No matter what anyone says, Saints Row 2 (SR2) is a typical “GTA clone”. There is no way around that fact and the sooner you accept it, the better. Having said that, it does manage to diversify itself from the rest of the clones, and actually does a good job of setting itself apart from even the GTA series. Sure, it’s made in the same style, and has some of the same key features as GTA, but it does manage to do some things that GTA doesn’t.
SR2 continues the story from the first Saints Row (SR), although being a PC gamer means I have never played the first one, and as a result there were times when I was a bit lost, but things are explained well enough to keep you in the know. So, those who have not played the first Saints Row, rest assured, you can jump straight into SR2 and everything will be fine. The story isn’t anything fantastic, but it does its job. Your character wakes up in a prison hospital after 5 years of healing from an explosion witnessed at the end of SR1. You then break out of the prison with some help. The rest of the game is you rebuilding your since fallen empire, and your journey to the top. An over-used story that one can’t help but feel is the result of a little laziness, but the story is merely a distraction from the massive, detailed and ultimately funny world.
The world in SR2 is very big, and you would be hard pressed to find any actual loading screens away from the main menu. Also, something that is still pretty unique for open-world games is the fact that the pedestrians on the street will interact and respond to what you are doing. For example, you steal a car and do a burnout. Some of the people walking by will dial the cops after witnessing a crime, others will whistle and cheer you on for the burnout, while the person you originally pulled out of the vehicle will most likely become aggressive towards you, possibly trying to get revenge. And of course, the cops will jump on any reason to try and beat you to death with their large night sticks.
The graphics are really good and SR2 is a fantastic port. Some games that have taken much longer have turned out quite a bit worse (I’m looking at you, GTA IV). One of the biggest things that impressed me with this game is the character creation. Obviously this is nothing new, but it isn’t done very often, let alone done this well, and it really helps in feeling like the game is tailored for you. It can also be quite fun making a morbidly obese man with breasts that require him to wear a bra (not kidding) as well as countless other comedic selections of body parts and attributes. The game does have its rough points though. The voice acting is less than fantastic, and the movement and controls on the mouse and keyboard feel pretty sloppy and not as smooth as one would hope. Not to mention that there are several bugs scattered throughout the game. Nothing horribly bad, but they did bring my score down.
The biggest problem this game has is that there are almost no likable characters, not even your character. For the most part, everyone just seems hollow and lame. Sure, there are characters that will make you laugh, but you’re laughing comedy of the situation, not the character’s actions. But all things considered, it does do a fantastic job of making a name for itself in a genre that has been dominated by the Grand Theft Auto name for so many years. It may do things that you’ve seen before, but it does them in a way that makes them seem new. It’s nice to play a game like this that doesn’t take itself too seriously.