We don’t get the recent GTA IV backlash. At all. GTA IV was amazing. Deep down, everyone knows it. Though even we’d admit that once you’d plowed through Niko’s story, what remained was hardly the greatest example of raucous sandbox fun...
The anti-GTA IV, Saints Row 2 puts all this right. It’s almost as if devs Volition took stock of the response to Rockstar’s epic and, gazing past all the hyperbole and 10/10 scores, realised that huge swathes of the game’s fanbase simply didn’t care about ultra-realistic physics or “Oscar-winning” narratives; they just wanted to romp around in a hot dog suit pimping hoes, gutting pedestrians with samurai swords and spraying cops with feces. So they set out to make that exact game – and, it has to be said, have succeeded.
Saints 2’s “plot” – some guff about taking back Stilwater from a bunch of new gangs – is so wafer-thin it’s barely worth a mention. However, any excuse for the utterly brilliant missions the game then proceeds to throw at you is alright by us. Where else could you blast away with an unlimited ammo rocket launcher while your homie throws his car off the roof of a mansion, or base-jump from the inside of a skyscraper after priming the joint with TNT? Reinforce all this with some suitably over-the-top vehicle handling and solid, satisfying combat and Saints 2 has the core gameplay to back up its manifold laughs and adrenaline highs.
Technically, it has to be said that Saints 2 is an absolute mess, with Stilwater still sporting all those weird visual issues (vanishing cars, lousy frame-rate, super bad pop-up) which plagued its predecessor. However, like Mercs 2 before it, the stench of the bargain bin bizarrely adds to the sense of riotous fun. Who cares if it doesn’t look like much? This game has it where it counts: heart, or maybe balls. Also crucial to mention are the inspired Character Creation tools: the likes of Oblivion and Fallout 3 might best it in the technical stakes, but are you able to conjure up a smiling, obese transsexual Asian ladyman sporting sideburns and a mullet to rule over your empire in Megaton?
Then there’s that genuine sense of achievement you’ll feel as you progress through the game. You can transform your various hideouts from dumps a vagrant would consider beneath his dignity into bling cribs a Premiership footballer would covet. And hands up who fancies the idea of a ninja army cruising the streets in a fleet of pimped-up Lotus Elise-alikes? Yep, us too. The game’s sense of ridiculousness (and imagination) is infectious, and helps you overlook the odd stupid flaws. Also, seeing as we played through more than half the game as a crime-loving twosome we figured we’d better mention that Saints Row 2’s co-op is brilliant.
So, turns out there’s room in this world for both GTA IV and Saints Row 2, then. Truly, they are utterly opposite sides of the same sandbox coin. If you were in any way disappointed with Rockstar’s return with Liberty City then we have absolutely no hesitation in recommending you buy this. Score one for the 3rd Street Saints.
Oct 14, 2008