Saint´s Row 2 Discussion
The Story of Saints Row 2
June 26, 2008 - Any good open-world game needs one core element: something to drive the action forward. That one thing that gives meaning to everything you'll be doing throughout the course of the game. For a game like Saints Row 2 that driving force is its story and the characters that drive the plot forward. Create interesting personas in an up-beat plotline that stays moving at a steady clip while remaining focused and the majority of gamers will be willing to strap in for a long ride. We sat down with James Tsai, the lead designer behind Saints Row 2 to get the scoop on what the story of the sequel will hold come this October.
IGN: If you could, sum up what the core characters have been up to in the interim from Saints 1 to Saints 2.
James Tsai: A lot has changed in Stilwater since the original Saints Row, and the Saints gang has seen the city slip from its grasp over the course of a few years. Johnny Gat, one of the top Saints lieutenants, has been in prison awaiting trial for murder. Troy Bradshaw, the undercover officer who had penetrated the innermost circle of the gang, has gotten out of detective work and is the presiding chief of police. Julius has tried to wash his hands of gang activity altogether, while the player character has been recovering in a coma, battling the after effects of being caught in a huge boat explosion. Suffice to say, the Saints' leadership has been fractured and scattered.
IGN: What about the Saints as a whole? Why aren't they ruling the streets?
JT: The events surrounding the player's apparent death brought the conflicting interests of the Saints' leaders to light, making the collapse of the gang became somewhat inevitable. Julius still had ties both to his old neighborhood and to the Kings, Troy was working for the police, Lin was dead, and Gat and Dex were destined to butt heads forever. As the Saints deteriorated, several new gangs swept in to fill the void: the Ronin, the Sons of Samedi, and the Brotherhood.
IGN: Who is this Brotherhood that we keep hearing about? What's their story?
JT: The Brotherhood is the most physically imposing of the new gangs. They prefer strength over subtlety and have little use for the finer, more coordinated aspects of organized crime. Money laundering and securities fraud isn't their thing, pulling up in a monster truck and beating someone's skull in with a baseball bat while robbing them is. When we were designing this gang we also wanted to give them some links to Los Carnales from the original Saints Row, and our artists worked hard to incorporate this into their visual elements.
IGN: We know that the player's character will speak this time around. What has this allowed you to do with the story that wasn't possible in the first game?
JT: From a storytelling standpoint, it's been very liberating. Players now have motivations we can better express and an authority we can project rather than always relegating them to the role of submissive mutes who do what they're told without question. The attitude of the main character is very empowering this time around.
IGN: At the end of the trailer we see the player's character pointing his gun at Julius who's on the ground and then we hear a gunshot. That seems like a pivotal part in the storyline of Saints Row 2. Why reveal it in a trailer?
JT: The way the first Saints Row ended left everyone with a lot of questions. Who tried to kill the player, and what were their reasons? In Saints Row 2, you'll find out why the player got blown up and how the score gets settled . . .
IGN: Is Johnny Gat the only friend from the last game that you meet up with in SR2? If not, who else?
JT: We definitely have other characters from SR making appearances in Saints Row 2. Gat's girlfriend Aisha, who went into hiding after being presumed dead, is still around to lend a hand to the cause. Troy isn't a Saint anymore, but obviously become a fixture in the city as Stilwater's top cop. Along with some new lieutenants for the sequel, several other characters the player may have met in SR missions or storylines return as well. The great thing about the Saints Row franchise is that we've got this great setting of an evolving city, and we get to draw upon its rich history and build it up at the same time with all these characters.
IGN: It seems like Ultor might be controlling more than just the law-abiding parts of society. Are they paying off the gangs to cause a ruckus so they can swoop in and play the role of hero?
JT: Ultor keeps its hands just as clean as any other multi-national conglomerate (which is to say: not very). They'll deal with anyone that can create a more robust bottom line on the ledger and then trample them afterwards with no regrets.
IGN: Compare the amount of cutscenes from the first game to this one. In terms of hours.
JT: If you put all our cutscenes in Saints Row 2 back to back, you'd have enough footage for a feature length film. With around 90 minutes of cool fistfights, standoffs, shootouts, battles between cars, executions, and more, there is a lot of story here for players to get wrapped up in. Our animators brought back motion-capture footage of each shoot along with all the data for the scenes, and the commitment and dedication of the motion-capture actors that we saw was incredible.
JT: I'm very excited about our voice actors in Saints Row 2. Daniel Dae Kim, Michael Rappaport, and Keith David are back as Johnny Gat, Troy, and Julius. And many members of the Saints and the rival gangs are also voiced by a wide range of well known Hollywood talent as well, breathing life into the new cast of characters. Fans like me who spent evenings slamming down White Castle sliders while watching vampire slayers or K****** warships will be pleased.
