Saints Row 2 - hands-on

We were immediately transported to our next mission - a helicopter mission. Saints Row 2 contains a variety of new vehicles, including aircraft and watercraft. Our job was to utilize our chopper to protect our "homie" and her car from pursuers. First, however, we wanted to play with our new hovering toy.

The helicopter handled like a breeze - once again, this is not a game for realism. Ignoring our homie for a minute, we set out to see just how far we could go. Our journey was cut short by an arbitrary checkered barrier, then by the side of a building. We thought we were toast, but the blades of our chopper were still in tact and we careened into another building before skidding across a city street upside down, tearing through ten or twenty unsuspecting pedestrians. Our chopper finally caught fire, and we were "smoked."

On our second try, we found our homie like we were supposed to, locked on to her pursuers and let our missiles do the rest of the work. The enemy vehicles had a bad habit of popping in and out of existence, making the task a bit more challenging. The game is, of course, only in a preview build, and Tsai assured us that frame rate and other graphical issues are being tweaked as they approach the game's release.

General improvements include a bigger city and reduced loading times. The skybox is a bit slicker, the cars more reflective, and there's generally more grime and detail around the city. Some details we'd expect, like water effects, however, are practically nil (for the most part, the ocean was a big blue color field).

The most touted new feature is two-player co-op, which will allow you and a friend to play through the entire story together. You'll be able to join up in vehicles, like the helicopter, and do all of that other fun co-op stuff.

All of the levels have been created, and testers are currently running through them and marking anything frustrating or annoying for removal. One particular annoyance-reducing feature is a new mission checkpoint system which prevents players from having to completely restart missions if they die. In general, it seems that the team is trying to remove everything that bugged us in Saints Row, and add more of what we enjoy - primarily new vehicles and co-op play.

Will Saints Row 2 convince us that it deserves a place on our shelves next to GTA IV? We aren't sure. We're not against the idea of over-the-top physics-defying gang warfare, but we are worried about a few of the preview's shortcomings. The AI, for example, needs significant improvement, and the graphics are very average. The co-op play is genuinely fun, but it'll need more than just co-op to stand out.

The game is due for release on August 26th of this year, and we'll update you on its progression as new information becomes available.

Apr 4, 2008