|System: X360, PS3, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Volition||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: THQ||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 14, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
July 21, 2008 - Currently in the closing stages of development, there are a lot of high expectations for the sequel to this pretty successful GTA clone that hits store shelves this October. THQ and developers Volition have announced a number of new features and improvements to the series that they're betting will help them compete with the mega-blockbuster GTA IV. They definitely have some big shoes to fill, but with a strong concentration on its multiplayer capabilities and other features that made the original a hit, some aspects of Saints Row 2 certainly look promising.
The sequel takes place five years after the first game, when the 3rd Street Saints gang has disbanded and the main character has since been thrown into prison. At the beginning of the game, your character will break out of prison with a fellow inmate and get off the Alcatraz-styled island, using a speedboat to get back to Stilwater. It will be a bloody battle, as you have to kill your nurse and blast your way through prison guards, and once you get to Stilwater, things definitely won't be the way they were when you left. The city has since been run by three rival gangs and has seen many changes in the five years your character has been rotting in jail. After learning that your good friend Johnny is on death row, you will then embark on a mission to break him out of court along with your new fugitive buddy. With a new crew of people behind you, the Saints are back in action with a mission to stop the Brotherhood of Stilwater, Ronin, and Sons of Samedi (rival gangs who are all tied to the evil Ultor Unlimited Corporation running Stilwater).
Though THQ and developers Volition have long announced that the game will have multiplayer capabilities within story mode, the companies have recently announced that Saints Row 2 will allow users to play through the entire story mode with a friend. Right from the beginning, you will be thrust into missions that involve another character helping you, and though many of them are well-suited for two-player action, Volition has announced all missions work just as well when played solo. However, playing with a friend will allow missions to be approached differently. When two players hop into a vehicle together, one will take on driving duties while the other can hang out the passenger side window with a weapon of choice to perform cooperative drive-bys and wreak havoc. When ambushing opposing gang hideouts, you can use twice the gunfire to take them all out and cooperatively sneak in through different entrances. While playing with a friend, the game will have friendly fire settings, which can be adjusted to your liking. So, you can make yourselves completely invincible to each other's gunshots or increase the percentage of damage to ensure a more realistic experience in the midst of battle. Where the last game only allowed certain multiplayer capabilities, Volition plans to offer unparalleled open-world multiplayer that will set Saints Row 2 far apart from its prequel as well as its target competitor, GTA IV.
Multiplayer aside, one of the first notable improvements of the game is that, though it will be taking place in the same city of Stilwater, the map has gotten considerably larger and the city has seen many changes in the years gone past. The crime-ridden city has gone through a rejuvenation process heralded by Ultor to clean up some of the most dilapidated neighborhoods and build new neighborhoods located on the west end of the city. With the new developments, the map has gotten approximately 50% larger including new landmarks such as a nuclear power plant, marina, trailer park, and university. Volition has worked hard to improve the environments enough to make Stilwater feel like a new city in some areas, while still keeping the same ambience as in the first game. Developers have also created over 100 buildings, which you can enter and roam around in, including at least nine gang houses, which you can occupy to make your own. There will also be somewhere around 70 different shops, which you can purchase to gain funds. Once you purchase an entire chain of shops, you will start to notice billboards around the city with your face on them. Additionally, where the first Saints Row introduced detailed character creation to its GTA-styled concepts, Saints Row 2 will feature an all-new crib customization as well. Gang houses will still be used to store game data and change cars and clothes, but you'll be able to pimp out run-down houses as you gain funds and deck the place out with home theatres, new furniture, and different styled decors. Improving the look of your crib does more than make your hangout look cool, however. It will increase the amount of respect that you earn as well as help inspire fellow gang members to fight harder along with you. In your crib, you can modify your gang as well with different gang signs, tags, and overall style from '80s to gangster, sport, or prep-hop.
The character customization was a big hit with Saints Row, and the developers have given it a tweak this time a round to expand on what you can create. Where you could previously only play as a male character, Saints Row 2 will allow you to customize a female as well with the ability to mold your character however you want. Because the feature uses a sliding scale technique, you can slide between levels of gender, age, skin tone, facial features, and fitness level for extremely detailed and accurate character creation. In addition to physical attributes, you'll also be able to customize movements and mannerisms to your liking as well as how your character holds his or her weapon. You'll be able to select from a variety of walking styles, voices, and fighting styles, which are unlocked after defeating rival gangs in story mode. You'll be able to choose different taunts including the middle finger, a chest bump, spit n' flick, a tea bag, and more, which will probably come in handy during a multiplayer session. And with the amount of taunts to aggravate others roaming Stilwater, you can also select from a variety of compliments including a thumbs up, a salute, and many more creative and humorous actions.
On-foot combat has been given an upgrade in Saints Row 2 as well. There are lots of new moves and weapons that have been added to the game such as stun guns, katanas, chainsaws, flamethrowers, and satchel charges to stick to objects and detonate when you're out of proximity. You'll also be able to fire off two handguns or submachine guns at once with new shooting mechanics. You'll also have the ability to take people hostage and hold them in front of your body to use them as a human shield. On the same token, your enemies will be able to do the same - sometimes with people you will need to keep alive. This is where the all-new, over-the-shoulder aiming view will come in handy for more precise targeting.
A bunch of new vehicles have been added to the game as well to allow for more ways to travel through the city on land, water, and through the air. Probably the biggest news is that players will have the ability to pilot helicopters and planes over Stilwater, which will also be equipped with parachutes, though Volition hasn't released many details on exactly what you'll be able to do with them. Boats and jet-skis now allow players to travel on water, which you will have to do early in the game to escape from prison. On land, motorcycles have been added to allow quick but fragile transportation through the city as well as more creative additions such as monster trucks, moon buggies, and skateboards. Vehicle customization has been upgraded as well, allowing users to pimp their rides even further and tweak performance functions to create the ultimate getaway car.
While Volition is making steps towards competing with GTA 4, a title many gamers consider to be the greatest thus far for current-gen consoles, it seems they are doing all they can to improve on things GTA 4 may have been missing since its release this October. The inclusion of different multiplayer capabilities is certain to leave some gamers intrigued, though the development team definitely has its work cut out for them if they wish to surpass what GTA IV has to offer.
CCC Freelance Writer