Saints Row 2 Review

I beat the original Saints Row years ago and found it to be a good game but nowhere near the quality of the Grand Theft Auto series. I keep hearing that Saints Row 2 is the best in the series. It took some time but eventually the game clicked with me and I really got into it. Sure, it has problems, on both PC and console, but that doesn’t stop it from being an enjoyable experience. Saints Row 2 is over the top and fun with tons of stuff to do and plenty of shit to shoot.


The original Saints Row ended with your character caught in a big yacht explosion. Fast forward a bit and the Saints Row gang has lost control over Stilwater and three other gangs now rule the streets. You’re main objective is to rebuild your gang and take back the streets. The three rival gangs are The Ronin, a biker gang lead by a ruthless Japanese crime lord, the Brotherhood, which seem to be just a bunch of macho scumbags, and the Sons of Samedi, a voodoo gang slinging a new drug called Loa Dust. Each gang controls different parts of the city and as you complete missions and take over strongholds you will take back these territories. You’ll start by escaping a prison hospital, rescuing the familiar face, Johnny Gat, and immediately start working to make the Saints a name again. The entire game is meant to be over the top with a humorous tone and it succeeds. The voice acting is actually well done and as opposed to the silent protagonist in the first game, your character is fully voiced this time around. The story itself isn’t a masterpiece and seems like more of a way to keep you shooting shit and taking back turf.

All of the missions in Saints Row 2 seem to follow the same structure. Go here and kill this person, blow up these things, or kill all of these people. You’ll always be killing gang members, raiding gang territories, or blowing up enemy gang vehicles. It sounds repetitive but some of the missions feel so over the top ridiculous it’s hard not to smile. One minute you’ll be stealing toxic waste and the next you’ll be escaping a crumbling hotel by base jumping from the top floor down to the lobby. Almost everything you do from driving on the wrong side of the road to beating somebody with a sledgehammer gains you respect. The more respect you earn, the more story missions you can complete. The respect system is similar to leveling up in an RPG. More respect gets you more goodies like more homies to recruit or new ways to customize your gang. There are tons of activities to complete, many being simply outrageous. Trailblazing has you on fire, wearing a fire suit, riding a buggy, as you race through checkpoints lighting everything on fire as you try to beat the clock. Crowd control has you protecting VIPs from crazed fans by throwing them around for points. One of my favorites is insurance fraud where you must throw yourself into traffic racking up as much money as possible. Not all of the activities are fantastic but I think that’s more or less subjective. For example, there are plenty of races to complete and I’m not the biggest racing fan. Each activities has numerous levels to complete and completing them grants you with rewards. Some of the rewards are well worth it like infinite ammo, decreased damage from vehicles, sprinting for longer, and other numerous things that can really help you out, especially later in the game.


Saints Row 2 is all about customization. The game opens with a fantastic character creation screen allowing you to customize your character with some hilarious options including the way your character looks, walks, talks, compliments, fighting style, and sounds. You can visit a plastic surgeon at any time to change your character, too, which is a nice touch. There are numerous clothing shops to purchase various clothing items and changing clothes is a great way to increase your style which earns you a higher percentage of respect earned from activities. Not only can you customize your character but you can your gang, cribs, and vehicles. You can customize the look of your gang and even what vehicles they drive. Eventually you’ll gain the ability to recruit homies to help you out in battle. They will follow you and fight along side you. Throughout the city are numerous “cribs” you can buy and customize with items like TVs, stripper poles, pool tables, and more. Upgrading your cribs also increases your style rank. Cribs Take your vehicle to a mechanic and you can customize it with a vast amount of upgrades like engine upgrades, pain jobs, tires, and more. The level of progression is one of the biggest strong points of Saints Row 2 and every time I played I always wanted to keep playing to see what I could unlock next.

