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Saints Row 2 – hands-on preview

When talking about Saints Row 2, it’s impossible not to immediately acknowledge the hulking beast that is GTA IV. The Saints Row series is forever doomed to live in the shadow of one of gaming’s hugest franchises, and has so far come up short in its attempts to overthrow the king. Having just got the chance to play the PS3 version of Saints Row 2, we definitely got a better feel of what developer Volition is trying to achieve, ditching the realism of the GTA IV world for a much more absurd, cartoony and arcade-styled game.

The ridiculousness was definitely on display during the demonstration of the game’s expanded gang and character customization options. SR2 allows for customization of your crib, your gang’s outfits, their cars, graffiti tags and even their gang signs. It’s within this area that Saints Row stands apart from the seriousness of GTA IV, giving players the option to outfit their gang members in ninja or pimp costumes and teabag their fallen opponents. Make no mistake about it, Saints Row 2 is definitely going for lowbrow humor, packing in plenty of gross-out gags and fart jokes. What other game is so proud of a sewage spewing crap cannon that you can blast pedestrians with?

The bulk of our playthrough involved a helicopter chase, a Jet Ski race and storming one of a rival gang’s “Strongholds.” The on-rails helicopter battle was fun, but nothing really new, as we circled a field, firing upon enemies and attempting to blow up their facilities. The chase afterwards involved turning the rival gang’s pursuing lowriders into flaming heaps of metal swiss cheese, introducing us to the game’s unique combo system, which tracks multiple kills, car explosions, head shots and other accomplishments.

The Jet Skiing portion was the mandatory “Hey look you can use the Sixaxis to control the vehicle even though we know you won’t, not in a million years” portion of the demo. The overly sensitive controls, combined with the undulating waves, turned our best efforts to control the Jet Ski into a barely controlled donut. The devs then displayed the many different, good-looking weather effects the game incorporates, and how the intensity of a storm will have a major impact on vehicle handling. Seeing as how we couldn’t get the Jet Ski to go in a straight line on a clear, sunny day, we can only imagine how quickly our character would sink to a watery grave in a light drizzle.

Finally, the attack on the enemy stronghold introduced us to the general feel of combat, as we ran around a warehouse blasting low-level enemies that didn’t pose a significant threat. After taking a few hits, the screen begins to shake and get cloudy, forcing you to take cover and cool down for a minute to regain your health.

Down are up ell, ex why be?