THQ Saints Row 2

Hit the streets in Saints Row 2.

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THQ Saints Row 2
  • THQ Saints Row 2
  • THQ Saints Row 2
  • THQ Saints Row 2

Pros

  • Fantastic customisation, innovative cooperative play and online multiplayer modes, instant access to entire city

Cons

  • Derivative design, poorly structured single player game makes side missions mandatory, unpolished graphics

Bottom Line

Saint's Row 2 deserves props for its phenomenal customisation and inventive multiplayer modes-including drop in and out cooperative play-but it's derivative design lacks polish and panache. It's entertaining, but it's also outclassed by its competitors.

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When Eminem asked, "Will the real Slim Shady please stand up?" he was slamming musicians for trending toward highly commercialized tunes-his point was that imitation had only served to soften the edges of music. I couldn't help but think about that lyric was I played Saint's Row 2. It ain't the "real Slim Shady" either, borrowing too much from that other free-roaming action game (you know the one) to retain an edge of its own. That doesn't prevent it from being enjoyable but a few inventive features can't cover up derivative design and an inferior style.

Don't Drop the Soap

After breaking out of jail, you return to the streets only to find that the conglomerate Ultor has transformed your turf into a gentrified city centre. Rebuild the ranks of your gang, the Saint's, and ousting rival factions forms the main portion of Saint's Row 2's storyline. Doing so involves confronting gangs head-on in missions, as well as storming their strongholds to seize territory. Of course, there are dozens of side missions and extra activities available to bolster your reputation and strengthen your position of power.

No place is off limits the moment you step foot into the city, which gives Saint's Row 2 enormous appeal. Here's a free-roaming game that lives up to the definition right out of the box. Unfortunately, there's a catch-while you're given the freedom to go wherever you wish, there are hoops you have to jump through. You can't just tackle missions at your leisure; instead, you're forced to accumulate enough respect before the game allows you to start any mission. You garner said respect by completing activities and the variety of missions is impressive-they're almost all entertaining-but I didn't like that they were mandatory. Forcing you to complete activities in order to play through the story is an artificial means of lengthening the game and does nothing to enhance the experience.

Monkeying Around

There's also little to be seen that hasn't been executed better elsewhere. The few activities or missions that embark on new ideas tend to be lame or utterly trashy, such as the nasty Septic Avenger that has you squirting sewage onto people and property in order to rack up damages. Flinging poo, my friends, is not the next innovative step forward for action gaming.

Saint's Row 2 does impress, however, with extensive customisation options and a wealth of multiplayer features including a fantastic co-op mode; these features are what make Saint's Row 2 compelling. The ability to personalise your character in all aspects is amazing as is the ability to customise the look and feel of your hideouts. You can even tweak the look of your gang members. This bleeds over to the cooperative mode that lets a buddy drop in and out at anytime. Enough can't said of how great teaming up with a pal is in this game-after all, gangbangin' isn't exactly a solo affair. That, of course, also makes the online game so entertaining as well.

Please, Stand Up

These fresh elements prevent Saint's Row 2 from being a derivative mash. The core game, however, doesn't differentiate itself enough nor does it offer an experience that is superior to what is already out there. It's largely unpolished and poorly structured, and only when the game breaks away from imitation -- demonstrating a compelling co-op experience, for one -- does it come close to achieving its true potential. Unfortunately, the customisation options and multiplayer aside, Saint's Row 2 is just imitatin'.

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