Saints Row 2

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Saints Row 2
Saints Row 2 Game Cover.jpg
Developer(s) Volition, Inc.
CD Projekt (Windows)
Publisher(s) THQ
Designer(s) Scott Philips
James Tsai[1]
Series Saints Row
Engine Havok,[2] custom engine[3]
Platform(s) PlayStation 3[4]
Xbox 360
Windows[5]
Release date(s) PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360[6][7][8]
NA 20081014October 14, 2008

AU 20081016October 16, 2008
EU 20081017October 17, 2008
JP 20081204December 4, 2008
Microsoft Windows[8][9][10]
NA 20090105January 5, 2009
EU 20090130January 30, 2009
JP 20090130January 30, 2009
AU 20090203February 3, 2009

Genre(s) Action-adventure
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer
Distribution Optical disc, download

Saints Row 2 is an action-adventure video game set in an open world environment. It is developed by Volition, Inc. and published by THQ for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows. It is the second title in the Saints Row series, after the release of Saints Row in 2006. It is succeeded by Saints Row: The Third, released November 2011 and Saints Row IV, released August 2013. It was released in North America, Australia and Europe in October 2008 for video game consoles and ported to Windows in January 2009. Before the game's original release, it was ported by G5 Entertainment to mobile phones.[11]

Set in the fictional city of Stilwater, players control the same nameless protagonist, who has survived the yacht explosion from the first game, and leads the Third Street Saints gang. Assisted by the gang, the protagonist seeks to eliminate three rival gangs who have formed during the five-year period between Saints Row and Saints Row 2. The game is presented as an action-adventure in an open world with driving sequences, featuring online co-operative play and competitive multiplayer in addition to the single player campaign.

The initial release versions of Saints Row 2 were met with general approval. The Windows port was met with more mixed reviews. Praise was directed at the game's fast-paced action sequences and nonlinear gameplay; criticisms were directed at technical issues. In its first month of release, the game sold an estimated 400,000 units. It has sold in excess of 3.4 million units as of September 2010.

Gameplay[edit]

Saints Row 2 is an action-adventure video game set in an open world environment, offering the player a large open environment in which to move around. The player's character is capable of maneuvering through the environment, utilizing weaponry and engaging in melee combat warfare.[6][12] After successfully completing the first game mission, the player is able to explore the environment and choose how they wish to play the game. Missions are unlocked by earning 'respect' points from minigames and side-missions[13] and although completing missions is necessary for game progression, players can complete them at their own leisure. The player is granted the option of instantly retrying the missions should they fail an attempt. Numerous checkpoints save progress in each mission, and missions can be replayed from locations within the environment. Aside from attempting missions, the player can explore the environment, purchase items at shops and participate in the aforementioned mini-games and side-missions.[14] The player can also wreak havoc upon the environment which can provoke potentially fatal attention from authoritative forces.[15] The player can recruit members from a friendly gang and use a mobile phone to contact friends and/or businesses, as well as to input cheat codes.[16] Entering cheats will disable Xbox 360 achievements.

The player can drive a variety of vehicles which can be stolen, bought or unlocked. Aside from automobiles, the game contains boats and water craft,[17] helicopters,[18] fixed-wing aircraft,[19] motorcycles,[15] and other vehicle types.[20] The player can activate a cruise control system on land and sea-based vehicles, which may aid in chases and drive-bys.[21] Waypoints can be placed on the pause-screen map, leaving a GPS route between the player character's location and the set destination. Instead of having to manually drive, the player can hail a taxicab from cab services and pay a fee to travel to destinations on the map.

The player is granted the ability to alter the player character's appearance; modifying the gender, ethnicity, fitness, voice, facial structure and hair of the player character is allowed.[22][23][24] The player may also modify the player character's interactions in the game, i.e. the player's movement, fighting style and personality traits.[16][20][24] Clothes, tattoos and piercings can be purchased for the player character, and the colour or style of individual items can be modified.[18][25] Set outfits can be bought or created and saved for later use. The game allows the player to modify land-based vehicles, after being taken to a chop shop. The player can equip performance modifiers like hydraulics and nitrous oxide, apply body mods and apply paint schemes to the vehicle. In-game safe houses, known as 'cribs', can be purchased by the player. At a crib the player can withdraw from the player character's earnings, alter the player character's outfit, replay missions/cutscenes and save game progress.[22] The player may also alter the interior of cribs by applying themes and purchasing items like television sets and pool tables.[20] Boats and fixed-wing aircraft can be stored at docks and hangars, respectively. The player can select from preset clothing fashions, vehicles, 'signs' and 'tags' for recruits of the player character's street gang.[26]

