Really though, the only part where you notice the graphics are average are on facial features which honestly is nothing to complain about and nor does it impact upon gameplay. The detail however on Stillwater itself is impressive. From different stores scattered across the map, to different environments and tons of witty jokes on billboards and buildings, you get to enjoy the simpler things about this game like driving or just walking about and absorbing the sites. In addition, the odd gang vs. police fight or even pimps vs. gangs will provide a laugh every once in a while. With Saints Row 2, you need to understand that graphics are not a focus of the game, and if you look past them, you will find yourself enjoying all it has to offer, and some.
With all sandbox titles, music is one of the most vital aspects of the game which the developers need to make right, and luckily, in Saints Row 2, Volition has done just that. With music lists ranging from Hip-Hop to Classical, from Metal to Reggae, there are more than enough tracks from each genre which will appeal to all types of gamers. In addition, the inclusion of 80’s Hits will also provide a flashback to older gamers and I have no doubts younger gamers will enjoy them too.
There are also a number of radio advertisements in-between songs which are guaranteed to provide a chuckle here and there and what makes it even greater is that each advertisement links to a store in the game – unlike in GTA IV where there were commercials for features and shows which did not exist. Unfortunately though, there is no dedicated talk-back radio station which would have been a great addition given creativity behind the development team.
I must admit though, the soundtrack I found for Saints Row was greater than that of this game. While the music is fine, and I probably found myself listening to a wider range of tracks this time around than the first, I just felt that the previous soundtrack re-enforced that ‘gangster’ theme and the tracks that I did like from the two games, overall I liked Saints Row better. Also the advertisements for various stores over the radio were much more humorous in the first game than this one.
Making its return in this game however is the ‘Custom Playlist’ feature where you can purchase in-game music tracks using in-game money and then tailor create a soundtrack to play rather than listen to the set radio stations. Unlike the first game, the custom playlist is now used as another radio station and while this is perfectly fine, there is no ‘shuffle’ feature so all the music plays in the order you list them – which is irritating when you know exactly what song is coming up next and with longer lists, you have to wait a while for a song you might like that is ordered towards the bottom (no ‘skip’ option either).
Similar to Saints Row, Achievements are predominately Offline-based and relate to scenarios such as completing a gang storyline, finishing all the levels of an activity or even taunting a certain number of gang members. Online Achievements are then divided further into Co-Op and Online Match and are based on your progress in both these game types.
Offline (and Co-Op) Achievements are not tied to the difficulty setting so unlocking them is more a matter of spending time to perfect a method and then finishing the game while Online Achievements are based on skill so unlocking those are reserved for gamers who can perfect their game. With enough dedication though you can unlock close to 900 Gamerpoints for Saints Row 2. For Playstation gamers, I assume the Trophies are programmed close to the Xbox 360 Achievements, so for bronze and silver trophies will be moderately reasonable to unlock while gold and platinum ones require some time and skill.
Online modes for this game are categorised into two sections – the first being co-operation for taking on the main storyline with another player and the second, your average death match multiplayer game modes. It must be noted, that if you are looking for a decent online experience – you won’t find it in Saints Row 2. Probably the best aspect of online for this game is co-op which allows you to tackle the Single Player side of this game entirely with a friend. What makes this so great, is the drop-in and drop-out design – allowing a player to enter your game or leave at will. While completing Saints Row 2 with a friend, I found the frame rate smooth and only experienced a noticeable period of lag twice during the storyline.
What many players found a shame though was just how much was taken out of the multiplayer modes in comparison to the first game. In Saints Row 2, there is the option to play either the basic free-for-all death-matches or you can partake in competitions based on different in-game activities like Insurance Fraud, tagging and money laundering. Also, the option of creating and managing gangs online has also been removed, but True-Skill ranks remain.
Another disappointment around online in Saints Row 2 was lag and match-making. While Co-Op was relatively smooth, playing online against others in ranked multiplayer matches was riddled with lag and overall was not a pleasant experience. In addition, match-making is a tedious task when it comes to ranked matches and I found myself having to quit out after five minutes because games could not be found. If you play with friends though in Player or Private Matches, this problem is non-existent. Overall, co-op is a great feature and aspect of online but the other modes are difficult to get used to and often aren’t worth the time unless you are a dedicated fan from Saints Row.
If I were to look at Saints Row 2 overall as a game, it can be described as nothing short of fantastic. If we were to go further and look at this game as a sandbox, it simply stands as one of the most well-developed games out there in terms of creativity and in providing gamers with almost total freedom to play the game exactly how they like. Gameplay is fantastic and overall, there are more than 50 hours available here for you to toy with – even longer if you take time to explore the city for what it’s worth. This game does not focus on nailing perfect graphics or realism and it does not take itself too seriously, and that is what makes it so great. Saints Row 2 just wants to deliver hours of endless play and it does that well.
No game comes closing in offering the same level of variety and freedom, and unlike other sequels on the market, next to nothing has been removed from Saints Row, everything was just added-on. With different difficulty settings to cater for all gamer skills and a storyline that evokes so many emotions while still retaining that sense of humour, it is a pleasure to play. Being only the second attempt by Volition at a shooter/action-sandbox, I say that Saints Row 2 acts as a pretty strong competitor against Rockstar and its Grand Theft Auto series. With the third and final game in this franchise Saints Row 3 being under development, I have high hopes that it will prove to be nothing less than a truly fantastic game, but for now, this game comes close and while its multiplayer options might be limited, it is the exact opposite for single player where there is much fun to be had.
Reviewer’s note: The Xbox 360 version was tested for this review
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The game has simple menus which are easy to navigate. Simplicity, it works well here.
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This game delivers in bounds. Offline is nothing less than stunning, online is average.
Nothing truely realistic, but it isn't something unrealistic. The sound is fine for weapons, mediocre for the vehicles.
Career Mode will take many hours to complete, and there is much more time to be spent just toying around in the city.
Offline-wise, this game is brilliant and not many games come close to matching it's gameplay. Online is sub-par though.