The best games never take themselves seriously
The high definition generation of videogames seem to have lost their sense of humour and in many cases its fun life of an excessive lifestyle. Many games fell foul of concentrating on its beauty of how close to life it wanted to be, but why? If I wanted to walk like I do in real life, I’ll get off my fat arse and do it. If I wanted to be more beautiful than interesting then I’d join the elitist culture club of caviar eating money burners. What does go on in the minds of game developers these days? Just because the technology allows them to create stunning games of beauty or simulations to real life, doesn’t mean they should do it. It’s just as wrong as some barmy bastard making cats glow in the dark.
Fortunately there is one game that really ticks all the boxes that matter. Is it fun? Yes, does it have open ended game play? Yes. Does it look like a piece of shit? Thankfully, it doesn’t. This leads me on to Saints Row 2, THQ & Volition have created a master piece in game design. Using the same engine as Red Faction Guerrilla, it still has all the bangs and whistles too! You see, what makes Saints Row 2 stand out like a Peacock on heat, is down to it just being over the top and proud of being it too. For those that need a little introduction to this series, Saints Row started out as a late alternative to Liberty City & Vice City Stories in the infancy of the Xbox 360’s life span, it was highly regarded for its voice acting, but suffered in its size and variation of missions, although good it felt like it was holding back, that it hadn’t fully harnessed the power of the Xbox 360. Now it has and there’s little surprise to see more vehicles, more hilarity and an open landscape at over 100% the size of the original, even Playstation & PC users can enjoy the second iteration as well.
The story is plausible and even I’d agree that GTA IV has a much better storyline, but I just felt that Volition never intended for the Stilwater experience to be a Spielberg experience in narrative, it was meant to be a raucous romp without rules of boundaries. Speaking of which, they’ve finely balanced the main story missions with hilarious side mission objectives which keeps the game from ever wanting to be taken seriously. Where GTA IV really fails is that if it wasn’t for Nico Bellic’s brother, the game would be as funny as Cancer and that’s a problem. GTA IV’s world suffered from a depressing affair of browns, greys and dusty oranges, it’s depiction of New York was admirable but left you often looking out your window reminding yourself that life isn’t this shit. On the other hand Saints Row 2 is quite the opposite, it’s colourful without being outrageous and it’s depiction of Chicago/Boston with its own flavours are executed with beautifully different zoned areas as outlined on your world map. Whether it be the district of Saints Row where whores and religion are melded, or the upper class ethnicity of China Town. There is always something to experience and even 8 hours into the game you are still finding new areas you haven’t explored.
From starting the initial prison breakout mission straight through to the assassination of gang leaders, the game plays like a charm. The shooting is tight, the hit detection is pretty much perfect, the weapon selection system is adequate and the car handling is never too simulated to annoy your inner core. The usual sandbox affair is offered with the ability to buy real estate, horde vehicles, buy threads and customise cars. Nothing is missing here, not even the airport. I think what is most admirable from Volition is that they haven’t cordoned off where you can explore in the game, from the get go everything is accessible and your not pushed into any one route to executing missions or staying along the main narrative. Admittedly some games have offered similar experiences such as Crackdown, however the storylines in these open ended titles are so primitive. It seems pointless even playing the main objectives.
If your idea of fun is spraying sewage over buildings and people, causing self harm for an insurance claim, seamless co-operative without any connection issues (suck on that GTAIV) and dressing your character up as a transsexual, then Saints Row 2 is perfect, even with its odd graphical glitches and un-resounding aesthetic looks, this game is the equivalent of an evening out with slut. Fun, without rules, outlandish and devilish and no doubt within time, even with the main story complete, you’ll end up coming back for more. You wouldn’t even care if you came away with crabs.