Saturday, 1 November 2014

Saints Row 2 (PC)

Saints Row 2 logo
Surprise! Today I'm playing a second story-driven sandbox shooter starting with an 'S', and it's another one of those Saints Row games. But it's an earlier one without sci-fi jet fighters, spaceships or super powers. It's Volition's 2008 crime 'em up sequel Saints Row 2!

But is such a game even playable anymore to someone who has recently leapt between skyscrapers shooting fireballs out of their hands in Saints Row 4? If you're a PC owner, then the answer is likely to be... no. Well not without a bit of work anyway, as this got a famously terrible port that can run in fast forward if you're playing it on a Windows 7 machine with a CPU clock speed different to the Xbox 360's processor. Windows 8 users are apparently safe from this, in a rare case of a new operating system actually FIXING an old game. That is a pretty amazing bug all on its own, but the game apparently also has problems with prefetching memory that can cause frame rate issues even on powerful PCs. It definitely seems like either the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 version may be a better choice for this one, because damn.

Fortunately I've been assured that the fast forward issue is a fixable problem, thanks to IdolNinja's Saints Row 2 Powertools Mod, so I'm hopeful it'll hammer this into a more acceptable shape for me.

(Click the images to view them at twice the resolution.)

The game pretty much starts with the character generation screen for once, which is a bit of a surprise for me after the prologue levels in Saints Row: The Third and Saints Row IV. I'm also a little surprised at how powerful this character editor is, with some features that even the later games don't have. I mean it even has a Male-Female slider, which is amazing considering that the first game doesn't even let you play as a woman.

Right now my character is just waking up from a coma after being caught in a massive explosion at the end of Saints Row the First, so I figured they'd use the reconstructive surgery as an explanation to why I get to edit my face. But nope.

Huh, I can lock their face to have that expression during gameplay? Well there's a feature that'd appeal to Max Payne fans.

Along with my character's body I also get to tweak their mind, or at least their voice actor and walk cycle. There's three male and three female voices, and if this's anything like the other two games I've played, then each is going to have slightly different dialogue and a whole lot to say during the story, (which hasn't gotten any less impressive to me by the way).

Damn, I knew this game was a little darker than the later ones, but I wasn't expecting my first objective to be 'beat an innocent doctor to death with your bare hands'. I'm not exactly a puckish rogue this time around.

I don't know much about the plot of Saints Row 1, but it seems that I'd already risen to become leader of the Third Street Saints before getting blown up. Though during the years I've spent lying in prison in a coma the gang has fallen apart and I'm basically the last Saint left, aside from this Saint wannabe in the purple hat who wants to help me break out.

Man, these prison guards would have a way easier time keeping people confined if they'd try locking the doors once in a while. I'm basically running from room to room, killing everyone I meet with a couple of punches and a knee to the jaw, and taking all their guns. Well, more like walking to be honest, as this the stamina bar runs out so damn fast.

The game has a regenerating health bar as well, but it wouldn't call it a cover shooter, as I've got so much health that I can hang around right out in the open, taking the time to carefully line up my shots. To be fair though I chose to take the tutorial route when the option came up, so it's possible that I'm just fighting ultra-easy training enemies right now.


Shit, I'm out of the game for a few years and the whole city gets overrun by pimps.

This time I'm in the city of Stilwater, the same setting as the first game, but expanded and rebuilt by the Ultor corporation in the meantime (the evil company from Volition's Red Faction series, weirdly). The city is entirely new to me though so I have no idea where I am or what I'm doing right now. But if I know Saints Row, in a few seconds someone's going to tell me to go buy a gun or a change of clothes to show me how the shops work.

Ah, there we go, I've got a little dotted line on my mini-map pointing towards a clothes shop. First though I'll need to partake in a little grand theft auto, because there ain't no way I'm walking there.

Speaking of GTA, I realise that the Saints Row franchise in general is basically a spiritual successor (or total rip off) of the PlayStation 2 GTA games, but in this one I'm feeling it way more than in the others. SR3 and 4 go way over the top, but this seems fairly down to earth by comparison. Literally.

There's not a huge selection of outfits in here compared to the later Saints Row games, but there's more scope for customising those clothes. I get to pick logos, patterns, colours, whether my shirt's buttoned, whether it's tucked in etc. I can even layer different clothes on top of each other. In the later games the shirt and coat come together and the best you can do with them is choose their colours. Oh and I can still dress my dude up in women's clothes if I feel like it.

Alright then, my next objective is to go to strip club and get drunk. Seriously.


This town really has gone to crap, I can't even sit down and watch the news in a strip club without some asshole coming over and talking shit.

My character's not without a heart though, so he decided to teach the guy a valuable life lesson about hassling gang leaders that he'll remember every time he glances at his new eye-patch in the mirror.