Taking over territories throughout Stilwater is what Saints Row 2 is all about. There are 45 territories and each time you complete a mission you take over a territory. Successfully taking over a stronghold also grants you a territory. Owning territories increases the amount of money you can earn which can be collected from your stash at any of your cribs. Once a territory is owned you can buy the various businesses like tattoo parlors, car dealerships, gun shops, clothing, and jewelry stores, to earn even more money daily. By the end of the game you’ll be earning hundreds of thousands of dollars and money should never be a problem. Every now and then a gang will try and take a territory from you so you need to defend it which just requires you to kill several lieutenants. When doing all this gang stuff it’s hard not to think about how the developers were influenced, primarily from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. One of the coolest little things I noticed is when you recruit gang members and don’t have a car to fit everyone inside, they will actually steal a nearby vehicle and follow you. I love that.


As much as I enjoyed many aspects of Saints Row 2 it’s not without its fair share of issues. Most of the missions have you killing people and blowing things up which is fine but as the game progresses, things get harder and sometimes it just feels cheap. I played on the hardest difficulty throughout most of the game and you’ll soon notice that the enemy AI is big on running you over. You’ll be engaged in a big gang shootout and the biggest threat you’ll encounter is the ridiculous amount of gang vehicles gunning straight for you even indoors. It gets ridiculous. It becomes annoying when you can’t even hear or see them coming because you’re too focused on not getting shot or blown up. They’ll run you down and it takes a few seconds to get up, meanwhile the gang members are getting out of the car and blasting at you with their guns. The checkpoint system is either really good or really bad. For example in one mission I had to drive to the docks and jump on a watercraft only to be blown up by a helicopter then be forced to replay the mission from the beginning forcing me to drive all the way to the docks again. You may get really far into a mission only to get sniped by somebody with a rocket launcher and have to replay an entire segment over again. You can only have a maximum of three homies with you and while they’re competent at shooting enemies they usually just get in your way. If one of them is carrying around a rocket launcher you might as well dismiss them all and recruit some others. This leads me to the AI in general which are generally just dumb. You can blast your way through tons of enemy gang members only to enter a nearby room and see enemies just standing there facing the wall and won’t even turn around. I remember the city of Stilwater being very bland and uninteresting in the first game and I would say the same for Saints Row 2. I find the city itself to be more or less a playground to mess around in rather than a living a world to get immersed in which is a shame. One of my biggest complaints is how vehicles spawn. This is a city and many times I couldn’t find a car when I needed one. You die, spawn at the hospital and not a single car can be found parked or driving around. Needless to say it’s annoying when you have to run around looking for cars to drive by all the time… in a city.

Now I played Saints Row 2 on PC and eventually switched over to playing it on the Xbox 360 and it seemed that no matter which system I played it on, it’s just plagued with technical issues. First of all the Steam port of Saints Row 2 is atrocious but the GOG version is a little better. There are fan mods and patches to fix some issues like Gentleman of the Row and Powertools but I still found the PC version almost unplayable. Depending on your specs the game may run at super fast and I couldn’t find anything to slow it down to normal speed. Powertools sort of worked for me but then I encountered major slowdown when indoors. Using Powertools with the GOG version seems to be working so far. Even with these fan patches the game would still crash regularly, especially if playing the Steam version. The 360 version seems to run at thirty frames but it’s far from stable. Half the time it was dropping and noticeably bad. It’s nice that the console version offers the option to enable v-sync during gameplay but that will lower the frame rate even more. With v-sync disabled, you will notice significant screen tearing. It crashed on me several times forcing me to restart my 360 and just get frustrated. Texture and object pop-in is noticeable and I encountered a few glitches here and there like walking on water or disappearing NPCs and vehicles.


Saints Row 2 isn’t a bad game and I had a lot of fun with it. If you want to shoot shit, get into gang wars, customize everything, kill innocent civilians, ride in a truck and spray fecal matter all over stuff then this is the game for you. The level of progression as a character is truly great and always kept me coming back for more. The city of Stilwater may be uninteresting and acts as more of a playground than a world but this fact is made up for by the sheer amount of content the game has to offer. Sadly, the serious technical issues on both 360 and PC really bring this game down. It wasn’t optimized properly for PC and the 360 version runs like shit but if you can get past this or find ways to fix the PC issues then you’re in for a truly entertaining experience.

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