Saturday, 18 July 2009

Saint's Row 2 Review

Carlos was the guy who got me out of jail. He knew me by reputation and I think he expected a black guy. Or at least an American. He certainly hadn't expected me to be 250 pounds, purple mohawk, clad in black and busting out Krunch FM in my newly acquired Vortex with the previous owner (or what's left of him) still spread across the bonnet, whilst i waved my Shotgun at the cops. And he almost certainly hadn't expected my not quite convincing cockney accent.

On paper Saint's Row 2 is a crap game.

It's GTA light. It doesn't have the same rich tapestry and history of Grand Theft Auto. Saint's Row doesn't even make any attempts to actually feel all that much different from it.

You steal cars, you shoot passersby, you build up wanted levels, you buy houses, you can store vehicles at said houses, you have a cell phone where you engage in inane conversations as you spin the camera around waiting for the main character to stop moving so slowly, you can do a variety of missions at once, some activated by acquiring a specific vehicle. All the same.

Even the interface is the same. The menus are the same. Hell, the minimap is the same, with missions appearing as circular icons that spin around it, and just like GTA 4 you can set a GPS route to your destination sparing you from that fun experience of driving into dead ends or rivers as you followed the arrow.

A lot of the stuff in SR2 that isn't blatantly plagarised from GTA 4 they took from other games in the series. There's the character customisation, gang recruiting and territory game of San Andreas and the store buying from Vice City.

I pulled up to the gun shop, pleased to find Carlos guarding my property. I whistled to him. and he piled into my car. I spun the car around and zoomed off waiting for a perfect target. I saw it. I leant out of the window and sprayed my mp5s at the crowd and Carlos followed suit.

To him, it was all a game.

But SR2 is a game.
And it's not afraid to admit it.

Unlike other open world titles that attempt a semblance of realism, there is no small arbitary limit on the amount of vehicles you can store in your garage. I have about 30 cars in my garage and I can just pick one of them up from and of my houses, regardless of how mangled I left it after my last joy ride.

Getting Wanted stars isn't a punishment for deciding to drive on the pavement, instead they're an excuse to engage in more combat, and maybe to nick one of the decent cop cars with the gun on top.

I originally dismissed SR2 (and poured scorn on my cousin for buying it) as a shallow rip off, one that actually seriously was about 'drugs and hos'. In fact I pretty much imagined it as an interactive version of Channel U.

And that's true to an extent. Superficially all the main characters do drugs, the single important female character is pretty slutty, and they take this gang war business pretty seriously. But that would be ignoring what makes this game so fun.

It's like Halo.

Bungie have said that Halo's about the 'thirty seconds of fun'. With Halo you really are just playing the same thirty seconds over and over. It may be on different maps and with different weapons, but to be honest, it's the same thirty seconds on a loop. But it's the most enjoyable thirty seconds.

SR2 is exactly the same. They managed through some sort of alchemical process distill whatever it was that made GTA fun, eliminating the bs and handing it to you for dinner.

It's not without it's flaws though. The GPS system gets lost and confused fairly often. More than once has it told me to go left, then after making the turn it tells me I should have gone right, then when i turn around it's going left again. On some missions, especially ones involving other helicoptors, you can get unfairly destroyed in a single hit requiring you to redo vast parts of the mission. In addition the checkpoint system in missions is horrendously inconsistent. Sometimes there'll be a checkpoint everytime you go up a flight of stairs in an enemy stronghold, and sometimes the mission will require you to do several vehicle changes (car drive to jet ski to boat) or fight several waves of enemies and not checkpoint it once.

The story itself is pretty mundane until the very last act featuring the Ultor Corporation where the plot begins to morph from petty gangland squabbles to focus on corporate greed and the machiavellian motivations of 'the good guys in power'.

I never got a chance to play the online co-op though which is a shame, I'd have loved to have been flying a helicoptor while a mate chainguns people, but whatever.

However SR2 is a fundementally entertaining game. I strongly recommend it to anyone who played through GTA 4 and wished they could at least change Nico's hair.

The Brotherhood picked up Carlos. They wanted to send me a message. I found him chained to the back of their truck.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Saint's Row 2

I've been playing Saint's Row 2 on and off recently. It's not the best example of it's genre, and not the greatest shooter or driving game, but there's something fun about it.

Being able to create my own character with his own personality and quirks helps to make it accessible. This is a drawing of my guy, and honestly, I can't even imagine it with any other character. Same as when I see people playing KoToR and they haven't picked the asian dude with the goatee.

Sunday, 12 July 2009