The combat systems from Saints Row have been updated but many of the basics remain unchanged.[12] While engaging in melee-based combat, the player character will perform combos and charge up attacks,[25] and can execute a finishing move if three consecutive hits are dealt.[16] With a gun equipped, the player can perform a groin attack, and can zoom in for a finer aim reticle.[24] The player can also employ the use of human shields,[16] and can use makeshift weapons pulled from the environment e.g. fire hydrants, cement blocks.[22] Should the player either commit illegal activities or incite rival gang members, they will provoke potentially fatal attention from authoritative figures or rival gangs. The notoriety bar is a visual representation of the proactivity of the opposing figures' response and continual inciting of these groups will bring about a more powerful response, such as SWAT teams from the police. The player will continue to be chased by these groups until captured or killed and must reduce the notoriety bar by either hiding from the police or gang and wait for it to "cool off", or by seeking out a drive-through confessional which will clear the notoriety bar for a small fee.[15] Should the player character be apprehended or killed, a small percentage of the player's earnings will be removed and the player will respawn at law or healthcare institutions. The game contains over forty different weapons, many of which have been recycled from Saints Row. The game allows the player to utilise new weapon types, examples of which include satchel charges, laser-guided rocket launchers, chainsaws and more.[27][28] The player has the ability to dual wield handguns and submachine guns. Weaponry can be purchased by the player from specific stores or unlocked throughout in-game progress.[19]

Respect system[edit]

The Respect system is a scoring system where the player earns Respect points to unlock missions and progress through the storyline. The player can partake in storyline and stronghold missions only after filling up at least one bar of Respect, and Respect points are removed when the player starts a mission. The 'style rank' is a modifier of how much Respect the player can earn; this is increased by purchasing items for the player character. Respect points can be earned in two ways; by progressing through side-missions called Activities and by completing mini-games and stunts called Diversions.[13]

There are a broad range of Activities and Diversions available for the player to progress through. Many of the game's Activities made appearance in Saints Row and a variety of new Activities have also been introduced in the game.[14] Examples include an underground fight club, a parody of the Cops television show known as FUZZ and numerous others.[25][29] Each Activity can be initiated from various locations and plays out over six levels of increasing difficulty. The Activities have been designed to suit solo and co-operative play.[30] Most Diversions do not have specific start points. There are numerous Diversions playable in the game, such as acts of indecent exposure, combat and driving stunts, car surfing and a survival horror minigame called Zombie Uprising.[6][29][31][32]

Multiplayer[edit]

Saints Row 2 has various multiplayer components implemented throughout the game. Through an online network or through System Linking, the player can progress through the game with a cooperative partner.[33][34] While in co-op mode, both players can explore the city and progress through the game's storyline missions and minigames.[34][35][36] Both players are rewarded and credited for completion of such activities,[34][37] and the players can furthermore play against each other in competitive metagames.[38][39][40] The co-op mode is "drop-in/drop-out" and there is no limit as to how far the players can be away from each other.[17][34][41]

The game contains competitive multiplayer modes, supporting between four and twelve players in a match.[42][43] There are two standard deathmatch modes; the free-for-all "Gangsta Brawl" mode and its team-based variant, "Team Gangsta Brawl".[44] Another mode, known as "Strong Arm", puts two teams against each other fighting for control over the neighborhood.[35][45] In "Strong Arm", the first team to earn $100,000 dollars wins and money is earned by competing head-to-head in activities, controlling "tag spots" which serve as bonus modifiers or by eliminating members of the opposing team.[46][47] While in a party, players are free to roam around a lobby.[44][48] The player can rank up in multiplayer and displays this by earning various "badges" which are displayed next to the player's name.[48][49] By ranking up, the player can unlock more expensive clothing for their multiplayer character.

Setting[edit]

Saints Row 2 is set in the fictional city of Stilwater. The city consists of forty-five neighborhoods divided into twenty districts. The city is roughly 145% larger than it was in the original Saints Row. The new Stilwater includes a much larger airport, a prison island, a nuclear power plant island and a few more mild extensions.[24] Game developers stated that the city has very much been redeveloped and each individual neighborhood has been touched up in one way or another.[50] According to the storyline, the in-game corporation Ultor spent more than three-hundred million dollars redeveloping the city,[24] funding the police force and, as it states, turning the "once crime-ridden third-tier city" into an "urban utopia". The Saints Row district is a more notable change within the city, having been completely redesigned and serving as the location of Ultor's headquarters; a towering skyscraper referred to as the Phillips Building.[51] Many old districts from the earlier revision of Stilwater have also seen changes. Examples include the expansion taken place on the Suburbs district, which is double the size of its depiction in Saints Row and the Museum district, which features the Eramenos Ancient Greek museum exhibit, complete with models of the Acropolis of Athens and Theatre of Dionysus.[52] There are also several completely new districts, such as the Marina and the University.[50]