IGN: If you could compare the storyline of Saints Row 2 to a movie, what would it be?
JT: There's definitely a strong Tarantino vibe in Saints Row 2 – fans will see the influence of his filmmaking in the game. Stylistically, we drew a lot from Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill. There's this over-the-top, socially distorted lens through which we're telling these gang stories that gives us the opportunity and the means for some unique and quirky humor. But at the same time, we have some very dark elements in each mission arc that push the bounds of brutality, sadness, anger, and empathy.
IGN: There's sword fighting in the trailer. Does that mean that we'll be able to slice and dice fools with some bigger than a knife in Saints Row 2?
JT: Yeah, there's definitely some sharp steel being swung about in Saints Row 2. We've made some big improvements overall with our melee system, so we had to include fun weapons to go along with it. If the elegant arc of a samurai sword isn't your thing, the heavy-duty chainsaw is just a button push away. Of course you could always pick up a beer bottle or pool cue or twenty seven inch television and smash it over the head of your opponent too.
March 3, 2008 - It's not easy for a company to make an open-world game that stands totally separate form the titan that is Grand Theft Auto. THQ went the opposite direction of other companies and decided to make their first entry into the free-roaming gangster genre what was essentially a re-skinned GTA. Luckily for the publisher no one had seen GTA on next-gen systems so Saints Row was their only option for a high-def world of free-roaming destruction. Now it's the year 2008, gamers everywhere are gearing up for Grand Theft Auto IV and yet the people at THQ don't seem worried. In fact, they seem downright confident that Saints Row 2 will be able to woo gamers away from Rockstar's latest. Just last week we got a look at a very early build and while we weren't allowed to delve deep into what the city of Stillwater holds this time around, we can say that the building blocks are once again in place for a rousing open-world thugfest.
As those who played through the first Saints Row know by now, your nameless character was taken out at the end of the storyline thanks to a well-timed boat bomb (like a car bomb, but on a boat). Somehow your kingpin survived the explosion, but not without serious cosmetic damage. Thus the fact that you begin the new storyline by reshaping your character's physique at a doctor's office in the big house is a bit more fitting. You'll later find out that it was actually the higher ups of your own gang who set you up to buy the farm, now it's up to you to rebuild the gang, exact some sweet revenge, and rid Stillwater of the new competing gangs.
Gone are the days of Los Carnales, the Vice Kings, and the Westside Rollerz and they've been replaced by three entirely new gangs. They have new personalities, new lieutenants commanding the peons to and fro, and new Hollywood voice talent to bring it all to life. Not only that, but the city of Stillwater has gone through a sort of time warp and has experienced 25-30 years worth of structural and cosmetic changes in the short time since the first game so things should feel totally different from the first go-round. Not only that, the Ultor Corporation (mentioned lightly in Saints Row) has taken over the city in order to "fix its problems." You can bet that it'll factor into the storyline in one way or another, but THQ is mum for the moment. The single gang that we were shown during our demo was known as Sons of Samedi. We weren't given much background information beyond the mission objective which was to blow up a certain number of trailers that were being used to run drugs.
While the option of chucking explosives into the trailers and blowing them up the old fashioned way was certainly readily available, the developer from Volition who was manning the demo had other things in mind. Since cars can be used to kill enemies in the game, why not go a different route and give them the ability to be converted into makeshift bombs? Well, thanks to the new satchel charge weapon, you can. Simply hop out of your ride, set a charge (or five) on the hood, get it going in the proper direction, ditch the whip and watch it careen into the side of the trailer as you press the detonate button. Fireworks abound! The more traditional gunplay is handled with a Gears of War style over-the-shoulder camera angle (toggled by a click of the right stick) which should please the many who despised the aiming in the first Saints.
The rest of our time in the Sons of Samedi mission was spent perusing the surrounding environment. It was a desert setting that didn't exactly fit with the metropolitan motif of the first game. The Volition representative used a debug (only accessible in early versions) cheat to hop to the location without actually driving there, so we don't know where it is in relation to the rest of the city. Still, the land was populated with mobile homes, traffic routes that featured random events like car crashes and people yelling at one another, and some hilariously inappropriate dialogue from spectating pedestrians.
