by Chris Davis
reviewed on X360
Pimping Ainít Easy
When the Xbox 360 launched in 2005, Volition Inc. was presented with an incredible opportunity. Since Rockstar Games had gone silent to work on their Rage engine and what would become Grand Theft Auto IV there was nary a next generation open-world title to be found, something fans had been craving since GTA: San Andreas. The result was Saintís Row, Volitionís first outing into a sandbox title. The game did well commercially and was cited as what fans could play to tide them over until the next GTA title was announced. Saintís Row 2 picked up where its predecessor left off and completely jumped the shark, ditching any sort of melodrama in favor of over-the-top gameplay ideas like the Septic Avenger, sing-alongs, and a strong cooperative element.
Itís been three years since we last saw the Third Street Saints but they are back in action and are more over-the-top than ever. Against one of the most crowded holiday line-ups in gaming history though can it hold its own?
Third Street for Life
When we last left the Third Street Saints they were at the top of their game. After having successfully taken down Ultor (Volitionís go-to evil corporation and possible series tie-in to Red Faction) and eliminated the major competing gangs in Stillwater the boss (you), Johnny Gat and Shaundi have become international celebrities. The Saints can get away with practically anything and with the power of Ultorís media division behind them everything from merchandising to even major Hollywood films are being made about them. No one can stop them or, at least, thatís what our ďheroesĒ thought.
During what was to be a routine ďfor funĒ bank robbery the tables are turned on the trio as the seemingly innocent tellers draw submachine guns on them. After a daring attempt to hijack the vault with a helicopter fails they are captured and awaken on a jumbo jet owned by Philippe Loren, leader of an international criminal organization known as the Syndicate. The Syndicate is moving into Stillwater and the three are offered their lives in exchange for a huge cut of the Saintsí profits. Naturally, our heroes decline the generous proposal and one explosive, bullet-filled escape later we find ourselves in Steelport. As dirty a city as Stillwater was, Steelport is a cesspool in comparison as three gangs run the town under the umbrella of the Syndicate. Out for revenge, our heroes must find new allies and do what they do best if they want to take over the city.
If you thought taking over the city of Steelport would be as easy as it was to control Stillwater youíll find this will be no easy task. Three rival gangs inhabit this burg: the Luchadores, a gang of Mexican wrestlers; the Deckers, a team of nigh emo cyberpunks; and the Morningstar gang headed up by Philippe Loren and his evil Asian twin guards Viola and Kiki. Each occupy a section of the town and have missions specific to them (no missions seem to correspond with more than one gang). Just like the previous titles there is no required order needed to take them on, so you can handle them in almost any order you wish throughout a large part of the game.
To aid you on your conquest you have a cast of old and new allies. This troupe of characters that you interact with is certainly an eclectic bunch but, then again, when has Saints Row not gone for over-the-top? Shaundi, the murderous temptress with a passion for explosives as well as Pierce the wisecracking minion are present throughout this tale of street revenge but new allies appear to aid you in this new town. Oleg Kirrlov, a giant of a man, becomes your ally after the Syndicate decides to create a clone army based on him. Angel De La Muerte, voiced by none other than Hulk Hogan, is an ex-Luchadore and will aid you in your fight to wrestle control over their territory. Kinzie Kensington is a former FBI agent who has it out for the Deckers. Zimos, who wants payback against the Morningstars, is probably the funniest of the new supporting cast as he has a microphone cane that auto-tunes his tracheotomied voice box. Each one is quite entertaining but Zimos is easily the one youíll want to hang out with the most.
Over the top, hilarious gameplay
Later missions lack the cinematic nature of earlier ones