Saints Row 2 - 5 Years Later ReviewGuest_Jim_* - August 8, 2013
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Being an open-world action-adventure game, Saints Row 2 allows you to run around and do almost anything you want with the weapons and vehicles available to you. You can run down pedestrians with a sports car on the sidewalk, drive in the oncoming lane on the highway, shoot things, and eventually play the missions and activities where you actually have to do that stuff.
None of the missions seemed to take more than 15 minutes or so to complete, which is not too bad considering that means you only have to stop creating chaos in the open-world for that long. Often the missions start with a cut scene, explaining what you are doing and why, and sometimes the mission also ends with a cut scene. The transition from gameplay to cut scene can be abrupt, with the screen just going black and audio stopping while the cut scene loads.
Completing campaign missions and taking enemy strongholds results in you taking over part of the city. When you control part of the city, you collect money from it, and may be at risk of having your control challenged. Occasionally you will receive a phone call that an area is under attack, so you have to go there to kill the enemy lieutenants to defeat the attackers. You will want to do this, not just for the money, but also because you have to have every gang stronghold to unlock the final mission in that gang's campaign. After completing a campaign mission, you are able to replay it from your one of your hangouts using a newspaper feature, as your exploits are recorded in the local papers.
The activities are more random than the missions are, but many have cut scenes explaining them as well. You are not just spraying fecal matter on the city because you can; you are doing it to help someone out. Completing at least some activities unlocks rewards, such as increased accuracy and decreased bullet damage, which are handy. I have not completed all activities, because there are a lot and I am pressed for time, so I do not know if all activities are tied to rewards or not. The septic avenger, helicopter assault, and mayhem activities I have completed though.
If you are thinking you would enjoy playing some of these activities with names like 'septic avenger,' that is good, because you have to. There is a cost to initiating missions, one bar of respect, and you earn respect by completing activities. Collecting respect is not very difficult, especially as you level up your style, which grants percent bonus respect, and multi-level challenges can be strung together. When you complete one level of a multi-level activity, you have the option to continue to the next level or exiting the activity. Depending on the nature of the activity, you may be warped to where you need to be, or have to drive there yourself.
Having completed the campaigns, I have only encountered two balance issues. One is that you can be overwhelmed, and when you are, you are dead. Numerous things can happen to you, such as being hit by a car or trying to enter one that start an animation where you take damage during. One car strike can doom you from full health, as in the time it takes for you stand up the gun fire of your enemies has killed you. You can definitely expect to be hit by cars a lot as it almost appears the AI has been designed to be bad drivers.
The other balance issue that may not be one has to do with ammo. It can be very easy to run through your ammo very quickly. Walking over the weapons of dead enemies will give you some ammo, but it does not seem to be much, so eventually you will have to purchase some at a store. The prices, though, are quite high, at hundreds of dollars for a quarter of a magazine. Later in the game you can be collecting tens of thousands of dollars from what you own, so the prices are not that bad.
One other thing to note before moving on to the negatives is your garage. As you play you can collect vehicles in your garage, making them available to you at most of your hangouts and at some mechanics, if the vehicle you want is a car. During a mission though, you do not have access to the garage, so that tricked out car with a machine gun turret is unavailable to you. Unless you are a little clever that is. If you park the vehicle near the mission's starting point, but not too near, the vehicle will remain there, so just walk over, hop in, and get to blowing stuff up. For some missions, you really want to do that as the challenge involved is just much easier in an armored vehicle with an unlimited-ammo machine gun.
It took me roughly 16 hours to complete the campaign missions and some of the many activities for 60% completion. Completing the other activities and finding all of the collectibles, I would guess, will add on another five to ten hours. A fair amount of that time though will be spent driving to the different activities and repeating some, as you failed on your first attempts.
On to the negatives, which I believe all stem from the same thing; this game is a port. Just one look at the keyboard and mouse controls will reveal it is a port almost immediately, with curious mapping of some functions. Probably the most annoying of these, for me at least, is that toggling precise-aim is mapped to your 'V' key, and then zooming in and out are mapped to 'H' and 'N.' Really it is the toggling that annoys me the most, as being zoomed in for precision aiming makes it hard to see other enemies shooting at you.
Something you will not see in the controls is the mouse-smoothing, which is always on and frustrates many attempts to carefully aim your shot. Mouse acceleration is also on all the time, and actually changes depending on the context, but it never bothered me quite as much as the mouse-smoothing. Both of these settings make some sense when using a controller, but not a mouse.
The camera can also be annoying when driving, as it will lag behind your turns. This can make it harder to avoid turning into objects, and if you do hit them your car may be spun around. The camera, however, will not spin around in situations like this, so you either have to drive backwards or turn around manually.
Speaking of driving, the physics can be quite unrealistic. Sometimes objects, like lamp posts, will topple over as you run into them, and other times they will stop you immediately. It seems that this is tied to how fast you are going, but the different behaviors are just so distinct that it does not make sense. Also the physics between vehicles is just wonky at times. Large and heavy APCs will be knocked around by small sedans, and in some cases the sedans will even speed underneath you and pop you into the air. Considering you should have tonnage on these smaller vehicles, if one were to get underneath you, you should be crushing it instead of leaving the ground.
I am not sure what exactly was causing this, but at times the controls would stop responding correctly. This most often happened when I was driving and holding the accelerator down. Occasionally I would just stop accelerating, even though I was still pressing the key down. Releasing and re-pressing the key was all it took to start accelerating again, but why it stopped I do not know.
Take away the porting issues, and you have some rather fun gameplay with a decent design for encouraging exploration. Well, actually it requires exploration as you have to complete activities to advance the campaigns, but it still gets you outside.