The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Game Review: 2008 classic refused to play things safe


Juan Salinas II
campus editor

Refusing to be an escape from the harsh reality of the 2008 Great Recession, Rockstar Games focused on critiquing the American dream and the political climate at the time in the highly melodramatic “Grand Theft Auto IV.”

In contrast, Volition just wanted to throw sewage on nearby citizens in the silly but grounded “Saints Row 2.” It was released Oct. 14, 2008, for sixth-generation consoles, and a year later for PC.

The “Saints Row” series came during a time when every new open-world game was dismissed and called a cheap “‘Grand Theft Auto’ clone.” But, “Saints Row 2” does more than enough to discredit that stigma.

The version I’m playing is the PC port which is a buggy mess and only playable with a community mod called “Gentleman of the Row” made by Idolninja, — formerly known as Mike Watson. He was Volition’s senior community developer who was working on an official patch to fix the PC port. He was going to add missing downloadable content when he found the original source code for the game but sadly died in August. Still, even with this unoptimized port, there is a gem here.

Photo courtesy of Deep Silver
The player destroys a drug lab and shoots the rival gang’s, Sons of Samedi, helicopter as they attempt to escape. The game originally released on PS3, PC and Xbox 360.

“Saint Row 2” is set in Stilwater, and like the promotional material said, “It’s with one ‘L,’ b—-.” The fictional city is influenced by Detroit and has 22 districts — seven more than the original “Saints Row.” Each one has a different feel. One minute you could be passing a virtual joint around with college students at the university district, then the next riding four-wheelers with hillbillies at the trailer park district.

“Saints Row 2” starts where “Saints Row 1” left off. After waking up from coma, the player is tasked with breaking out of jail and retaking the streets of Stilwater from various gangs and Ultor, a corporation that started as a clothing brand in the first game but five years later, have Infiltrated every aspect of people’s lives. Think of Amazon for a real-life comparison.

Volition did an excellent job making Stilwater a believable, breathing world. You could see non-playable characters do various things. Handing out flyers, reading the newspaper, playing the guitar for spare change, college students running late for class. I can go on and on about how much detail went into the civilians of Stilwater.

The gameplay is your classic early open-world game. You’re let loose in a big sprawling city, left up to your own devices. But the twist I like is that the “Saints Row” series incorporates the side activities into the main story. To progress in the game, you must have enough “respect” to play the mission. The only way to gain respect is to do side activities.

The side activities are a blast to play. Of course, you expect basic activities from an open-world game like racing, turf wars or carjacking. But the unique ones steal the show. From running into on-coming traffic committing insurance fraud to driving around the city on fire with a flame-proof suit on trying to cause as much chaos as you can while going through all the checkpoints, these are really moments to remember.

The Saints, primary gang of the game, watches a news report on a casino heist they committed. The casino was owned by a rival gang called “The Ronin.”

What I like most about the “Saints Row” series is how customizable it is. It lets you design things like your character for your safe houses. The customization is so deep that you can even select how fat or muscular your character is.

“Saints Row 2” was the first open-world game to have the courage to go head-to-head with the juggernaut that was “Grand Theft Auto,” and makes a good case for itself. Its over-the-top and crude nature is why it’s so enjoyable. It chooses not to dwell on the socio-political themes of similar games, but that’s what sets it apart. You don’t need to be a sociology major to enjoy this one.

“Saints row 2” is available on PlayStation Now, Steam and The Xbox Store.

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