by Patrick Steinmann
previewed on PS3
Livin’ the Thug Life
With Grand Theft Auto IV just hitting shelves, it is easy to forget about other titles for a while, especially if they happen to occupy the same niche as Rockstar Games’ arguably most famous franchise. Saints Row, and the upcoming Saints Row 2, are such games. The first installment of the series was critically acclaimed; Yes, everyone knew it was a blatant rip-off of the Grand Theft Auto idea, and the storyline wasn’t exactly brilliant, but the rock-solid gameplay and multiplayer modes still won many fans over. With that said, lets take a look and see what Volition and THQ are doing to ensure that Saints Row 2 can follow up on its predecessor’s success.
The game is set in the same city as its predecessor, Stilwater but the area has grown since the events of Saints Row. Various locations such as a university, a trailer park, and underground caves have been added and make the new city about 150% larger than the Stilwater we encountered in the original game. Other landmarks include a nuclear power plant, a new prison island, and towering apartment blocks. Expect a lot of diversity in the environment, not unlike the host of different areas we saw in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. A host of smaller islands, along with large expanses of open water, should round things off nicely.
Unlike the first installment of the series, you will have the option to completely customize your character. This includes looks, clothes, behavior, fighting style and gender, along with age, ethnicity, as well as things like walking style or your voice. This is definitely a nice addition to the game and should provide players with a much more in-depth experience. You will also be able to buy a variety of new garments, and, once you own them, group your clothes into finished outfits that you can select at your gang’s hideout.
The storyline of Saints Row 2 is built around one gang – the 3rd Street Saints led by the main character – and their attempts to exact revenge on their rivals. Those rivals are three other gangs, each with a distinct theme and style. The Sons of Samedi are of Caribbean descent, and earn their money by dealing drugs. You’ll recognize them by their yellow clothes. The Brotherhood of Stilwater is a biker gang with alleged racist undertones, and uses red as its gang color. The final gang is called the Ronin, and draws its members from the Asian population of Stilwater. Each gang has a distinct theme, use different tactics in various situations, and control different areas of the city.
To really mix it up, Volition included a fifth player in the already quite volatile gang landscape. The mighty Ultor Unlimited Corporation has invested big money in Stilwater and is intent on eradicating the remaining gangs from ‘their’ city.
There are some neat details regarding the gangs. From what we have heard and seen the player can customize their gang, including appearance, choice of hideouts, members, and more. Furthermore, the gang’s hideouts where you will be able to save/load, change clothes, and store vehicles can be furnished and modified by the player. The list of available hideouts ranges from run-down warehouses to splendid mansions. It is yet unknown if the choice of hideouts will have an effect on the gang itself, although we would of course welcome such a feature.