Saint´s Row 2 Discussion
Dex is returning in Saints Row 2. Before the Yacht explosion that the protagonist and Alderman Hughes was in, Dex tried to stop it. He went in to the church that day and over herd Julius and Troys plan to kill you off. He ran outside and started calling fellow gang members, but no answer. He then took his car and drove to the yacht. Troy and Julius attempted to stop him by sending Saints after him. A roadblock of Saints stopped him, but he killed them all off. He got to the yacht, but before he could stop Julius and Troy the yacht had exploded. Dex was to late and he called Johny, now he had got an answer. He told Johny that the protagonist was dead, and that Julius and Troy betrayed them. So Dex and Johny met back up in the church and decided they could run the Saints on their own. Johny eventually got arrested and with out him Dex couldn’t lead the Saints. Dex went into hiding as the Saints were killed off. Dex’s brother is Carlos. Dex comes back to Stillwater with a new friend Nico Bellic. Will the Saints pimp had also joined Dex. Dex, Nico, and Will join up with the protagonist and the new Saints to help them out.
Will leaves Stillwater with Dex and they go to Liberty City. They return once they hear that the protagonist is still alive and is back leading the Saints.
[Edited by Dark Assassin X, 8/29/2008 10:52:28 PM]
September 10, 2008 - The game begins with your created character waking up after years in a coma. The options for your wannabe gangster are extensive to say the least. It would take pages to list out all of the combinations so I'll just say that there are three male and three female accents to strap onto your character. That means that every line of spoken dialogue -- and there are a lot -- had to be recorded six times. Also, if you throw one of the crazier costumes on your character (ninja gi anyone?) then that's exactly what you'll see in the cutscenes. No matter how dramatic. Lots of options, both serious and off the wall, allow you to have a slightly different experience throughout the game, as long as you take advantage of what's afforded.
One of the coolest parts of Saints Row 2, and this goes for most well done open world games, is the different ways the game can be played. I spoke with six or seven different press outlets once our day of playing was done. Some had focused on discovering the wider array of activities than what is available in the first Saints while others focused on one of the four initial gangs. Each of those gangs provides a nice, long story arc and they're all tied together by the overarching mega corporation known as Ultor.
I, being the story-driven bloke that I am, decided to put my blond-haired ****ney speaking gangster through as many story missions as possible. My target gang? The Ninja-influenced Japanese gang known as The Ronin.
Of course, before I could set out to wage war against The Ronin I had to reestablish The Saints as a legit gang. To do that, I needed to break Johnny Gat out of his trial where he was up for over 350 counts of first-degree murder -- a charge he wanted to dropped to 250 due to the statute of limitations. Gat and the judge argued, a discussion that featured plenty of f-bombs and good one-liners from Johnny and before I knew it I was ****ing my shotgun in the face of an elderly female judge before pulling the trigger.
Next, I had to reclaim the old Saints hideout and rally a trio of lieutenants to tend the sheep while my character dealt with his business. Running through these introductory missions felt more meaningful than the standard tutorial of, "go pick up my girlfriend and bring her here, then bring her dog back to her house."
The Ronin missions, as you'd expect, begin simply enough with me taking down minor crime syndicates attached to the gang. One mission in particular sticks out in my mind. "Bleeding Out" features one of the best cutscenes I've seen from the series and the death of one of the featured characters in the game. I won't spoil who, but it sends a shockwave through the gang and it's delivered in a highly stylized way.
While the production values of the cutscenes that drive the action forward aren't quite as high as they were in GTA4 I still found myself enthralled with what was going on. The characters deliver their lines believably and the writing is witty enough that I found myself laughing both at their dialogue and at the newspaper clippings that come after each successful mission. "Gat Found Guilty. Still Goes Free" comes to mind.
Much of this has to do with the voice acting talent that has been tapped to bring life to the characters. Keith David, Michael Rappaport and Daniel Dae Kim are back from the first game and are joined by the likes of Eliza Dushku and Neil Patrick Harris (NPH!) as a drug dealing disc jockey.
