Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Saints Row 2

 Saint's Row 2 Review

Kid Safe: Very Low (0.5  / 10)                             Game Quality: High 7.5 / 10)

Genre: Open World Action/Adventure
-          This game takes place where choice is everything. Rather than providing a set story that a player has to follow, they are provided a world that they can explore and do as they wish with a focus similar to an action movie. Likewise, as players adventure through this title they will find alternate means of completing their tasks including battles, negotiation, and puzzle solving.

Internet Requirements: Moderate
-          Saint's Row 2 features a moderate amount of internet requirements in the form of an online-multiplayer function. While this game can generally be enjoyed without the need for internet usage, it can certainly add to the fun. Players are able to enter into contests of skill in areas such as racing or city-destruction against others or they can play cooperatively with each other through the game's massive city.

Story Summary: In Saint's Row 2, players will take control of the leader of a street-gang known as the
"3rd Street Saints". Picking up roughly 5 years after the first game, player's wake in the bed of a Prison hospital ward after having been put in a coma by a devastating explosion at the end of the original title. There, players meet Carlos Mendoza, a young man with connections to the 3rd Street Saints who, upon realizing who the main-character is, leads you in a daring escape from Prison. Once returned to the your home city of Stilwater, players will lead the revolution as they gather gang members to the Saints, take over the territory of surrounding, rival street-gangs, and generally just cause chaos and destruction in any way they see fit.

Kid Safe: Very Low (0.5 / 10)
-          Foul Language: Very High - Not Recommended for Children
o   Saint's Row 2 features an exceptionally high amount of foul language in the form of the following words: "d*mn", "s*it", "a*s", "a*shole", "f*ck", "motherf*cker", "c*nt", "d*ck", "c*ck", "p*ss", "p*ssy", "b*tch", "h*ll", and "n*gger". All of these words are used frequently in dialogue between characters and in regular gameplay. "F*ck" is by far one of the most popular words coming out of everyone's mouth. This foul language is heard from most every character, often with little to no provocation or heightened emotions.

-          Violence and Gore: Very High - Not Recommended for Children
o   Saint's Row 2 features an incredibly large amount of violence with a moderate amount of blood and gore. Interestingly enough, the violence in this title is so over-played that, the majority of the time, it's almost comically unrealistic. Starting off with the basics, players will be fighting and attempting to kill other human beings. The majority of enemies include rival street gangs and officers of the law who, sadly, are generally treated only as another "group" that the Saints need to fight off. However, players are also able to and occasionally encourage to attack and kill regular pedestrians and civilians that are simply going about their lives. Players are able to attack and kill anyone at their own discretion.

o   In combat, players will be using a wide variety of firearms and weaponry that include, but are not limited to, pistols, shotguns, rifles, assault rifles, machine guns, sub-machine guns, grenades, plastique explosives, brass knuckles, Samurai swords, machetes, nightsticks, baseball bats, rocket launchers, cars, boats, helicopters and much, much more. When shooting at enemies, there is generally little to no blood, showing only an occasional splash of blood, unless they happen to hit said enemy in the head, which results in a massive spray of red blood.  When an enemy is killed by firearms, they simply collapse as though they were a ragdoll. Players are rewarded points for how effectively they dispatch their enemies including extra "respect points" for scoring headshots or using up-close-and-personal attacks like "Slice And Dice", where an enemy is hacked up using a Samurai Sword. Players are also able to take "human shields" and hold people at gun-point in front of them.

o   Unlike kills that are made through the usage of weapons and firearms, when a player hits/kills an individual using a vehicle, especially a vehicle moving at high speed, what little sense of realistic violence is gone. In what I can only think to describe as "Life-Sized dolls half-filled with helium", enemies and people who are hit by vehicles will be sent flying with the dullest of thuds against your hood, sending them hurtling dozens of feet into the air as if they weight nothing.