From the beginning of the game, the map of Stilwater is fully visible. However, shops and activities will simply be displayed as a question mark until the player discovers them. By completing missions and wiping out enemy strongholds the player gains control of the various neighborhoods the city is split into. There are over 130 interiors within the city, and hidden events can be triggered by some,[17] including over ninety shops which can be purchased when the player controls each shops' associated territory.[26] The player gets a 10% discount at owned stores and buying an entire chain of departments will mean that the protagonist's face appears on in-game billboard advertisements.[26] The game shares technology with that of Red Faction: Guerrilla, another Volition-developed game and so certain elements of the environment are fully destructible.[16] A number of Easter eggs are placed within the sandbox, including the pop-out Easter Bunny which won "Top Easter Egg of 2008".[53]

Synopsis[edit]

Plot[edit]

5 years after the explosion of Hughes' yacht, the player wakes up from a coma in a hospital ward of Stilwater Penitentiary, having received extensive plastic surgery. The player meets inmate Carlos Mendoza, who has had himself stabbed in order to meet the former. Carlos reveals that his brother was in the Saints, and the pair escape the island together. Upon returning to the Stilwater mainland, the player discovers that the Saints' old neighbourhood has been completely rebuilt by the Ultor Corporation, the clothing company, which, explained by Carlos, has grown into a powerful corporation while the player was in a coma. After that, and with the emergence of three new gangs who wanted control of the city, the Saints had disbanded.

The player arrives at a local bar, discovering that Johnny Gat is on trial, and that he is likely to be placed on death row, and that Troy Bradshaw, Julius' enforcer, was an undercover cop and is now chief of the Stilwater P.D. The player rescues Gat from the courthouse, and Gat explains that Julius has gone missing since the yacht exploded, and that Dex dropped his flags and began working for Ultor. The player drops Johnny off home, where he also meets with Aisha, Johnny's girlfriend, who has faked her own death to avoid police attention and they are living off Aisha's pay from the huge salary of her albums. With Gat's help, the player enlists three new lieutenants: Carlos, Shaundi and Pierce.[19] The player, now referred to as the Boss, leads the Saints in retaking city with Gat as second-in-command.[52]

Although the symbol and the gang color are still the same, the crew has changed. The player is now the leader of the Saints, Johnny Gat is the second-in-command, and Carlos Mendoza, Shaundi, and Pierce Washington are the new lieutenants. Since the church has been remodeled, the Saints meet up in the old 1940s hotel below the mission house, which was dropped below sea level years ago by an earthquake, and built over.[54] Eventually, they rebuild the hotel in their private bordello and lounge, which serves as a primary base for the Saints and also The Boss's own personal home.

The Boss and Carlos meet with Maero, leader of the Brotherhood of Stilwater, in the Underground Caverns. Maero wishes for the Saints to work with the Brotherhood to avoid unnecessary bloodshed, but before things can be discussed, police discover the meeting and the three are forced to shoot their way to safety. Despite working together against the police, the Boss becomes enraged at Maero's offer of a 20/80 split of profits between the Saints and the Brotherhood, resulting in the two gangs going to war.

The Boss shakes down Brotherhood mechanic Donnie, a former Westside Rollerz member who use to have a crush on Lin, finding him on the spot where Lin died, forcing him to rig several of the gang's trucks with explosives, and also burns Maero's face by poisoning his tattoo ink with radioactive waste. The Brotherhood retaliate by kidnapping and brutally torturing Carlos by dragging him behind a truck, forcing the Boss to euthanize him out of mercy. The Boss exacts revenge by kidnapping Maero's girlfriend Jessica Parish, and arranges for her to be inadvertently killed by Maero in a monster truck rally competition at the local arena. After interrogating and crippling Maero's tattoo artist Matt, leader of the local band called The Feed Dogs at a concert, the Boss begins to uncover information about the large weapons shipment.

In retaliation, Maero angrily confronts Dane Vogel, the current CEO of the Ultor Corporation, demanding the release of arrested Brotherhood members, threatening to kill him unless he agrees to. Soon after, Vogel blackmails Troy to let them go. Although freed, the prisoners' buses are intercepted and destroyed by the Saints and Vogel dissolves further ties with the Brotherhood, taking over Maero's shipment as compensation for releasing the incarcerated. The Boss intercepts the shipment and launches an attack on the crippled Brotherhood's hideout. The assault is successful and the Boss kills Matt with a brick, but Maero is saved by his surviving gang members. Maero flees to the Ultor Stadium in a last-ditch attempt to ambush the Saints leader. The Boss survives the ambush and kills the injured Maero with a shot to the head, ending the Brotherhood of Stilwater.[52]

Shaundi begins to gather information on the Haitian Sons of Samedi gang, and learns of their illegal drug trade. The Saints then target various assets in the production of the 'Loa Dust' drug, with the help of Shaundi's old protege and cellmate Laura. The leaders of the Samedi, known as the General and Mr. Sunshine, order their lieutenant, a popular DJ named Veteran Child, to kill his former girlfriend Shaundi, who had passed the information to the Boss. Veteran Child abducts her and takes her away in front of the Boss, later directing the latter to an ambush club. The Boss survives and threatens Veteran Child over the phone, then arrives at his underground club and saves Shaundi, killing him.