Much to my surprise I was able to work my way through the entire Ronin campaign during my play session. As in the first Saints Row, you are required to build respect in between missions by completing activities, but even still, the six hours of time was just enough to finish off the Japanese band of hooligans with the grand finale being the last of many rather disappointing katana battles.
If you do the math that equates to roughly 24 hours for the full campaign, but that's assuming that Ultor doesn't emerge as the hidden fifth gang that you'll need to take down at game's end (which I'm betting they do). Also keep in mind that I didn't engage in any extra diversions (if you steal a car with a passenger you can do a kidnapping diversion and cabs have taxi diversions, among other types) or activities other than what was needed to progress. All told I wouldn't be surprised if Saints Row 2 packs well over 30 hours of content.
There is some added incentive to completing the various activities in SR2. I got to try out new entries such as Fuzz, where my character had to dress as a cop and commit despicable acts while a news crew filmed it all, Heli Assault, where I had to guard drug runners from my lofty perch, and my personal favorite, Septic Avenger, which tasked my guy with flinging fecal matter on numerous pieces of property and characters. There was also another activity that had my character protecting a famous person from rabid fans. All that I played were pretty fun and I was thankfully able to steer clear of the more mundane activities like Escort (and yes, Insurance Fraud is back).
The incentives that I mentioned come in the form of bonuses that are handed out once you take down some of the later, more difficult levels of the activities. I got things like reduced bullet damage by 5%, reduced cost on certain items and the ability to hire bodyguards. Of course, you'll also get the requisite respect boost which then unlocks missions, but you'll be able to complete tasks like dressing in hot duds, making long powerslides in a car, completing head (and nut) shots on baddies, and stringing together kills on gang members and their vehicles.
Of course with all the new, cool stuff that you'll see in Saints Row 2, the pre-release version that I played still had many of the technical deficiencies (and a few new ones) that I saw from the first. Cars occasionally got stuck in other objects and sometimes environmental pieces would behave very strangely. There's still draw-in and pop-in when driving around the streets at a quick clip. The framerate gets bogged down the action gets really frenetic and screen tearing was evident during cutscenes. Speaking of cutscenes, the characters' hair had some real aliasing problems. Here's hoping that a couple of these issues can be ironed out before October 14.
After my six-hour run of destroying The Ronin (which earned me their fighting style and ninja costume) was done, it was time to take to the co-op gauntlet. Essentially co-op -- which is only available over Xbox Live or system link -- is exactly what you'd expect. You can play through the entire game with cutscenes where you'll see your own character and all. If you complete a late mission in co-op mode and haven't beaten it in your single-player game, you'll be asked if you want to play it again or skip it when you get to that point. Another cool feature is that AI scales to adapt to the fact that there are two players. That means more foes on-screen and different AI patterns. In other words, it's a little more fun and a little more frenetic.
There are also two modes within the co-op mode for you to enjoy. One, my favorite of the two, is called Cat and Mouse. One player is in an assault copter above the city while another is in a stylish sports car racing through the city, trying to hit check points and stay alive for as long as possible. A score counter keeps track of the action and things can get understandably heated during some of the Die Hard-esque chases. The other mode is a standard Deathmatch offering Death Tag. Kill the other dude or dudette before they kill you.
Saints Row 2 is fun. There's no denying that. Anyone who enjoyed Grand Theft Auto 4 should be able to find something to latch onto here. The production values and technical merit may not be up to the same level and the world may not have the same visual flair (though it tries) but from what I've seen of Saints Row 2's over-the top-gameplay, some are really going to dig this little degenerate when it release on October 14.
September 25, 2008 - As the open world action genre continues to push forward and expand on consoles, it's inevitable that multiplayer starts to play a larger role. There's no better example of this than Saints Row 2, a game where two players can join up and play cooperatively through the entire campaign (something we've talked about before) as well as engaging in more traditional competitive play.
Up until a few days ago, the details of the adversarial multiplayer had been shrouded in secrecy, but now that launch is only a few weeks away, THQ is ready to remove the curtain.