While the mission looked fun and had the potential for plenty of mayhem, the real star of our demo was the aforementioned customization options that begin Saints Row 2. Everyone expects to be able to change your face, the length of your brow and the contours of your character's mouth, but Volition is taking things a few steps further. Now you'll be able to change their taunt, compliment, walk and combat styles. Taunt options include things like The Dumper, Dog ****ing, Ride the Donkey, The ******, and Tea Bag. We'll let your imagination run wild at those possibilities. The different walks range from Pimp Walk to Crazy Walk which makes your character look like a meth head for lack of a better term. Compliments can be as simple as a salute or as complicated as a full-blown riverdance. Those, along with a combat style, come together to create the personality of your gangster which will apparently change the way that characters in the world react to your actions. Also, unlike in the first Saints, your character will actually have plenty of dialogue (there are over 60,000 lines of dialogue throughout Saints 2) to push the plot along. Hooray for no longer being a mute!
Not only can you change the outward appearance and demeanor of your crusading hoodlum but you can also change the aesthetics of your home base – known as a crib for those living the thug life. You can upgrade your pad with things like a stripper pole, nicer electronics, and other trinkets that will help to impress your low life friends.
Saints Row 2 is poised to be the quintessential sequel with bigger sights and sounds and more things to do with your time. The multiplayer, which includes a full fledged co-op mode, is said to be totally revamped from the first Saints but no details were given beyond that. With more Hollywood talent, new locations, a few returning characters, new vehicles and a revamped customization system that allows for some truly ridiculous persona options, it looks like Saints Row 2 will be one to watch for when it releases later this year. Whether that means that people will forget about GTA IV to travel to Stillwater, well, that's another matter entirely.
April 3, 2008 - When we were first greeted with Saints Row's three-dimensional open world where we could live the lives our evil halves salivated over, it was clear that the only aspect still missing, the one thing that could sweeten the deal that much more, was cooperative play. We all know how difficult it is to drive and shoot out the passenger's side window at the same time, and that's exactly what friends are for in Saints Row 2.
That, and so much more.
Saints Row 2 isn't built around its co-op mechanic in the way that Gears of War was, but luckily its free-roaming nature makes structuring your play around the actions of you and a friend extremely easy. You won't find multiple corridors that feel artificially crafted to simplify gameplay. Instead it's up to you to find ways to exploit the advantages of playing with another gangsta. Sometimes it's as easy as entering into a room full of enemies and laying the smack down with twice the number of guns, while occasionally having to plan a more strategic route with timed explosives and multiple points of attack (like having your buddy setup with a sniper rifle at a safe distance and pick people off from afar).
The level that we got to try out was the same that we saw during our first demo with Saints Row 2, only this time we got to lay waste to the drug labs ourselves. Just as before we were tasked with wandering around a trailer park -- of course it was filled with the type of degenerates you'd expect to find at a trailer park -- and destroying five drug labs being used by the Sons of Samedi. The developers, in anticipation of us journalists sucking at the game, equipped us with infinite ammunition and all weapons unlocked. That meant that the wonderful world of exploding satchel charges was instantly available which made it easy to attach five of these sticky bombs to the respective buildings and blow them up in order.
It was then time to try out one of the new activities in the game dubbed "Heli for Hire." The first level of the activity charged us with tracking a friendly car and providing them with cover from the enemy trucks and cars trying to take it out. Since we were in co-op mode one player was the pilot while the other operated the machine gun and the missile launcher. This obviously isn't the case in single-player when one player commands both, but with two players in one bird split responsibilities make sense.
The pre-alpha version carries the same draw-in issues from the original Saints Row.Our missile shots had no affect on the innocent traffic as they faded into view; only those cars with red markers over their hoods were damaged by our stray missiles.
That withstanding, the overall detail in the visuals has been stepped up a bit since the original Saints. Subtleties on the cars shine through a bit more and explosions feature nicer looking flames and less of a cartoon flair than they did previously. Everything in the environment still needed a healthy dose of anti-aliasing to smooth things out a bit, but there's plenty of time to add that in as development continues.
After our regular duties had been completed successfully it was time to venture out into the world of Stilwater and wreak some havoc. Apparently the final version of the game will feature plenty of friendly fire options so you and a friend can either render yourselves impervious to your buddy's shots or you can have them take off a smaller percentage of life or you can toggle an all-out deathmatch. While it was fun to demolish whatever form of transportation our cohort chose, the fact that it didn't do any damage in the Gamers' Day build was less than rewarding.
Instead I thought it best to turn our attention to the innocent pedestrians of Stilwater. My violent little friend and I hopped in a car that resembled the one seen in Dukes of Hazzard (called Hammer in Saints 2). I was behind the wheel and my buddy leaned out the window and fired off rocket launcher shots into the sea of oncoming traffic. Our alert level was limited to three stars and we had no trouble at all filling it up to the max, thus bringing the requisite onslaught of cops and SWAT team roadblocks.