In retaliation, The General then kidnaps and drugs the Boss and orders an attack on the Saints, but the Boss escapes and the Saints are able to hold off the attack. Through tips from an homeless addict who was paid by Mr. Sunshine, the Boss uncovers Mr. Sunshine's hiding place, a meat-packing plant, and the Boss shoots him in the chest. Sunshine survives and Boss shoots him several times. When Sunshine reveals to be still alive, Boss uses the entire pistol magazine on him, and then cuts off his head. The Saints then co-ordinate an attack on the General's armed convoy, using the police camera system to track his limousine, and kill him in the mall as he flees.[52]

Johnny and Pierce assist the Boss in taking down the Japanese Ronin gang, currently led by Shogo Akuji and his second-in-command Jyunichi. They successfully rob a Ronin-owned casino, prompting Kazuo Akuji, Shogo's father and leader of the worldwide operations of the Ronin, to come to America and handle the situation, also promoting Jyunichi to his personal second-in-command and demoting Shogo to a lieutenant.

Shamed by his father, Shogo orders an attack on Johnny. Several Ronin gang members are sent to his house while he is gone, where they tie Aisha to a chair and wait for Johnny to come home. When the Boss and Johnny arrive at the house, they are ignorant of the awaiting ambush until Johnny notices that the door is open. Aisha yells to him to notify him of the presence of Ronin, and as a result, her throat is cut open, and Jyunichi stabs Gat with a katana during the resulting shootout, hospitalizing him. In retaliation, Pierce and the Boss head to the Stillwater Airport to assassinate Kazuo, but Jyunichi spotted the Boss at the terminal and personally drove him from the airport before the shootout started, later accusing Shogo of leaving his father to die.

In retaliation, Shogo makes an anonymous call to the Boss and reveals Jynuchi's location, leading the Boss to kill Jyunichi and several Ronin in a sword fight. Shogo vows to his father to avenge Jyunichi's death by taking out Johnny Gat. The Boss arrives at the hospital to check Johnny out, but is attacked by the Ronin. The Boss escapes with Johnny, and the Ronin cut off their deal with Ultor in the aftermath. In retaliation, Dane Vogel gives the Saints Kazuo and Shogo's hideout. The Saints attack and destroy the hotel, but the Akujis were not there at the time. Examining the wreckage, Kazuo once again tells Shogo that he is a disappointment.

In a last ditch effort, Shogo leads an attack on Johnny at Aisha's funeral for humiliating his family once again, where Johnny and the Boss defeat him and bury him alive in the cemetery. Afterwards, the Boss is reintroduced to Mr Wong, an old friend and hated enemy to Kazuo Akuji. At the same time, Kazuo leads an attack on the Saint's hideout, attempting to collapse the sunken hotel. The attack is repelled but Kazuo barely escapes in the aftermath. Later, the Ronin make one last attack on Mr. Wong during the Chinese Heritage Festival, and the Boss fights through the remaining Ronin and across the burning junks in the harbor. The Boss and Kazuo have a sword fight, but as Kazuo gets the upper hand, the Boss draws a gun and shoots him. After torturing him for Mr. Wong to hear over the phone, the boss jumps off the ship, leaving Kazuo to burn to death.

Wiretap conversations in the Stillwater police station reveal that former Saints' leader Julius Little planted the bomb on the yacht, hoping to kill the Boss and let the Saints dissolve in peace after receiving threats of life-sentencing from Troy. The Boss also finds Dex's phone number and contacts him. Dex asks the Boss to meet him at the old Saints Row church to find out where Julius is located. Upon arrival, the Boss finds Julius, who was also told by Dex to meet there. The two are ambushed by the Ultor Masako Team and are forced to flee. Julius and the Boss drive around the city while being chased by Masako APCs, until they crash in the Amphitheater. After fending off the Masako, the Boss shoots Julius in the chest. Shocked, Julius explains that the Saints never solved a thing, having become the same as the gangs they had been fighting, and that his actions against the Boss were justified as he wouldn't have stepped down if asked to. The Boss, unmoved by Julius' words, takes revenge by shooting him in the head.[52]

After the Brotherhood, Sons of Samedi, and the Ronin are defeated, Dane Vogel uses the Saints' overthrow of the other gangs to stage a coup d'état within Ultor, tricking the Boss into killing the rest of the board of directors after they had threatened to fire him. However, when Vogel attempts to take control of Ultor, the Saints stage an assassination attempt at a press conference. After fleeing to safety in the Philips Building, Vogel is met face-to-face by the Boss. After pleading with the Boss to let him live, the Boss shoots Vogel in the mouth, sending him flying through the top floor window of the building and down to the ground below. Vogel's death cripples the Ultor Corporation and ensures the Saints' control of the city.