There are two main modes of play within Saints Row 2: Gangsta Brawl and Strong Arm. Gangsta Brawl is centered on the straight killing of the enemy (whether it be team-based or free-for-all), while Strong Arm is more about building up your wad of cash by completing different activities, all of which are pulled directly from the game's campaign.
It's also important to note a few of the style changes that the core gameplay has undergone in making the transition to the multiplayer arena. First, there's no longer an animation for getting into a car. Instead, your character just pops into the driver's seat. It eliminates the two or three seconds that it usually takes your hooligan to get into an automobile. It doesn't sound like a huge change, but it's actually a life saver if you're looking for a quick get away from oncoming traffic. And no, you can't magically teleport into a speeding, out of control vehicle like those white dudes from The Matrix.
The next change is known simply as "tags." Just like in the single-player game, there are walls throughout the environment -- which in multiplayer is a single neighborhood, not all of Stilwater -- that can be tagged. But rather than earning respect as you would in story mode, your team will get a strategic bonus (this applies to both Gangsta Brawl and Strong Arm). The most effective is easily Smoke Screen, which puts a haze over your opponent's screen that's similar to the effect of being on drugs in the campaign. Their character will also be enveloped in smoke for a set interval that repeats every so often, making aiming when stationary a real chore. Other power ups include nitrous for your team's cars, doubling the cash your team gets for each kill, sending the coppers after the opposition and many others that we'll save for you to discover.
Now the two respective core game modes: First, there's Strong Arm. Players jump in to a set number of rounds with a designated mix of the eight possible activities. You can choose a time limit, a score limit, weapon loadouts; pretty much everything you'd expect from this type of game. The activities that I got to try were Hitman, Destruction Derby, Insurance Fraud, Mayhem and Escort. They feel very similar to their campaign brethren, excluding Brawl and Theft which are unique, but the insanity has been ratcheted up considerably.
Insurance Fraud sees players from one team mauling their teammates, sending their bodies high into the air in an effort to get the most cash possible. Destruction Derby tasked my team with destroying the opposition's rides by any means necessary. Satchel charges, shotguns, careening golf carts; everything is fair game. There's also a giant monster truck that is driving around the environment with a truly massive life bar that teams can try and bring down for a huge cash reward. No one had the stones to try in my game. Hitman is a rotating VIP variant, while Escort tasks players to bring a set of three hoes to different clients across the city.
The one thing that Saints Row 2 has that all good open world titles have is options. Players can complete the different objectives in several different ways and the tags really do add a lot to the strategy of the game. Some players can branch out and concentrate on landing power ups while others do the objectives. And objectives can be completed in a number of ways. Capture the nitrous boost and take the speed route in Escort or you can take the Governator approach and blow everyone away before taking the bounty.
Because of the multiple approaches and different things to do within each activity, it's easy to feel like you're being productive in Strong Arm. So many things earn money towards your team's total that even the most selfish players can contribute to the good of many.
Gangsta Brawl is a bit more straightforward. Just kill as many people as possible and don't stop killing until the timer runs out. There are six different environments for Gangsta Brawl and seven for Strong Arm. Each neighborhood has a theme with different cars and bystanders. It's also interesting to note that Strong Arm is limited to eight players, while Gangsta Brawl is opened up a bit with twelve slots.
The killing in Saints Row 2's multiplayer isn't limited to the two core game modes, however. Instead, players can actually start the raucousness in the game's lobby. There are two arenas that act as a waiting area while the host decides on settings for the match. There's a basketball court and gym area and there's the main hall of the Saints' hideout from the campaign. Players can pickup weapons, engage in hand-to-hand battles or shoot hoops when in the gym. It's simply a distraction to be sure, but it's entertaining, nonetheless.
Last but not least, Saints Row 2 does come complete with a ranking system of sorts. They're called badges and they're divided into four categories. Some are as simple as completing objectives, while others are about killing. Some creatively require you playing the game on certain days of the year. There are twelve ranks for each badge, starting at Newjack and going up through King of Kingpins. I was told that it will take players six or seven games to progress from the first to second level with that time span growing considerably as you move along.
