Saturday, November 12, 2011

Saints Row 2

  I don't think its any big revelation that lots of video games take themselves very seriously now.
We have widely appealing crime stories ala Grand Theft Auto IV, intense sci-fi thrillers like Dead Space 2, and flat out action games like the Uncharted series. Going to buy a video game now, is almost like browsing for a movie at a rental joint. 

  Call me nostalgic but despite my love for the current wave of cinematically inclined video games, begging to be taken seriously, I miss a slightly older generation of games. Ones that came attached with a laundry list of cheat codes, and hidden areas and all kinds of fun stuff. Now, we have to pay for 'DLCs' to get all the extra stuff. Back then you had to either enter a ridiculously long code straight into the menu, or defeat some mega boss on insane difficulty levels. I miss that kind of gameplay.
  I want to now slap myself for not discovering Saints Row 2 sooner. Or maybe I discovered it at the perfect time. Either way... it was a godsend.
  Its frequently compared to GTA IV because of its sandbox open world style, its focus on the criminal underworld, and its general approach to gameplay. However, Saints Row 2, is not a game on its hands and knees begging to be taken seriously. In fact it seems to be doing the exact opposite: pistol whipping you over the head, yelling obsceneties in your ear, telling you to just enjoy the ride.
  Its an insanely immature game. Loaded to the brim with tasteless wanton destruction and bloodshed, and removing all moral and ethical consequences from sight. Its wall to wall guns, pole dancers, fast cars, foul language and lots of loud explosions.  Despite it unfolding like it was written by a teenage wannabe white boy rapper with a predilection for all things violent, it is most definately cinematically inclined and gloriously so. 

  Although the graphics aren't the best, or even remotely so, the cinematics at the beginning and end of every action packed mission, feel like you're watching an action movie, with big impressive stunts (i.e. jumping out of a helicopter, and into the top floor of a towering sky scraper) and fast paced action scenes. Mind you, this is just in the cinematics, and its also just the tip of the iceberg.

  I played through the game with select cheat codes enabled, never feeling guilty, because the game is already so over the top its not a big leap to want to feel invincible in this world. Even with infinite health, ammo, and my pick of military grade weapons, thats not to say I had the whole world in my hands. I found myself constantly fighting against a timer, or racing against a time restraint, trying to keep my "homies" alive, or struggling to complete a mission in general. Its no cake walk, but the codes certainly made me feel like I was an invincible action star in the latest summer blockbuster.

  I also found the amount of customizable things to be wonderfully self-indulgent. You start off the game, and you're allowed to create your own protagonist. Sex, age, build, facial features, hair styles, personality traits, and even a choice from three voices (per gender). This in itself had me sold already. I love personalizing my own protagonist in any game, getting to create a completely unique one from scratch is always a special treat. Especially so in this game.  The customizing doesn't end there either.

  The story begins with your character emerging from a coma, induced by some explosion taking place in the previous game, and now you find your gang, the 3rd Street Saints, to be gone, your home drastically changed, and several other new cutthroat gangs have dominated alot of territory. Welcome home to the city of Stillwater.
  You have to recruit new gang members to resurrect the Saints, and fight your way to your rightful place at the top of the food chain once again.  So in this epic urban adventure, you can customize the general look of your gang (ninja clan anyone?), the cars your gang use, your own personal garage full of cars and such, and even eventually... aircraft. Fun yes? I thought so too.
  You can also buy up "cribs" all over the city and add your personal touches...
*cough-stripper poles-cough*

  And from there access your wide inventory of purchased guns, and general weapons, your ever expanding wardrobe, a mini game about a zombie apocalypse, the option to re-view those epic cinematics, and your personal cash vault that restocks over time. All this is an epic setup to hours and hours of open world fun and getting sidetracked on mini-games and tongue-in-cheek 'activities' even long after you've completed your last mission. The game is blessed with a dark sense of humor, and at times even a well placed bit of satire, and it all goes towards creating a very enjoyable and unique game that is for the power-hungry gun-freak in all of us.

  If the point of video games is to be totally immersive, this game does it in spades. The only things that could possible have as much totally immersive, open world, reckless, limitless, fun... is Saints Row: The Third, (which I will be buying)... and/or a Star Trek holodeck.

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