Saints Row 2 breaking news Jane Valdaramma Johnny Gat's Last Appeal
Oh shit... the news already knows that I hit a dude with a bottle?

Also, oh shit... Johnny Gat's going to be executed for the crime of being a mass murdering psychopath? But he was awesome in Saints Row 3! I need to race to the courtroom and stop his... uh, appeal.

First though I just have to wrap this bar stool around a couple of heads. Everyone else grabbed one, I didn't want to feel left out.

It seems that the guy I bottled is part of a gang, and pissing him off has gotten his friends after me. I don't really feel like hanging around here too much longer though, as melee combat isn't really the game's strong point, so I'll wave this around for a bit then make a run for the car park. I'm suddenly starting to miss my Saints Row 4 super powers.

Aww crap, now I have a timer!

It's a shame all this rain isn't making the road any shinier, as the shimmering semi-reflective streets are part of the reason that the sequels look so great. It's funny because it never even rains in Saints Row IV; the only weather effect is a bit of fire coming down when you fight a warden.

This on the other hand has a full day/night cycle and some proper storms it seems. Not that it makes any difference to the car's handling; this thing is halfway to being a go-kart with how easy it is to drive.

The graphics generally aren't quite up to the standards of the later games (especially Gat's face, I don't know what went wrong there), but the voice acting is top quality. I'm not sure why I'm mentioning that about a high budget game made in 2008, but I am.

That's Daniel Dae Kim of Hawaii Five-0, Lost and Angel fame playing Gat by the way, and he's great in the role of a charming psychopath. He doesn't show up much in the other Saints Row games I've played for... reasons, but I'm hoping I'll get to see more of him this time around.

One difference between this and the later games, is that I automatically grab people to use as a human shield if I run into them. I'm not sure how annoying that's going to be later (there must be a reason they took it out), but right now I can see the positive side.

I decided to go with my Xbox 360 controller this time and even though I'm pretty rusty using the thing for third person shooting, I'm finding that isn't a problem. These enemies mostly just stand still and wait for me to slowly fine tune my crosshair until it's sitting right over their head, and their aim is so terrible I wouldn't feel overly threatened even without my friend here waiting to take a bullet for me.

You know, it says a lot about the game that I can't find a way to let my hostage go without killing him.

Saints Row 2 map phone screenshot
Alright I've broken Gat out and now I'm ready to get a gang together and start up a criminal empire, but the game isn't interested in letting me do that just yet. Nope, before I can take on a mission I have earn respect by completing side activities. I guess gangstas respect street racers more than a guy who can pull off two breakouts in one evening these days.


Well I've fucked this race up: no one respects a guy for coming second. I blame these arrows, always sending me off down the wrong roads because I misjudge just how far they want me to turn.

The later games have the decency to put up some proper racing game arrows to block off the wrong turns when I have a destination set on my map, whether I'm racing or not. In this though I have to keep one eye on the mini-map most of the time, and that's just a pain.


Alright, this activity is working out much better. Well, it is for me anyway, though I'm sure the poor sunbathers I'm spraying with shit aren't as happy with how their day's turning out. Still, it's even worse for the owner of that yacht; who would've thought that you could sink a boat with liquid waste? They should get the Mythbusters on that actually.

I'm doing this to lower the local property values by the way, so it all makes rational sense. Maybe one day I'll be able to drive people away with my reputation alone, but for now I've got to do it manually. Oh shit, I just realised that I'm on a beach! The later Saints Row games are entirely beachless, as far as I recall. There's no septic trucks either for that matter.

Three Septic Avenger activity levels in a row and I get an upgrade! Well a voucher for an upgrade at least. Now it's gotten me curious about what the fine print says.
"Offer valid while supplies last or until I say so. If you have have a problem oh well then tough shit! One coupon per customer, gangsta, thug or any other lowlife. Not valid with any other offer, combo, or discount. You should be lucky you got this!"
In the later games I was able to buy character upgrades like this with cash, but it seems this time I've got to earn them. Though annoyingly it doesn't tell me what rewards I'm going to get, so it's a mystery what I'll have to do to improve my stamina recharge or reduce damage etc. Personally I prefer the later system, where I can choose whatever upgrade I want, and do whatever I feel like to earn it.


Right, Gat and I have gotten ourselves a gang again! Getting the new hideout was easy enough, we just had to evict the previous tenants from their life, but I have no idea how Gat managed to convince so many people to put on a purple vest and come down here. None of these people save for Gat and I are from the original Saints, we've put this crew together from scratch in a day, but that doesn't seem to matter to anyone. We're the Saints and we deserve to own Stilwater, and that's just how it is.

Okay then, now we have a simple goal: we're going to take over the entire city and wipe out any rival gang in our way, one area at a time.

