Saints Row 2 - A Co-op Conversation
Australia, September 30, 2008
Cam: Full disclosure – I wasn't a huge fan of the original Saints Row. Granted, I didn't log more than a handful of hours with the game, but in that time I really didn't come across much that I found all that compelling… or that amusing. To me it felt like United Colors of Benetton gang banging – all the races of the world coming together to pretend to be black and shoot each other in the face. I know it was designed to be a madcapped, morally bankrupt sandbox, but it felt try-hard. Sure, it had better core mechanics and visuals than San Andreas, but so what? I just didn't think it was that much fun.
While Saints Row 2 is very much more of the same, the times they have a'changed. GTA IV's gameplay was pared right back, giving this style of game much more room to stand out, and crucially, online and LAN co-op play through the single player story has been introduced, which should definitely make the series' over the top antics that much more fun. Patch and I have just put that theory to the test; we've spent a bunch of hours playing the game in co-op, and this is definitely going to be the way to play it. Mr. Patch – your thoughts?
Patch: The original Saints Row had the benefit of being the first open world game to hit a next-gen platform, and it did so using a lot of conventions introduced in GTA: San Andreas, while adding seamless outdoor and indoor transitions and an admittedly better combat aiming system than Rockstar's spectacular effort. Post-GTA IV, open world action games really need a major point-of-difference to stand out. This time, as Cam rightly mentioned, it's co-operative play in the single-player storyline. We kicked things off by designing our thugs; I opted for a morbidly obese man with a gargantuan, conical forehead and protruding brow line, a shaggy mullet and mutton chops that would make Neil Young blush. A real looker. Capped off with an insane expression permanently slapped to his triple-chinned, hog-jowl face and an ass-slap taunt, I was ready to hit the streets. I'll let Cam explain his creation, though, before we delve into the crime.
Cam: Your character was the sort of guy who should be required – by law – to wear a mumu (or mu'umu'u to use its Hawaiian name – thanks Wikipedia)… as opposed to the mansiere that you had him in for much of our play session. *shudders* In fact, I'm not even sure how to describe him. Ugly? Pug-ugly? Fugly? Pug-fugly? Ugly-ugly?
Regardless, Saints 2's character creation system is quite ridiculous – there are just so many sliders to play with. Want to sculpt your character's inner thigh? You've got, like, ten different options to play with. I created a severely emaciated, badly aged black man with a head like E.T. and an old school crooner haircut/soul patch combo. Another stunning specimen of a man in other words. The icing on the cake, however, was being able to choose his default facial expression. Did I want him to be angry? Mellow? Slightly disenfranchised? There were plenty of options, and it wasn't until I'd chosen 'insane' and my character had one eye bugged out and a slack-jawed expression that he was complete. Mind you, giving him a female voice, an effeminate walk that kinda came off more like he's high as a kite, a taunt that saw him **** his leg like a dog and an emote where he did a little jig didn't hurt either. So yeah, thumbs up for character creation. Pity that both our characters weren't incorporated into the cutscenes – I definitely could have done with more original odd couple close-ups.
Patch: Yeah, there was a definite lack of two-player integration that we came across, outside of the cutscenes. Wandering into a convenience store to buy some blunts and 40s, only one player could access the menu system at a time. Frustratingly, when you're dressing your character, it can take a fair while to go through all the options and unfortunately your co-op buddy basically has to stand around and wait for his turn. If you want to be a ****, you can even punch your mate while they're getting changed, forcing the game to pull them out of the menu (and usually triggering an alarm in the store).
Like the original Saints Row, the game is all about completing missions dotted around Stilwater. Story missions require a certain amount of accrued street cred to activate, while activities can be done at any time. In co-op mode, either player can start a mission - you simply walk into the symbol and invite your buddy into the mission, or you can play on your own if you feel like being a Nigel No-Mates. As mentioned, having cred is integral to doing new story missions, and as we found, you can earn cred through some, erm, interesting mini-games.
And by 'interesting', I mean, 'deeply, profoundly disturbing'.
Right. So Cam and I accept an Escort mission. We're told to keep paparazzi away from a celebrity who we're taking for a joyride, while a second player keeps her 'entertained'. Here we are, picturing the two of us ridin' dirteh with our nines flashin' and a ho on the side as we protect some hot piece of booty from thugs who are out to get her. The reality was sickeningly different. The celebrity turns out to be a frail old woman with a cane and a limp who crawls into the back seat with my fat-ass redneck backwater hick of a character and then we're told to get it on. And I'm talking get it on. You need to find her pleasure spot with one control stick while pumping the other stick rhythmically until she's 'entertained'. Oh god.
[Edited by SuperSkyline89, 9/30/2008 8:07:35 AM]