Grand Theft Auto made the sandbox genre popular and big, but Saints Row is the one that took the idea and ran with it. So much so that GTA took Saints Row's ideas and used them in later games. Now we have Saints Row 2.
The games starts not too far off from where the first game did, with your character in a coma and in custody, but after waking up, you break out of the slammer and learn that your gang, the Third Street Saints has disbanded and the streets belong to new gangs. Your character who can be made male or female in the plastic surgery mode, will then go out to conquer the streets once again and raise all kinds of cain.
While the game doesn't have quite the depth that GTAIV has, the game has it's own style and more importantly a feel of accomplishment and progress. In GTAIV, you slowly move up into nicer clothes and nicer houses but you never actually accomplish anything and what you can do becomes limited and the only real point is the story of your character Niko and having things end on a bittersweet note. Here, the Boss goes from having nothing to getting a base of operations, the basement of some old church, and as you progress, it gets nicer, you have more cars, more clothes, more guns, more money and well, you've accomplished things and you also start to put other gangs out of business and take over they're territory. Careful, the gang might bite back and try and re-take they're lost land. Once a territory is owned, you can buy a piece of the businesses and make some extra cash everyday.
The gangs are a varied if cliched bunch. The Ronin, a Japanese led gang that wear yellow, drive imported bikes and sports cars and carry katanas and shoot Tec-9s. The Brotherhood, a heavy metal head banging group drives trucks and swing sledge hammers and my favorite, the Sons of Samedi, a Jamaican Voodoo Gunslinger group that deal in drugs and drive lowriders....and employ plenty of white college kids to sell they're dope. As you play through the game, the Ultor group gets more exposure and you must come across them too as you learn they're motives which will lead to a showdown.
The graphics are definitely a step below GTA and other games, but serve they're purpose and aren't awful. The music is standard and the sounds have guns sound like guns, along with other clanks, thumps and squealing tires and the radio stations of course have they're own hits, but sadly no Juliette Lewis as a DJ.
Controls are nice and nothing is too complicated. While you can't "lock on" to enemies like in GTA, but UNLIKE GTA, you don't end up locking onto things you don't want. It's strictly having enemies lined up in your reticle and shooting them. You can also punch and throw enemies as well as use people as human shields. Weapons include various pistols, automatics, flashbangs, RPGs shotguns and more and visiting your cribs can allow you to swap out guns.
When you aren't attacking enemy gangs and they're strongholds, you can engage in other activities for people who hire you like Meyhem, where you cause destruction in a spot of the city and blow up, run over and shoot as much as you can. Septic Avenger has you drive the Sewage truck and paint the town brown so you commit some real estate fraud. Escort jobs have you pick up a famous person and a date and drive them around and avoid or shoot the media who want to snap some pictues. My favorite is the Insurance Scam where you literally throw yourself off cliffs and into speeding cars to amass a fortune in fraud money for your employer. All of this and other activities are done to get a high score, money and prestige to do other jobs.
The best part is practically ANYTHING you buy is customizable. You cars, your clothes and your own player can be molded and colored almost anyway you want. Buy jewelry, undershirts, jackets and even wacky things to wear like bunny ears and diving helmets or if you want, you can run around nude. Your gangs can be decked out in fashions like 80's gear, bodyguard clothes and even Ninjas later on, and the cars they show up in battle in, are your choices too! The cars you drive can be pimped out too with different spoilers, tinting and even interior colors done up and my Superiore, the games version of a Lamborghini Countach with nitrous boosters tears up the road.
Saints Row 2 puts the fun in the sandbox that GTA IV did try to replace with maudlin and while I love both games, this one really does have the better story mode and it's online mode is good too. Later this year, Saints Row The Third will be out. Put this one in, with it's bargain price to whet your appetite and have fun taking over the city with your new posse. 3rd Street Saints for life!
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