There's three other gangs running Stilwater right now, and each has their own territory and their own line of missions, which make up the storyline for the game from this point on. I can presumably play through one gang's story missions from from start to finish in a row, or alternate between the gangs to get a more natural rise to power. Uh, after doing the required number of activities first of course. The Leader of the Saints can't even tie his shoelaces in the morning without earning enough respect first.

Hang on, that glowing cylinder over on the left isn't a mission start point, it's a garage! Forget the missions, I'm going to pimp my ride.

Seems that unlike Saints Row 3 I have to take my cars to a mechanic to get them modded instead of just doing the work from inside my own garage. I forget how it even works in Saints Row IV, because who uses cars in that anyway?

This looks roughly as powerful as the car modding in the later games, although I can't gradually improve my car's engine torque and frame etc. In this it's either stock or improved and those are my only choices.

In fact, forget the cars! If this is a true Saints Row game I should be able to just go straight to the airport right now and take a helicopter.


I couldn't find a helicopter, but this private jet will do just fine I think. Actually it won't, because it's massively impractical and there's no way I can store it in my hangout, but I'ma gonna take it anyway with my simple three step plane hijacking technique:

Step 1: Park a car in its way so that it can't take off.

Step 2: ...

Okay what the fuck was that? You just couldn't wait to use the airstrip, so you figured you'd just fly right through me? But it's fine, it's fine, no damage done. I can kill the pilot, reverse his plane back out of my ass, then try this again.

Shit, I forgot to move my car out of the way.

Well fuck it, I'm going to try to take off anyway. Let's see how far I can fly this thing with only the one wing.

Well it immediately flipped over and exploded, so I think I'll pass on planes for now (mostly because I can't be bothered to drive all the way back down to the airport again). At least the hospital didn't take my guns away. But forget planes, check out my awesome crib! Well okay it's a tiny bit shit perhaps, but the price was right. There's other places I can buy around the city, but they're about $50,000 more than I can afford right now, and I need that money for pistol ammo and pimping cars anyway.

I can get a regular income coming in from the property I own and neighbourhoods I've taken over during missions, but unlike the other games I can't transfer the cash into my account remotely using my phone. I think it's awesome that the game's moved beyond the GTA3 games by letting me save anywhere I want instead of making me drive back to my house after every mission... but then it makes me drive back to collect my stash of cash instead! And I do need the money, because ammo is ridiculous expensive in this.

Alright what else is in here? I can change my clothes, pick my weapons, upgrade my crib and watch previous cutscenes on TV. Weirdly my character is wearing my current outfit in the cutscenes, so I can watch myself wake up from a coma in prison wearing a pimp hat.

There's also a console plugged in with this zombie survival shooter on it. Shoot the waves of zombies over and over and over again to win! Remember back when every single bloody game seemed to have zombies in it? Man, those were some crazy times.

Well I'm running low on respect so I've gotta go do some more activities to unlock new missions. It little bit of a pain in the ass, but honestly I prefer it to how Saints Row: The Third handles things, where it felt like half the time the story missions were just activities in disguise.

Also how can I hate activities where my objective is 'Stop the prostitute uprising... using a chainsaw for bonus points'?

Plus it's always funny when I'm filming a reality TV series disguised as a Stilwater cop, trying to make them look bad on camera, when a real cop comes over to help out and starts curb stomping suspects as well. One even climbed into my car with me to tag along as I set off to solve a domestic dispute with a flamethrower.


Alright, I don't know what happened here, but this is creeping me out now. The further I run, the more of them appear. Is it my hat? Do they think that I'm one of them?

I'll tell you one thing for sure: they were definitely paying attention more attention to me than to the oncoming traffic. Many pimps lost their lives this day.


Well I think I've got a good idea how this game's going to play out from now on. Like you'd expect from a GTA3 clone, every mission seems to involve either guns, or cars, or both. If I'm fortunate I won't have to do both at the same time, though shooting a rocket launcher out of the passenger seat like this isn't so bad.

Unlike GTA3 though, the good missions have plenty of checkpoints, so I don't have to drive back up to the mission start point and retry the whole thing from scratch whenever I fuck up, and I have fucked up a fair number of times. It's not a tough game (on medium difficulty), but it's more than capable of kicking my ass if I'm careless, especially as cars full of enemy goons tend to spawn in behind me.

Though to be honest I haven't used a single healing item all game (I don't even know the button for it), so that should tell you how often I get into real trouble.


One thing that the game has over its sequels, is Stilwater itself. Steelport is a good looking, well modelled city for sure, but all that's there is skyscrapers, suburbs, factories, casinos and an airport. Oh, plus there's a wrestling arena I guess.

In Stilwater there's there a beach, a university, a pirate galleon, (fake) Greek ruins, chinatown, a trailer park, plus all the factories and skyscrapers you could want! It feels like a bigger city with wider streets and I can already navigate my way around it just by being told which area to go to. In two games I still haven't learned my way around Steelport.

