Saints Row 2
Saints Row 2 brings true freedom to open-world gaming. Players can play as who they want, how they want, and with whomever they want in this sequel to the much acclaimed and tremendously successful Saints Row. Set years after the original, the player finds himself in a Stilwater both familiar and strange and challenged with bringing the Saints back as the rightful kings of Stilwater and bringing vengeance to those who wronged him.
That of course is the official blurb. Sounds sweet. I’ve heard reviewers say that Saints Row 2 – the wanna be GTA killer – achieves it’s goals in this second outing, beating GTA IV hands down. It apparently brings back the fun element that was lacking in GTA IV. Now I’ve played, and enjoyed every full incarnation of GTA, from the top down original through to the latest 3D offering. And I’ve enjoyed them all from the get go. Sure, GTA IV was lacking in some of the instant fun, and the storyline was a tad short, but as soon as I started the game, I was enjoying myself. Everything worked the way it was supposed to be.
Saints Row 2 on the other hand, doesn’t. It was going ok, the intro-training mission, breaking out of jail was rather ho hum, but its point was to teach me the ropes. Then I had to jack a car and drive it. In a free roaming, city based game, where driving is essential to getting around, you have to make sure you’ve got the driving mechanics down right. Saints Row 2 hasn’t. This has been the failing of many a game that’s tried to emulate the success of GTA, no one outside of Rockstar seems to be able to get the driving right. And if the driving isn’t right, then the game is already on the back foot. Throw in the dodgy object detection (I got trapped in the corner of an office after dropping a small object in front of me and essentially blocking my way – I couldn’t walk over the small object, or jump over it. Luckily I was able to pick it up again and trow it out of my way!) and things are not looking good.
I think the problem Saints Row 2 has, is that the Volition team (the games creators) put too much focus on user customisation and unnecessary gore and forgot about the importance of the fundamentals. The character customisation options at the beginning of the game is so detailed that the options left me dizzy with confusion. Sure it’s nice to create a likeness of your self to play in game, but I was more than happy playing Niko Bellic in GTA IV, and I would have been happy playing some pre rendered dude in SR2.
And then there’s the graphic gore – I’m sure this was another fateful decision by Volition – in a effort to push the boundaries and go one better than GTA – the graphical representation of the various ways you can kill in SR2 tales a comical looking game and puts in some seriously adult visuals that on paper might have sounded like a neat idea, but in reality add nothing to the game.
Now I’ll admit, this review is akin to Roger Ebert’s 8 minute Tru Loved review, in as much as I’ve only played a couple of hours of SR2. But unlike movies, which only take a couple of hours of your time, a game has to be able to hook you in your first session. I’ve played two sessions of SR2 and all it does is annoy the heck out of me.
In fact the only thing that brought a smile to my face was discovering a bonus in game zombie killing game – but that has limited appeal.
It says a lot (in my book anyway) when faced with the prospect of playing a new game, I’d rather play anything else from my collection of old games than have to play more of my new game, and with the likes of COD5 and Fallout 3 coming out soon, SR2 is going to be relegated to some distant cupboard where it will collect dust for the rest of it’s earthly life..
Of all the GTA killers I’ve played, only Crackdown has managed to put and original twist in the genre that has made it fun to play.
If you want a GTA style game to play, play GTA.
Pros: Free roaming boredom.
Cons: Terrible game mechanics, lack of depth, sheer annoying blandness.