Voice cast[edit]

The following actors appear in Saints Row 2:

Development[edit]

Work began on Saints Row 2 in 2005, about a year before Saints Row was released.[50][51] Unlike Saints Row, the game is not an Xbox 360-exclusive title; the game was developed for the PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Windows systems.[4][5] Saints Row did have a PlayStation 3 port of the game in development alongside Saints Row 2,[55] but it was later cancelled.[56] Despite having a general idea of the technological capabilities of the PlayStation 3, developers still found this development process a challenge.[57] The game was first announced by THQ's CEO Brian Farrell in late February 2007 in a conference call, alongside the announcement of six other THQ-owned franchise continuations for the 2008 fiscal year.[58] In early May 2007, THQ's executive vice president of worldwide publishing said that "The original Saints Row gained critical acclaim [...] The game's worldwide success shows the growing fanaticism for open-world gaming and our talented team at Volition is now using their proprietary technology to revolutionise the genre yet again".[4] On May 14, 2007, THQ's CFO Edward K. Zinser confirmed this at a conference call.[4] A PlayStation 3 port of the original was scrapped to focus resources on Saints Row 2.[59] First details of the game began to surface in May 2008 after the launch of the first teaser trailer, with game aggregators like IGN and GameSpot getting a first look at an early build of the game. The official website launched in late May 2008 and a short teaser for the game was unveiled.[60]

On April 3, 2008, THQ set the release date for August 28, 2008 and the game was then made available to pre-order from various retailers; in addition, the website underwent an overhaul.[61] On May 28, THQ announced that Saints Row 2's release would be pushed back by about two months, from August 28 to October 14, 2008 in the U.S.[7][62] Senior vice president of marketing Bob Aniello told Reuters that "product quality is a huge driver of a game's success and this move allows us to polish the game. [...] There is a bigger trend within the industry to build big marketing events within a bigger time window. This allows us to lead up to the holiday timeframe".[63] To coincide with the heavy promotion and sponsorship of the game, the official website and community page were launched on July 15, 2008.[64] This was the third website redesign since it was first announced and the old forums site (developer.saintsrow.com) was redirected and renamed "The Row Community". On July 23, 2008, it was revealed that the game had passed the OFLC classification body without having to be edited and was given an MA15+ rating with a release date set for October 16.[6]

Game engine[edit]

Saints Row 2 was developed and published by Volition, Inc. and THQ, with additional development from Mass Media, Inc.[8] Additional graphics were provided by Paprikaas Interactive and Shanghai Art-Coding Software, cutscene animations were directed by Technicolor Interactive Services, and sound and voice recording were provided by Dane tracks and VoiceWorks Productions, Inc. respectively.[8] The game utilizes the Havok physics engine, which allows interaction between objects or other characters in real-time and by giving objects physics-based qualities in three dimensions.[65] The game also uses a custom physics engine which was originally utilized by Saints Row, but was rebooted during Saints Row 2's development phase.[3] Because of this, as lead producer Greg Donovan states, the developers were "able to push the technology a lot more" and did not have "any of the issues that were experienced towards the end of development on Saints Row.[66]

As Donovan states, a fundamental goal for the game's development team was to create a game that would "further distinguish Saints Row from other non-linear games, and carve out a distinct identity in the genre".[67] He said that the game needed to broaden the competitive window by reiterating gameplay from Saints Row, while adding new features and mechanics.[67] He admitted that the game wouldn't be bug-free, stating that "[Saints Row 2] won't be bug free. I don't think any game is. But part of what we did was to start development early on. Our development schedule is all about getting the gameplay in and even though this [version of the game shown to press] is pre-alpha, we're all about iterating the gameplay now"[68] while later reassuring that "95% of gamers aren't even going to come across them."[13] He commented on the game's instability and challenges during its development phase, stating that "Build stability was a real problem. It wasn’t until late in the development cycle that anyone could play the game for more than a couple of hours without crashing".[67] He said that "Top-level, our instability was caused by failing to take systems and features to completion [...] Programmers rushed to fix bugs that came late in development, and design and art expectedly fell behind on polish and iteration. Therefore, Q/A wasn’t able to progress through test plans efficiently, and we couldn’t conduct extended playtests until late in development".[67]

Design and graphics[edit]

