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Whose co-op is best?

The Players: Mikel, Joe

Basic Intel: Saints Row 2 has campaign co-op and is available on PS3 and 360, and is due on PC in early 2009. It was developed by Volition for THQ.

Joe: I wasn't a huge fan of the first Saints Row, but I was actually very pleasantly surprised with our Saints Row 2 co-op session.

Mikel: Yeah, it turned out to be a lot of fun.

Joe: I went into it thinking I was gonna get crackdown without powers.

Mikel: Overall, I was really pleased with how well it worked; there wasn't any lag, and it never felt like we were on any sort of tether, like in certain other co-op games.

Joe: Ahem, Fable II…

Above: Carsurfing in Saints Row 2 co-op

Mikel: We had basically the run of the city, and could wander off in separate directions to, say, hunt for activities that we both wanted to do.

Joe: …and jump seamlessly between campaign missions and the random activities.

Mikel: Yeah, that was great. I do wish they'd found a way to work both players into the cutscenes, though, instead of just each player seeing himself as the star. But whatever, it worked pretty well.

Joe: Yes, that was weird how the 2nd player was just absent. I liked how they incentivized the activities though with the powerup "coupons": more melee damage, longer sprint times, etc

Mikel: Yeah, but that happens in single-player, too. It was also a lot of fun to both pile into the same car and go to war with cops and gang-bangers.

Above: Warring with cops and rival gangs

Joe: The only thing I didn't like about the random carnage was that there was a weird lag when shooting out the car window, like taking a picture with an old digital camera: hold the button down and wait for it...

Mikel: Oh yeah, there was a little lag there, now that I think about it.

Joe: I didn't notice that at any other time than when riding shotgun in cars.

Mikel: I think the game maybe had a little trouble with the speed and the shooting across two consoles.

Joe: But the free roaming was structured very well, when someone found something they wanted to do, the other player would get a little popup asking if they wanted to start the activity or mission. If you said yes, it loaded you right in.

Mikel: Yeah, no matter where you were, too. That was cool. The only thing I don't really like about the co-op is how, when playing alone, I get constantly bombarded with strangers asking to be let into my game.

Joe: From what I remember of the online community from SR1, that would be an unwelcome nuisance.

Mikel: Maybe I only dislike that because I'm a recluse and I like playing through games by myself. Or yeah, maybe it's because it's Xbox Live and I have a rough idea of what to expect. (Which is to say a nonstop stream of epithets, swearing and marked dissatisfaction with whatever it is I want to do in my own goddamn game.)

Joe: Although, with all the freedom you have, you could wander far and wide and never see the other player.

Mikel: That's true, but then you'd still be able to hear them, they'd constantly want to pursue dumb activities and you couldn't do anything without their consent. I guess the only practical advice I can give is to be ready for griefing if you let a stranger into your game, although I think you can kick them from co-op fairly easily.

Joe: What did you think of Zombie Uprising, the game-within-the-game you can play from your crib? I thought it was a poorly realized "me too" survival mode.

Above: Proof that the Lancer hasn’t cornered the chainsaw market

Mikel: Eh, it was OK, for what's basically an extra. I tend to think of it as a "zombie extermination" activity that doesn't really fit into the "real world" of Saints Row 2. It's fun as a test-of-endurance thing, and as a way to play around with the chainsaw for a while. I thought they did an amazing job with the zombies themselves, anyway.

Joe: It’s no Nazi Zombies or Horde, that’s for sure. I liked every other activity in the outside world better.

Mikel: I'm pretty sure you don't get Respect for completing it either. Hey, just like real life!

Joe: But you do get respect for shamelessly throwing yourself in front of traffic (unlike real life).

Mikel: Yeah, the Insurance Fraud activities are a blast. I think that was some of the most fun we had, really.

Joe: Insurance Fraud was my favorite, too, especially when Adrenaline Mode would kick in! The extra distance and bounce from collisions made for big multipliers and awesome ragdoll fun.

Mikel: Yeah, no question there. The only disappointment for me was that I couldn't grab you and chuck you into traffic, like that early “other games" trailer promised.

Joe: Oh, that would have been rad!

Above: Bonus zones increase your earnings in Insurance Fraud

Mikel: There's also other stuff in there that seems tailor-made for co-op, like the Bodyguard activities in which you have to hurl obsessed, baseball-bat-wielding "fans" away from celebrities. Having an extra pair of hands would have made the later levels of that a lot more pleasant.

Joe: It seemed like Fight Club was really easy with 2 players. We burned through that one.

Mikel: That's true, although I liked that it seemingly appointed one player as the protector of the other one, and if that other one was killed, the activity would be failed. I say "seemingly" because neither of us ever actually died during Fight Club.

Above: With two people, dominating Fight Club is easy

Joe: In the mission where we had to recruit new Saints, I liked how they added the second tow truck to the repo portion so we could race each other to get back first.

Mikel: So was there a second car that you had to tow, then? That's awesome. It ensures that nobody gets bored.

Joe: Yeah, I had to grab the hearse from the graveyard.

Mikel: Right, right. And I got stuck with the RV that was in someone's driveway.

Joe: But when you got back first, it was just like, OK on to the next part of the mission. Brilliant.

Mikel: That's another thing, though - as the joiner, you don't share in any of the joinee's Achievements, which is a little annoying. Although you do get Achievements for completing every mission in co-op, which is great if you've got an SR2-owning friend to play with regularly.

Joe: No Achievements! That is a major liability!

Mikel: I don't think I'd call it major, but it does kind of suck. But then, I've become an Achievement whore, so maybe these things won't matter to normal people.

Joe: I think the public is quite achievement-slutty. "My dick hat is bigger than yourdick hat!"

Mikel: “I'm helping to enlarge your dick hat without any additions to my own dick hat! I'VE BECOME A DICK-HAT ALTRUIST!"

Joe: Or a cock ring for someone else’s dick hat.

Mikel: I think we've let the metaphor get away from us.

Joe: Seriously, though, if you were feeling altruistic you could help your friend through the tougher later missions.

Mikel: That's true, although I got the feeling it scaled the difficulty a bit to compensate fro two players. Or at least it scaled the number of enemies. Besides, you're basically a tank in SR2. You can absorb a ton of bullets and your health meter recharges if you can keep from getting hit for more than a few seconds. So there really aren't many "tough missions" that you'd NEED help with. Although a co-op partner could certainly help make them more fun.

Joe: Many have wished for a similar co-op experience for GTA IV, where two can play the missions.

Mikel: Yeah, co-op would have made shit like Three Leaf Clover and Snowstorm a hell of a lot less frustrating. But yeah, speculation aside, I think Saints Row 2 is a much better game than it's frequently given credit for, and the co-op is almost entirely fantastic.

Joe: Agreed. I think its unapologetically crass tone make ivory tower types dismissive of its good points. The Poo Cannon, for example. It takes a special kind of person to enjoy spraying hookers with feces.

Above: Immaturity at its finest

Mikel: The Septic Avenger missions were one of the first things we openly mocked about SR2, and they seem to embody everything that's "wrong" with the game. Everything that makes it so obviously geared toward 14-year-olds. But in practice, spraying shit everywhere and ruining everything is really, really fun and oddly satisfying. I think so many people got used to hating on the first one for its crassness that they fail to see it's actually a really fun game.

Joe: Besides, Septic Avenger is just one of a rich tapestry of activities that you can participate in at your option.

Mikel: Yes, that thing you just said.