One of my favorite moments from the co-op came as we were fleeing from a few trailing police cruisers. I whipped out my satchel charges and starting flinging them into the path of oncoming traffic. While the arc on the charges is a bit tough to deal with, when I was able to stick a charge to the front bumper of an oncoming sedan it was great fun to wait a second and a half and then detonate it into the police cars trailing behind me. The game dropped a few frames here and there when several explosions detonated at once, but it was likely more due to the early code than anything else.
After our evil little killing spree came to a vicious end with my character getting busted by a portly police officer it was time to test out a couple of the new vehicles in Saints Row 2. We had obviously been in the ****pit of a helicopter before in our co-op activity, but our demo afforded us one free copter ride as well, something that was accessible by activating an objective marker on our HUD (heads up display). The controls for the copter were easy enough with pitch and yaw being controlled by the left analog stick and rotation being governed by the shoulder buttons. Ascending and descending were mapped to the facebuttons. Thankfully the chopper wasn't as difficult to control as expected. Sure there were times when I literally found myself careening towards the ground while upside down, but for the most part it was easy to stay aloft.
Saints Row 2 is making steady progress towards delivering a memorable experience that expands on the previous game. It should be interesting to see what surprises THQ has in store for those hoping for a release that can take down the likes of GTA IV, and the developers at Volition certainly have enough time – with an August 26 release date – to throw every last thing (kitchen sink and all) into Saints Row 2. Judging from what we've seen from the competition, they had better. We'll have more news and impressions of Saints Row 2 in the coming months leading up to release.
April 16, 2008 - In the real world the suit makes the man. Well, in the world of Saints Row 2 things just aren't that easy. No, on the streets of Stilwater it takes a bit more to ensure you're left alone to go about your business. As with any open-world gangster game, maybe more so thanks to the over-the-top nature of SR2, weapons speak much louder than any Italian suit.
When we originally saw the game in action we were forced to sit and watch as cars and satchel charges were strapped together to form makeshift bombs. Next, we got to try it for ourselves. Now it's time to bring back the veil a bit further on the armaments of Saints Row 2 and give you a look at some never before seen death bringers. We've even pointed out a few creative uses for some of our favorites.
- Manually loaded projectile
- Fast reload response
- Effective and deadly at any range
What it is:
- A destructive technological marvel; courtesy of the minds of Ultor.
- A rocket propelled grenade launcher using laser guided rockets that can be targeted mid-flight.
- Hold up clothing stores with style.
- Fire rocket into the air then watch as your co-op ally desperately tries to evade the incoming projectile.
- Fully automatic shotgun with a high rate of fire.
Ideal times for use:
- Tactical room sweeps when user has no concern for civilian mortality.
- Strike negotiations with Ultor Employees.
- Light-weight melee weapon
- Effective at close range
What it is:
- A diamond tipped logging saw perfect for cutting through wood or bone.
- While messy, the chainsaw is the most effective close quarters weapon in Stilwater.
- Slide chainsaw through opponent at a jaunty angle.
- Ultor recommends washing clothes thoroughly after use on a living target.
- Flammable liquid distribution unit
- Effective at close range
What it is:
- A lightweight incendiary device capable of igniting multiple targets at once.
- Designed for Stilwater PD, Police Chief Troy Bradshaw has since banned use of flamethrowers by his officers.
- If used for lighting candles on a cake, make sure the birthday boy or girl is nowhere near the table.
- For civilian safety, please do not use on crowded sidewalks.
- Fully automatic with high rate of fire
- Effective and deadly at any range
What it is:
- Sacrificing accuracy for sheer fire power, this portable gatling gun is the cornerstone in Ultor's urban renewal plan.
- Invite 50 of your least favorite people to join you in a small room, then settle your differences.
- The mini gun is an ideal anti personnel, anti vehicle, and anti passive resistance weapon.
- Explosive sticky bomb with remote detonator.
- Simply apply the adhesive charge to any man, woman, or vehicle and watch as they helplessly try to dislodge it.
- In the fight against boredom, Ultor approves the use of multiple charges to juggle bodies.
- Fully automatic
- High rate of fire
- Single or dual-wielded
- While the SKR-9 Threat is an urban staple, holding two doubles your productivity.
- Best used in short bursts, the uzi is a drive by classic.
- High-voltage, low-current electroshock weapon
- When in an academic environment, non lethal countermeasures are essential to maintaining good PR.
- The stun gun is slow to fire, but watching your target writhe in pain is worth the wait.