Being a direct sequel, Saints Row 2 has many similarities with Saints Row. Developers on the game worked alongside some core members from the Saints Row development team, meaning that they were able to "learn from the mistakes" in Saints Row and talk to its development team about what should be looked out for.[66] The game has noticeable improvements[according to whom?] in comparison with the original Saints Row.[69] Lead producer Greg Donovan stated that "Macro scale [improvements] would be technological; we've given the engine a complete overhaul, so we're able to push the technology a lot more. We're not having any of the issues that were experienced towards the end of development on Saints Row [...] I think the visual quality is layers above that on Saints Row, and I think much of that comes from the fact that we were able to work closely with the team behind Saints Row.[69] Lead designer Scott Phillips commented that "There isn't anything that we didn't touch, rethink, polish and improve from Saints Row".[70] Textures and dynamics have been reworked so the city looks more realistically detailed and colourful.[26] A greater level of detail in the game results in people, cars and explosions being given enhanced aesthetics; lighting and shadows have been improved as well as additional sky and weather effects can be seen.[26][69] The game is considered "over-the-top", meaning it consists of deliberately unrealistic gameplay.[71] Lead designer James Tsai commented that "[Saints Row 2] is something gamers can count on to satisfy their wild and outrageous side".[71] He went on to say that "In the early stages of development we had some really crass stuff in the game [...] There was a lot of stuff we had in that didn't register very high on the human decency scale, so we dialed some things back".[71] Donovan also commented that "[Saints Row 2 is] all about over-the-top memorable moments [and] hyper-realism".[12]

An improvement in Saints Row 2 is the game's AI.[72] Non-player characters (NPCs) undertake more realistic actions and respond to the player's actions in the world.[72] Tsai commented that "from the start of development, it was a goal to create a world that exists independent of the player - a very lifelike place where the citizens have a purpose and behave in believable fashion in addition to reacting to all the things the player does."[73] Non-playable characters perform realistic actions such as smoking, talking on cellphones, drinking coffee, opening umbrellas at the chance of rain and sitting on benches and cuddling, which would not have been possible in Saints Row because the systems could not support two people interacting that closely.[72] There are over 20,000 hand-placed nodes all over the city.[72] According to developers, placing these took a long time and it only happened very late in the game's development, once most of the action node types worked and the city art was more finalized.[72]

The game became subject to comparison with sandbox-style action game Grand Theft Auto IV, which has notable similarities with Saints Row 2.[74][75] The close proximity of its release date to GTA IV's was thrown into question but in an interview, lead producer Greg Donovan said, "We wouldn't be releasing this year if we didn't think we could be competitive. The only thing I know about GTA is what I've read. [...] It seems like [Rockstar Games are] going in a more realistic direction".[76] He later commented on Saints Row 2's release date, "I think having some separation between us and competitive product is good. We've got to remember that open-world is a genre and so there's room for more than just one game in that genre. [We think] Saints Row 2 is offering a much different experience than the competition. [...] It's a very different experience than what some other games are looking to do."[12]

Writing and casting[edit]

The story of Saints Row 2 was put together by three of Volition's script writers.[72] The final script had roughly 80,000 lines of dialogue, which was twice the amount of dialogue used in Saints Row.[72] The story has a strong cultural and cinematic influence; developers have stated that the game's story was influenced by Quentin Tarantino's critically acclaimed 1994 film, Pulp Fiction.[69] Tsai commented that "There's definitely a strong Tarantino vibe in Saints Row 2. [...] Stylistically, we drew a lot from Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill."[77] The story blends black comedy and gritty realism to illustrate the vibrant narrative.[77] Lead producer Greg Donovan commented that "Saints Row 2 has a much darker and more sinister story that leads your character down a path of betrayal, revenge and redemption against the city that has left him for dead, although we've blended that with the same light-hearted humor from the original".[77] Tsai also commented that "There's this over-the-top, socially distorted lens through which we're telling these gang stories. [...] But at the same time, we have some very dark elements in each mission arc that push the bounds of brutality, sadness, anger and empathy".[77] Tsai said that "from a storytelling standpoint, it's been very liberating. [...] The attitude of the main character is very empowering this time around.[77] The story was written in three parts, Saints Row 2 being the second of these three.[78] Tsai said of the story, "Saints Row 2 will definitely have its share of surprising moments in the story, but I don't want to say whether we're going to do anything that would be a cliffhanger of the scale that you saw at the end of Saints Row, at the risk of doing a spoiler [...] We needed to make a very compelling story but one that is still accessible to people who haven't played the first, so we have to bridge that gap between people who did play the first, those who didn't play the first, and create a good entry point".[50]

The characters in Saints Row 2 are highly stylized and have different personality traits and identities.[50][70] In an interview, Tsai said that "In Saints Row 2, we definitely had the general ideas for the characters down first because we had our story that we wanted to tell, and we knew that certain characters are needed to service these roles in the story. As far as the personality quirks and the way the characters are expressed in cut scenes, a lot of that does come back to the voice acting, how do they say things, what are their mannerisms, you try to anticipate what they're going to do. You also have some leeway when you're doing the lip synch in the cut scenes, so definitely, it's kind of a two-way street. You have the base role for the characters, and the actors were great about reading who the characters were and coming in prepared for the roles and understanding what we wanted to do with them, but also letting them infuse some of their own personality into it and put their own spin on the characters as well."[50] He also stated that "All of the actors took hold of their roles and brought them a real sense of weight and personality that they didn't have previously. It's a pretty amazing process to build a character from scratch, design their look, create them, put them in game, and then when voice is finally recorded to see that character become a real person in the world."[70] An array of popular film and television stars voice characters within the game, such as Neil Patrick Harris, Michael Dorn, Jay Mohr, Keith David and Eliza Dushku.[79]

