previewed on X360
Setting the Bar
The first Saints Row was a step ahead of the Grand Theft Auto series and other free-roaming games at the time it was released with online play and other features. However, with the release of GTA IV, the bar for free-roaming games was set pretty high. Saints Row 2 seems to exceed GTA IV as far as quantity of features, and we'll take a closer look at many of these features as this preview progresses.
Both Saints Row games follow the actions of the 3rd Street Saints gang in the fictional city of Stilwater, which is a virtual recreation of real-life Chicago. Saints Row 2 takes place a number of years after the events of the first game. The events start to unfold as soon as the player's character gets busted out of jail. After his escape he finds out that the Saints aren't as prominent as they used to be and vows to reclaim what the rival gangs took from them and to also restore the Saints back to their former glory in the process.
Saints Row 2, like it's predecessor, is a free-roaming third person action game where the main method of transportation throughout the city is to steal a vehicle. As the game continues, more crimes are committed as the player strives to accomplish his missions, such as high speed pursuits, assassinations, and drug deals, among others. The players are also free to cause as much mayhem as they like in-between missions. These actions are not without consequences, however, as the police will try to arrest or kill the player if they break too many laws and raising your Notoriety to an astronomical level will almost always have disastrous results.
Because of these core gameplay mechanics, it's easy to draw similarities to the long-running Grand Theft Auto series, which pioneered these same mechanics in the mid-90s. the Saints Row series isn't just a cheap knock-off to cash in on the success of GTA, though, as the games differ in a lot of ways.
The first of which being the stories and their thematic elements. Most of the Grand Theft Auto games are based more on the seedy underworld of organized crime, whereas Saints Row focuses the story on urban gangster life in a the big city. The SR series also sensationalizes the violence and destruction a lot more than GTA, and SR2 does this even more than the original. Needless to say, Saints Row 2 will feature plenty of huge explosions and wanton destruction.
There is no shortage of weapons in SR2. You've got your usual fare of pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, as well as some oddities, like pepper spray, or even completely over-the-top weapons like chainsaws. That step towards reality in the GTA series (most notably in GTA IV) with the limited variety of weapons, is not present in this game at all. But hey, sometimes that can be a good thing. Sometimes you just want to have some fun without being tied down by certain elements of the real-world.
There's not only a huge variety in the weapons a player can choose from, but there is also a large number of shops that carry products like tattoos, sunglasses, hats, and other clothing items. Players will also be able to upgrade their living quarters. All of these upgrades award the player with points. The more points a player has, the higher his respect rating can be. Respect, in turn, is helpful in recruiting allies who will help you in missions and can be a valuable asset if you get attacked by rival gangsters.
Moral Crusaders Beware
Like it's cousin GTA, Saints Row 2 will not be without its own share of potential controversy, the least of which being Tera Patrick of porn fame being one of the game's producers. Other examples include streaking, graffiti, over-the-top violence and even the ability to commit insurance fraud. The game will also feature its share of strong language, so anyone who is easily offended will do well to steer clear of this one if they don't appreciate the kind of content the game offers.
From what we know of Saints Row 2 already, the game seems very promising, but will it be a GTA-killer? We'll have to find out when the game ships on October 15 of this year.