On the downside though, there's more variety of shops as well, meaning that it's difficult to get a good impression of what's actually for sale, and figuring out where I saw a certain piece of clothing is a real pain. Plus two of the more interesting clothes shops are hidden underground in a nightmarish shopping mall which takes forever to get around.


Alright, here's something that's really starting to piss me off. I figured I'd recruit three homies off the street to come with me on a covert op to raid a freighter, seeing as it never hurts to have a few more guns on my side in a fight. But the thing about freighters is that they may be pretty big, but they have very narrow walkways. So I keep running into my homies, which makes me automatically grab them and use them as a human shield. They're never all that interested in being my homie again after that, even if I somehow manage to let them go without executing them, so I have to restart the checkpoint or kill them in self defence.

I have had to restart this fucking level like a dozen times so far just because I kept accidentally grabbing them over and over again, until I decided that they would have to die. It's the only way. Thank fuck they changed the grab button to something else in the later games, because this really is ridiculous.


Sorry I don't think I'll be able to stop playing this, ever, so I'll just finish the screenshots here and write up some kind of conclusion.


Saints Row 2 really does feel to me like the missing link between something like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Saints Row: The Third: over the top but still connected to some exaggerated satirical version of reality. It's a little less refined than SR3 (and the PC port is pretty broken by comparison), but it makes up for that with the sheer amount of content and attention to detail it has. SR3 and SR4 have some incredible missions for sure, but I think this might be the more consistently enjoyable game because it doesn't shove activities in place of story missions or have tedious mech levels etc.

One of the first things that jumps to mind when I think of the Saints Row games is the characters, and this is the game that brings the main crew together. They're not quite the people I'm familiar with yet, but they still managed to make me smile on occasion. The Boss in particular is in full bastard mode this time, as much a villain as anyone else in the game; definitely not a puckish rogue. Coming from Saints Row IV it was definitely nice to see my guy actually lead the Saints, instead of basically being Kinzie's field operative, and what I was up in missions to generally felt more satisfying on a story level than hacking glowy things for an arbitrary amount of time because of 'just go with it'.

So to my surprise and my delight, I can now officially inform you that playing Saints Row IV first doesn't ruin Saints Row 2, and the game actually has plenty of reasons to recommend it, especially if you're in the mood to play as the villain.


That's what I think about Saints Row 2 anyway. You're welcome to leave your own opinion underneath though, or some feedback about my writing or the site. Endless commenting possibilities stretch before you, just waiting for you to grasp them.


  1. Maybe after all those GTA clones, you will be in mood for some old school FPS gaming, so I am here with fix. :D

    Now, after all your reviews of DooM, DooM II, Quake, Duke Nukem 3D, ...
    dont you think this blog is still missing one of the greatest milestones of FPS games? (HINT: You already played its spiritual "returning" sequel from 2001.) ;)

  2. Saying Saint Row is clone of GTA is like saying Quake is a clone of Doom (a trend on magazines I hated back then and I hate it now). But yeah, I never realized that good ol' Wolfie wasn't played yet.

    1. I know how you feel, it'd be a shame to dismiss the entire sandbox genre as being off-brand Grand Theft Auto wannabes, but on the other hand it's SAINTS ROW! No disrespect to the weird and inventive Saints Row franchise as a whole, but calling this one a clone of GTA is more like calling Heretic a clone of Doom, surely. Though I suppose it depends on how seriously you take the term.

      Also yeah, I noticed Wolfenstein 3D was missing too, though to be honest I'm not all that hyped to play it and even less so to pay money for it. I'll put it on my 'maybe' list maybe.

    2. No offence intended. I detest this way of branding genres too. Honestly? I think that was my disinterest from this sub-genre speaking from me... Sorry.

      I presume very antiquated control system of Wolf 3D is biggest off for you, hm? But maybe for this one classic you could make exception from your rules and play it in ECWolf source port? In visual and gameplay aspects it is 95% identical to vanilla, but it features *optional* modern control system with seperate keys for strafing left/right and option to disable mouse Y-axis for moving forward/backward. If you set screen resolution to 320x200, it will look indistiguishale from original. Yeah, I know it would be cheating from your rules, but if I recall correctly there already were few times in past when you bended them a bit. >:)

  3. Now that GTA V is on PC, is there a chance that we're gonna see it on this site? Another game that would be fun too see would be Bully. Not that you have to play them of course!

    1. I'd love to get GTA V on the site, the game looks amazing, but it's a little bit pricey right now. I think should start with the cheaper games like GTA 3 and work my way up to it. Slowly.

      Bully's also a good idea, I'll put that on the list too.


Semi-Random Game Box