o   Finally, there are number of overly violent cut-scenes and implications throughout the city that are not directly associated with combat. One example of this includes a moment where, as "payment" for the losses to his gang, an individual approaches another  of his gang members and, using a machete, slowly carves off the man's ear; this leaves little more than a bleeding and gaping ear-hole. Another example includes a part of the game where, in an attempt to find a new gang hide-out, players will not only kill all of the homeless living in the abandoned building, but use the homeless individuals as impromptu weapons to break down the shanty-town. Afterwards, news reports are circulating that apparently most all of the homeless people in Stilwater were apparently killed in this assault.
-          Sexually-Related Content: High
o   Saint's Row 2 features a high amount of sexually related content which takes place primarily in the form of sexual reference and implication, however it does not feature any explicit scenes of nudity or sexual conduct. Starting off, there is a pretty fair amount of partial nudity: this will occur either through provocative dress which will reveal an ample amount of both cleavage and buttocks or through "blurring". Blurring occurs when an individual is mostly or fully nude and genitalia would naturally be visible: the blurring serves to censor out any explicit visuals.

o   The game features a heavy amount of sexual implication without any explicit visuals. Examples include a "job" called "Escort" in which you are driving around a young woman who is presumably a prostitute and pick up a "John" along the way. From there, you must drive around for a certain amount of time while the "pleasure" meter continues to fill up while you attempt to avoid News vans that are following you. Another example includes an activity called "Ho-ing" in which players will go inside a building and will have to move the thumbsticks in a variety of way to perform different "moves" as the "pleasure" meter fills up. Lewd commentary and the sounds of women moaning can often be heard during both of these activities.

o   There are multiple locations of a sexual nature that you will visit throughout the game which include brothels and strip joints. Strip clubs will occasional feature women dancing erotically in lingerie. There are also a number of signs throughout the game world with sexual reference; some signs read "Peep Show" and "Tee and Aye".

-          Use of Drugs and Alcohol: Very High - Not Recommended for Children
o   Saint's Row 2 features a very high amount of both drug and alcohol usage. Starting off, there are a multitude of scenes where individuals can be seen smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, and using illicit materials. Quite a few missions are actually focused around the acquisition and manufacturing of illegal drugs for the purpose of distribution and profit on the streets. There are scenes in which main characters are consuming alcoholic beverages in excess via a "beer bong" as well as smoking Marijuana cigarettes.

o   Players are also able to find and purchase Marijuana cigarettes in certain parts of the game and use them. Usage thereof will cause the players to become "high" and therefore suffer from a blurred screen effect to denote the drug's usage. There is also a mission called "Bad Trip" in which the players are captured and forcibly drugged by a rival gang, causing him to have incoherence, slurred speech, and a blurred screen effect.

Game Quality: High (7.5 / 10)
-          Graphics / Visuals: Moderate
o   The graphics and visuals for Saint's Row 2 are a bit of a mixed bag. Also, before I really address this, remember to take my words with a grain of salt. As a slightly older title, the visuals might not "stand out" as many of the games today and therefore might be judged a little harsher than ought; however I have attempted to be as forthcoming as possible in this department.

o   Starting off with the good, I have to really sing the praises of the game's development team for their excellent work in the design of the city, Stilwater. This city is not only massive, but split up into a huge number of different districts and interesting locations that are available to explore. Starting off in the ghetto that is 3rd Street, I will admit that I was instantly concerned I would be working through a run-down, overcrowded, and overall dirty looking city for the rest of the game. Much to my enjoyment, I was hugely mistaken. As I played, I not only got to explore fishing wharfs, university campuses, business districts, trailer parks, casinos and more, a large number of these locations featured buildings that I could simply walk up and walk into; a rather uncommon element for open world games because of the difficulty in designing so many houses and buildings. On top of this, the game had some pretty decent high-resolution textures for its time; not to mention that it also has one of the most well-rounded character developer I have seen to date, thereby giving you the ability to make some pretty believable looking character models.