Soundtrack and audio[edit]

The soundtrack of Saints Row 2 is a diverse selection of music, featuring roughly 170 tracks played through the in-game radio system.[80][81] There are twelve radio stations the player can listen to whilst in a vehicle or at an in-game crib.[80][81] Stations will play different genres of music, such as alternative rock, hip-hop, heavy metal and 1980's pop.[80][81] A particular radio station, My Radio 85.5, allows the player to create a custom soundtrack from the music featured in the game.[81] Musical artists such as Opeth, Duran Duran, Lamb of God, The Used, My Chemical Romance, Avenged Sevenfold, Paramore, Panic! at the Disco and Run-D.M.C. have some of their works featured in the game.[80][81] Lead audio designer Frank Petreikis stated that "We've doubled our budget for more current and big-name talent for the programmable radio stations plugged into the gameplay. We have a dozen in-game stations with a broader variety of music genres and twelve or thirteen tracks per station for 150-plus songs, compared to 140 in [Saints Row]".[82]

An objective for developers was to try and depict the Ultor Corporation as a large presence within the media of the game.[83] As such, many of the in-game radio advertisements promote Ultor-branded products; demonstrating how Ultor maintains control over the city.[83] Game developers hired a new radio commercials producer, Erik Hastings, because of their requirement to "find a contractor that was much more open to collaboration and revision", writer Steve Jaros stated.[83] Voice actors for radio commercials were recorded in the same room, instead of individually, so that they "could work off each other and in general get a stronger performance", stated Jaros.[83] Many of the in-game commercials went through several drafts and developers found this writing process to be a challenge.[83] The in-game radio was used as a way to effectively tie-in the over-the-top atmosphere of the game with the radio advertisements.[66] Lead designer James Tsai stated that "As far as the commercials go, you'll definitely find that humour in Saints Row 2. We're making a concerted effort to tie it to the game world, and what happens in the world".[66]

Marketing and release[edit]

Prior to its release, Saints Row 2 was marketed and promoted heavily through the use of numerous Internet and TV trailers. In addition, contests and competitions were enterable by fans with various paraphernalia, including special editions of the game itself, available as prizes. For marketing considerations, the original release date of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 ports of the game were pushed back.[63]

A trailer was released in March 2008, formatted as a tourist insight from the Ultor Corporation into the city and how Ultor had helped to rebuild the city.[84] In early April 2008, American film actor Gary Busey became part of the marketing campaign for the game.[85][86] Three Street Lessons with Uncle Gary clips were released on April 4, 2008, demonstrating the use of satchel charges, taunting and throwing people in gameplay.[87][88][89] Two additional Busey clips were released at the end of April 2008, demonstrating heavy weapons[90] and police response[91] in gameplay. A second trailer was released in early June 2008, comparing Saints Row 2 to similar game Grand Theft Auto IV, poking fun at it for its lack of replay value.[92] A third trailer was released in late June 2008, giving an insight into the storyline of the game and introducing the new gangs that would feature in it.[93][94] A fourth trailer was released in mid-July 2008, showing some of the customization options available in the game.[95][96] Two Busey clips were also released in mid-July, demonstrating groin attacks[97] and improvised weaponry[98] in gameplay. In late July 2008, American pornographic actor Tera Patrick became part of the marketing campaign for the game.[26][99] A "Developer Diary" video was released featuring Patrick presenting the game.[100][101] Over a three-week period in August 2008, three trailers were released a week apart from each other, giving an in-depth preview of each of the three main story arcs revolving around the three gangs.[102][103][104][105][106][107] Two Busey clips were released at the end of August 2008, demonstrating customization[108] and flying[109] in gameplay, and the improvised weaponry clip was re-released alongside them.[110][111] An additional Busey clip was released in early September 2008, demonstrating motorcycles in gameplay.[112] An eighth trailer was released in early September 2008 previewing the co-operative gameplay, featuring in-game recreations of American presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain, the former of which won the presidential election.[113][114][115] The official launch trailer was released in early October 2008, a week before the game's release, taking another look at the storyline.[116][117]