The rest of my time with the competitive multiplayer in Saints Row 2 was spent talking smack as my character was killed and maimed every which way from Sunday (I talk smack, rain or shine). It's certainly different than the multiplayer options that we've seen elsewhere, but there's plenty for players to toy with once they unwrap their copy. Most importantly, from what I played, it all seemed to be pretty damn fun, too.
Saints Row 2 has been a long time coming and on October 14 the world will say whether it has been worth the wait. Check back for our [IGN's] official review a few days prior to launch.
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]
What a game. I hate myself and want to die now.
Cam: C'mon Patch, you old prude. All the kids are having sex with grannies these days – haven't you seen the WWII Widows Gone Wild series of DVDs? What's that? Nah man, I haven't either… a 'friend' told me about them.
So yeah, as you've no doubt gathered, shock value is still very much the focus for Saints Row 2. How about that mission in the slums near the start of the game where you clear that warren of rooms for your hideout? You know the one. Shoot up the rival gang bangers. Destroy the homeless peoples' hovels by picking them up and throwing them into their own makeshift homes. Kill the homeless people. No, really: that's the mission objective.
Saints is a dead classy game, no doubt about it. Oh, and then there was the 'Cemetary Sex Cavern' that we discovered beneath the graveyard. Blow up sex dolls! Beneath a graveyard! Oh the hilarity!
To be fair, it is pretty funny knocking someone over with a blow up sex doll. But then, the same can be said for doing it with a cash register, a cinderblock, a bag of rubbish, or any of the objects available to interact with in the game world (provided you can of course – the code we played had a bad habit of telling you that you can pick something up but not actually letting you).
So it's deliberately tasteless, but is it any fun? Some of the time, absolutely. The Mayhem activity, for one, is a blast, charging you with racking up a certain amount of collateral damage within the time limit. You're given decent weapons with unlimited ammo, and there's a combo system for chaining together the destruction, so it's all about mowing down peds and cops, blowing up cars, and running over anything and everything as fast as you can.
Patch: It's guilty fun; it's not as thought-provoking or mature as GTA IV, but what it offers is a Michael Bay level of dedication to blowing things up and sending you flying. We pulled up our beat-up ride next to a gas station pump, opened fire and watched as we were sent hurtling across the suburb, a hundred feet in the air, spinning, rolling and tweaking, before landing upside down and bursting into flames. The game is thoughtful enough to track your stunt-stats at all times, which translates into street cred, so it's worth your time to cruise down the street on the wrong side and weave between traffic.
As for the Cemetery Sex Cavern, all I can say is I'm thankful we weren't sexually desecrating corpses under there in some sort of ill-conceived corpse-escort mission. I'll stick to the old ladies, thanks.
On the technical front, we played via system link, rather than over Xbox Live, and mostly it was a flawless experience. There were a handful of odd glitches, such as Cam's crack-addled character floating through the sky on my screen or getting stuck in the car door while sitting, but the game transitioned perfectly between one and two-player missions and between indoor and outdoor environments. The game isn't particularly pretty – it's a step up from the wax dolls and repeating textures of the original, but the city still lacks a certain organic finesse that other open-world games have since improved upon. The animations are however roundly excellent, so hats off to the team for that. The framerate was also a concern in this preview build, but we expect this to be tightened up in time for release.
Cam: Yeah, there are quite a few things that need to be tightened up in Saints Row 2 – it's pretty glitchy right now, and there's definitely a lack of polish to the game as a whole, from the AI to the mission design and so on. Still, for the most part it was big, dumb, explosive fun, and while there were plenty of moments where we were either shaking our heads at something in frustration or reeling from yet another lowest-common-denominator moment, there were just as many where we were hooting with laughter or screaming at each other across the office after something cool happened. One thing is definitely certain – if you're going to play through this game, you've got to do it in co-op.
Saint's Row releases in 13 days.
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