a time when gamers were pining over a new Grand Theft Auto, and certainly filled the gap for a while at least. Whilst it didn’t have a lot of the humour of which GTA was famous for, it gave gamers a better combat experience, and other little touches which improved on what GTA had offered before it.
Now we have Saints Row 2, and it comes out after Grand Theft Auto 4, which has been heralded by many as one of the greatest games ever made. So can Saints Row 2 compare?
In some ways, yes it can. If you’re already tired of the Grand Theft Auto comparisons, then you’ll have to put up with it. Saints Row takes no shame in the fact it’s largely a carbon copy. One of the great features in Saints Row 2 is you can create your own character, with a plethora of options allowing for a great amount of customisability.
The story isn’t as polished as GTA, but then again GTA’s story isn’t as ‘Hollywood’ as some would like you to believe. The game continues where the original left off, and you find yourself blasting your way out of prison, and getting back to (a redesigned) Stilwater. There you learn that your gang has split, and three others have risen to power. So it’s time to take the power back.
In order to slowly build up your empire again, you can undertake side-missions which are used to build up your reputation so that you can the main missions which are based on the different gangs. The main missions in Saints Row 2 are often more enjoyable than some of the take so and so here, and drop them off and wait for something to go wrong and then drive them away, that was evident in GTAIV. The missions in Saints Row 2 don’t take long to get going, and you’ll soon find yourself participating in a Kill Bill inspired sword fight, or parachuting inside a bomb-ridden hotel!
The side-missions are often fun too, and arguably more fun than what was on offer in the original. We found ourselves being a security guard for a celebrity, lowering property value by spraying shit over buildings and people in the area, and dressing as a cop with a camera crew and beating the heck outta criminals for TV. It’s all good fun.
One of the things we loved about the game the most was the music. The soundtrack to GTAIV was in our opinion, awful. However, the music in Saints Row 2 fares much better, which is largely thanks to its 80’s radio station. It worked for Vice City, and it works here. You can hear anything from A-ha ‘Take on Me’ to Culture Club ‘Karma Chameleon’ and The Psychedelic Furs ‘Pretty in Pink’. Our favourite though was hitting the streets and causing havoc to Simple Minds ‘Don’t you (forget about me). Classic. If 80’s isn’t your thing, then don’t threat, there is something for everyone, including the song which appears to be in almost every game nowadays – Woman, by Wolfmother.
In GTA IV the weapons were rather cliché, and pretty boring in all honesty. Saints Row 2 doesn’t follow suit though, and as well as the expected handguns, shotguns and machine guns, you can also find yourself wielding stuff like a Katana, a chainsaw, a taser-gun, and even defibrillators - Clear! Taking people hostage is always a laugh too (not in real life though, that's naughty). But it give you the opportunity to use them as a human shield, and then just throw them away!
One of the biggest complaints about GTA IV was that it took itself too seriously. And whilst it did have humour and it was a good solid game, it lacked, fun. Something that Saints Row 2 doesn’t have so much of a problem with. Where GTA attempted to take things more seriously, Saints Row 2 goes even more over the top. And it’s all the better for it.
There’s multiplayer too for those who are interested, allowing players to play through the game together in co-op, which is something that should have been in GTA IV. There are other multiplayer modes as well, and are better than what was offered in the original, but don’t expect them to keep you occupied forever.
So we leave you with this. If you’re looking for something a bit like GTA, but with some more over the top fun that was taken out of the most recent GTA, then this title could be for you. Especially if you’re looking at tearing up innocent pedestrians with a chainsaw in co-op.
Review: Wesley Lock