April 25, 2008 - When Gary Busey starts telling you about a game, you listen. That's all there is to it. In the name of sanity, the team from Saints Row 2 provided a full set of descriptions to accompany Busey's rants, but we all know you'll just skip the text and go straight to the movies. And we won't blame you.
This is just the first set of videos starring big Busey, so check back in the coming weeks for more insanity.
Police Notoriety in Saints Row 2 has received a major overhaul. Police are realistic in their response to player, gang, and civilian criminal activity which is where the new non-lethal weapons come in. The Police must also respond to Stilwater's over-the-top criminals with new lethal weapons and methods of transportation: motorcycles, boats, wavecraft, and the all new attack helicopter.
The Police are always watching the streets. If a civilian witnesses a crime, he/she will call the Police bringing them to the scene. The Police will attempt to track down the criminal or if nothing seems to be amiss (such as a dozen dead bodies left in the middle of the street), they will simply write up a report. This will give criminals a little extra time to flee the scene and avoid a higher notoriety level.
Police response varies in different areas of Stilwater. If tracking a criminal indoors, the Police will switch to ATVs for better maneuvering. If the carnage spills into Ultor controlled areas of the city, the Police will fall back and allow the Ultor security force to take over the "investigation".
There are 5 levels of Police Notoriety:
* If the Police see the players, gangs, or civilians committing crimes they'll respond with non-lethal force. Those weapons include a night stick, pepper spray, a stun gun, or even their fists. Their main objective is to arrest the criminal, although accidents do occur.
* Even at this stage the cops can be dangerous since non-lethal weapons have a tendency to incapacitate perpetrators for short periods of time, providing an opportunity for law enforcement officers to dish out some extra damage.
* The Police are actively looking for the perpetrator, using the standard squad cars, new Police motorcycles, wavecraft, and helicopters (if the chase has lead to the sky).
* The Police will not hesitate to use night sticks and other non-lethal weapons but if the perpetrator escalates the situation, the cops will oblige, using their standard NR-4 side arm pistols and pump action shotguns to fight back.
* If the player takes a civilian human shield the cops will stop firing and attempt flanking maneuvers.
* The Police are actively creating roadblocks using riot vans manned by SWAT officers and their AR-50 assault rifles. Non-lethal means no longer exist, and arrest is not an option.
* The Police also deploy squad cars and speed boats, and SWAT helicopters will attempt to drop off SWAT officers at the scene to block off the area.
* In addition to setting up manned roadblocks with the 'Bear' APC and its 360 degree mounted machine gun, the Police now utilize extreme measures. With the arrival of the 'Tornado' attack helicopter with its laser guided rockets and massive rotary mini-gun the perpetrator had better seek cover or an RPG launcher.
* If the player grabs a human shield, even a police officer, it will have little effect. Human shields won't last long when they're soaking up a barrage of Police gunfire.
* The Police call in the FBI and their heavy-duty reinforced SUVs. FBI agents are extremely efficient, armed with either the AS-14 Hammer semi-automatic assault shotgun or the AR-50 assault rifle.
* The 'Tornado' attack helicopter will orbit above the battlefield while unleashing a fiery barrage of justice with its laser guided rockets.
* Level 5 Police Notoriety is the true test of one's skills, weapons and luck. Now would be the time to call in your co-op buddy for back-up.
Are the summer's high gas prices getting you down? Have you ever had a high speed chase end in your arrest by the police because you couldn't fit your SUV down a narrow alley for a getaway? Fear not, because in Saints Row 2 lawbreakers and adrenaline junkies alike can tear through the city of Stilwater with a two-wheeled fury that would make Ponch and Jon quiver in their over-polished boots. Why stick to boring streets when you can soar over stunt jumps or use that densely travelled sidewalk for a shortcut? Your paths are limited only by your imagination (and the occasional bout with gravity).
There are several types of bikes in Saints Row 2, giving everyone plenty of options for terrorizing the citizens of Stilwater:
If you want proven reliability without the frills and pretension demanded by "new age" bikers, you'll swear by this rock-solid baby. The impeccable balance of power, stability, and maneuverability delivers the perfect motorcycling experience to riders time and time again.
Aerodynamic, sleek, powerful, and color-coordinated are just a few of the compliments people will pay this lightning fast missile humming between your legs. Perfect for racing neon-lit streets slicked with fresh rain, the unparalleled speed and acceleration will make you the envy of loitering illegal street racers everywhere. Repetitive thumping electronic techno-music soundtrack CD optionally included.
Who needs shiny chrome tailpipes and squishy seats so deep your ass develops bedsores every time you take a ride? Splatter mud over the potbellied, hog-riding, leather-clad competition with 200cc's of engine power and all-terrain tires that offer surprising speed and agility in a compact package.
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