o   Nonetheless, the game features plenty of issues as well. Saint's Row 2 has a pretty intense problem with glitching. One example of this includes a moment where, when getting out of my vehicle, I apparently walked over an invisible spring-board or something because my character was suddenly, and without warning, launched into orbit and died as he came falling back to earth. Further investigation into this matter revealed that this has happened on multiple occasions to other players. Other examples include a situation where an individual will "slide" from their seat, quite literally hovering away from a bar or table and then suddenly walk away as though they had been standing. Still more are situations of characters that get stuck in walls or in furniture, their body half hanging out of the graphic for the wall while they are running as though they weren't half made-of-wood. Finally, even more examples include matters of "touching", where a player will perform an action (let's use CPR for this example) on another character and not quite "touch them". Despite that, visually, we can see where the character's chest is to touch it, the game says there their chest is higher, resulting in the player character performing CPR roughly an inch or two ABOVE the other character's chest.
-          Audio: High
o   The audio and musical quality in Saint's Row 2 is actually pretty high with only a couple of exceptions. Getting right into it, probably the most notable and impressive aspect of the audio in this game is the music. While there isn't really any natural "background" music while you are playing, every vehicle has a radio, you will occasional find radios scattered throughout the world, you can find music shops around the city, and you can even access the radios through the game menu. These radios and music shops all feature a pretty large assortment of genres that range from the expected Rap and Rock to things like Classical, Easy Listening, Reggae, and more. Likewise, the majority of the artists are well recognized musicians that you would find on a real radio station. Some of these artists include My Chemical Romance, Taking Back Sunday, Run-DMC, Mozart, A-Ha, DuranDuran, Avenged Sevenfold, and many more. Having real music that I know and love made this experience all the sweeter.

o   The voice acting, as far as it goes, is a kind of neither here nor there; generally depending more on the character. A number of characters have some pretty decent voice actors that know how to properly project their lines and emote their feelings, allowing the audience to appreciate and empathize with them. Likewise, other characters have the voice-acting capabilities of a gerbil. Luckily, the main majority of poor voice actors tend to be smaller pieces that fail to detract from the player's enjoyment of the game.

o   The sound effects throughout the game are generally the same where. There are a number of pieces that are not outstanding, but they are certainly done. The sounds for a number of different vehicles, crashes, etc. all fill this category. However, some stuff is just laughably silly. A good number of the firearms in this title sound like little more than pop-guns going off and don't really add any weight to the gun-play experience.

-          Gameplay / Playability: High
o   Now, on to everyone's very favorite category: gameplay and playability. Starting off, as always, with playability. Saint's Row 2 does a pretty decent job in trying to help players understand all of the finer details of its gameplay. Despite its slightly unconventional control scheme, Saint's Row takes all the steps to make sure players can use it. Starting with the basic movement and fighting mechanics, the game will progressively move away from simply telling players how to control their character and use missions to introduce different aspects of gameplay such as using different kinds of vehicles, weapons, and more. Whenever a new element of gameplay or game-mode is introduced, it is generally explained with a simple box telling you how to play and what buttons you need to push. Only occasionally did I run into an issue of not being sure how to handle a situation.

o   The gameplay is also one of the most varied to date. While players will obviously be able to follow the game's crime-focused story of hunting down and taking out rival gangs, there is so much more to it. Players, at any time, will be able to take part in any number of different activities that range to relatively simple stuff like racing or "chop shop, where they have to find and deliver certain vehicles, up to games like "Rampage", where they are granted unlimited ammunition and weapons and have to cause as much damage as they can. If they don't want to play in the real world, players can even go to their home and sit and play a game within a game in "Zombie Uprising", a zombie-title where players have to defeat wave after wave of the undead in progressively increased difficulty.

o   While the varied gameplay can be incredibly fun, there is one major issue: it is forced onto you. The game works off of a mechanic called the "Respect Meter". Every activity, job, diversion, and otherwise action that you do will progressively increase this "respect meter" based on how wild, crazy, or intimidating that action was. This could be all well and fine if said "respect meter" didn't have to be filled past a certain point to do the game's regular story missions. So, half the time you are trying to play through the game's story, you have to go out and do some other random activities just so you can get back to following the original missions. This is a more than frustrating mechanic that acts as a means of artificially increasing the game's play-time.
-          Dollar-Value: High
o   Overall, Saint's Row 2 actually has a pretty high dollar-value if you can get around the game's overly adult themes. Depending on the skill of your player and how quickly you can fill your "respect meter" and get back to doing the missions, the game can take a minimum of 20+ game hours. All in all, this is actually a pretty darn good value, especially since the game is already technically close to bargain-bin status due to its age. Plus, with the widely varied gameplay, there will always be something new and interesting for you to try out.

-          Sadly, there aren't really a large number of non-mature rated open world titles. The first recommendation that comes to mind would be the inFAMOUS franchise or Sly Cooper, which has certain similar elements. However, if you are alright with the mature rating, Grand Theft Auto will feature a similar, if slightly more serious, type of gameplay; Red Dead Redemption and Assassin's Creed would both be exceptional choices too.

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