Great story in spite of a less than serious setting.
Heaps of customisation for you character and your things.
Multiplayer is a laugh and a half.
The Bad stuff
Some huge glitches which shouldn't have gotten past testing.
It's not Grand Theft Auto IV - which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Remember when Adam West played Batman and the whole thing was a silly, hilarious affair? And then remember earlier this year when parents were upset with The Dark Knight's M rating because the movie dealt with some heavy adult themes? That's how different Saints Row 2 is from GTA IV - they share a few basic elements but otherwise they couldn't be more different.
Iím not saying Saints Row 2 is camp either, by the way. Saints Row 2 still involves a very dark story with death, betrayal, corrupt officials and all around nasty people - it just doesn't take itself very seriously. You can't compare it to Grand Theft Auto IV because they're not actually similar games beyond sharing a genre - so we won't compare the two again.
Saints Row 2 kicks off with you creating your own character - you can be fat, skinny, female, a dude with breasts so large you need a bra, a mime - there's a massive amount of variation just here. I spent quite a bit of time creating a character which would suit my unique playing style, and wound up creating a guy who looked very similar to MrPregnant (search for it on YouTube, at the risk of your mental wellbeing). With that I was ready to begin my game.
The start sees you blast your way out of the world's least secure prison, and once you're out they just stop caring about you. It's like once you get off their island you're not any of their problem any more. Immediately I practiced executing everyone nearby - a quick combination of the Left Bumper Button and the Left Trigger sees you take a hostage and then blow their brains out. It's very graphic - so graphic I immediately wondered how this game made it past the Classification Board.
The reason this game came out with blood pools, executions, naked streaking (the only kind of streaking) and numerous other explicit and violent elements still eludes me - I asked our friendly neighbourhood THQ rep how the game got through uncut and he said because "it's so silly". As a concerned gamer, the fact that a game can simply be silly and automatically escape our Classification Board's notice worries me - as a gamer though I'm just happy we get this silly game in all its glory.
The game really relies on the side missions - for mission progression as well as for fun. The variety is amazing - there are a few too many racing missions, but beyond that there are some real gems - the hitman missions are done in a manner which really takes advantage of the game's features (you call people on your phone, lure people out into safety and blast them from a distance - heaps of stuff), the insurance fraud missions are still a lot of fun (The literal application of the taunt "Go play in traffic" applies) and the Septic Avenger missions are hilarious (drive a sewerage truck and spray poop everywhere. That's the mission). Not exactly high brow stuff, but it's fun, which is all that counts.
The story in the game is really cool beneath all the silliness - the Ultor Corporation (the same Ultor Corporation from Red Faction) took over your beloved Saints Row while you were in Prison and the Third Street Saints disbanded when three new gangs moved in. On getting out it's time to take back Stilwater and take out anyone in the way. It's very reminiscent of the first game - it's just that this time you're taking the streets back, not just taking them.
Here comes the BOOM!
The level of customisation in the game is amazing - apart from the progressive change to your hideout as you move through the story you can buy new clothes, tattoos and jewellery, pimp your ride (any car you jack or buy can be customised a huge amount) or even buy and do up houses in game. You can also purchase stores from neighbourhoods you control - earning you more money again.
The meta-game, story and sheer playability keep you coming back - and it's a good thing too. There are a few show-stopping (and game stopping) bugs in the game which would probably earn the game an instant binning if the game wasn't so much fun. I encountered a number of full on crashes - one lost me about 30 minutes of gameplay, others costing me mere minutes. At other times I've fallen through the world, gotten stuck in the road, and been killed by people stuck in objects.
So the game definitely lacks polish - but it's still bundles of fun. It also supports full coop throughout the entire story - you can play the whole game from start to finish with a friend if you want. Having a mate help you out is a definite bonus, but it's mostly just for fun - the game isn't grossly unbalanced by having someone help out. The other multiplayer modes are all fantastic as well - the deathmatch and team deathmatch modes are just genuinely fun, but the other mode takes elements from the game's side missions like insurance fraud and has you compete directly. It's definitely the kind of game you can get a few mates together to play for a good couple of hours.
At the end of the day, Saints Row 2 is a stellar game. It's held back by a few big glitches which shouldn't have made it to the final release, but the sheer fact that I was able to look past these and continue to have fun is a testament to the fun gameplay. There's enough to do in Saints Row 2 to justify its purchase - and downloadable content in the future will continue to provide even more justification. The only people I wouldn't recommend this game to are people who fly into a homicidal rage over video game glitches.
IMHO it is more entertaining than GTA4 - and I love that game.
The game doesn't take itself too seriously, but it's got a pretty slick storyline and the guys who made it have really done a good job at removing annoyances you still find in other games. For example, all cutscenes can be skipped and extra long missions are broken down into multiple parts so if you die 99% through a really long, really hard mission you don't have to start all over again.