The "Pimp Your Crib" contest launched on July 17, 2008 for residents in the United States, offering prizes such as a 46" Samsung HDTV and a Logitech cordless precision controller.[118] The "Summer of Bling" contest launched on August 21, 2008 for residents in the United Kingdom and Germany; first week prizes included a game-themed hip flask and bottle of tequila.[119] The second week of the competition offered a radio-controlled helicopter.[120] THQ and WorthPlaying launched a competition offering the winners a chance to attend the Saints Row 2 Multiplayer Event in San Francisco, USA and have their thoughts published in an article.[121][122] A T-shirt design competition launched on September 19, 2008 hosted by British fashion label Joystick Junkies which tasked the competitor to design a themed T-shirt; the winning entry was featured in the downloadable content pack Ultor Exposed.[123][124] The third run of the "Summer of Bling" contest launched on September 19, 2008 offering the Joystick Junkies-themed shirts as prizes.[125][126] The "Trick Your Pack" tool launched on September 23, allowing the player to create their own box art for the game.[127][128] The fourth run of the "Summer of Bling" launched on October 4, 2008 offering an Ultor-themed Flak jacket.[129] Another contest launched on October 10, 2008 offering a gold-plated Xbox 360 Elite console with the "Gun Pack" collector's edition of the game.[130] On November 6, 2008 a competition launched in Australia offering an airbrushed 60GB PlayStation 3 system.[131]

Saints Row 2 has received heavy funding and sponsorship and has appeared at game conventions with its own booth. Saints Row 2 has appeared at E3, THQ Gamer's Day, Comic Con,[132] PAX '08, GameStop Expo '08[133] and Leipzig Games Convention. In addition, Saints Row 2 provided funding and marketed itself with the Myspace Music Tour.[134] Saints Row 2 also supported Movember 2008, an Australian fundraiser for men's health.[135] In November 2008, THQ signed a deal with Massive Incorporated to include in-game advertisements on their Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 products.[136] Saints Row 2 was the first game to follow through and players connected to Xbox Live or PSN will be able to find movie posters throughout the city promoting upcoming releases.[137]

Retail versions[edit]

There are three separate "Collectors Editions" available. All contain a copy of the game, along with several extras. The Saints Row 2 "Initiation Pack" is exclusive to Australia and New Zealand packaged in Freckle Bitch's pizza box and includes a poster, limited edition art book, metal money clip, 1GB gold bullet USB memory stick with buddy icons and wallpapers and content including a basketball singlet, videos, a Saints ID card and a "Saints Rule" book.[138] The "Gun Pack" unveiled in late August and contains a copy of the game, a poster, an art book and a USB stick with wallpapers and icons, packaged in a gun-mould case.[139][140] The Saints Row 2 "Gift - Buka Edition" is exclusive pack for Russia and CIS packaged in standard DVD-box and includes a limited edition art book, two posters and 1GB gold bullet USB memory stick with buddy icons and wallpapers.[141]

Whilst the Xbox 360 version of the game contains the usual Achievements, the PlayStation 3 version of the game doesn't contain Trophies, meaning that cheats can be put into the game onto the PlayStation 3 version of the game, without the risk of Trophies being blocked.[142]

THQ confirmed to Big Download that a Microsoft Windows port of the game was in development on June 2, 2008.[5][143] No official release date was given out and the port was not released with the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions, delayed to January 5, 2009 (later changed to January 6) in North America.[10] The official specifications were unveiled on December 16, 2008.[144]

Although a setup guide for the Steam digital distribution platform was posted,[145] the port was delayed on Steam after minor issues,[146] while the retail version was released in North America as planned.[147] THQ's vice president of global brand management Kevin Kraff stated that "Saints Row 2's console release was met with heavy praise from press and consumers alike. [...] [The game's] debut on Windows PC will introduce the truly unique, highly entertaining open-world experience to PC fans worldwide".[147] Volition's vice president of product development and general manager Mike Kulas said that "We've spent a great deal of time optimizing system specs for Windows PC to ensure gamers get the high quality experience no matter what system they choose".[147] The port was released on Steam and also on Direct2Drive on January 7 while the European and Australian version releases were confirmed for January 23 and February 5 respectively.[9][148]

The port underwent marketing with the release of a PC launch trailer on January 8,[149] and a patch for the port was confirmed on January 22.[150] The patch was made available on January 26 after the release of the European version, correcting some graphical and technical issues while allowing a possible 20% performance increase.[151]

On July 16, 2009, Opeth announced that their music would feature in a PlayStation Portable port of the game which would be released in March 2010.[152] However, there has been no official confirmation on this from Volition or THQ.[153]

Downloadable content[edit]

Several packages of downloadable content (DLC) have been released. The DLCs are as follows:

  • "Ultor Exposed" - extra missions featuring Tera Patrick, that focus on the Saints uncovering Ultor's darkest secrets
  • "Corporate Warfare" - extra missions focusing on the Saints finding out what happened to Dex after the first Saints Row
  • Unkut Pack - players get extra Unkut-themed clothing, accessories and tattoos

Reception[edit]

Reception
Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings (PS3) 83.37%[154]
(X360) 82.99%[155]
(PC) 70.68%[156]
Metacritic (PS3) 82/100[157]
(X360) 81/100[158]
(PC) 72/100[159]
Review scores
Publication Score
1UP.com B[160]
Edge 5/10[161]
Eurogamer 9/10[162]
Game Informer 8.75/10[163]
GameSpot 8/10[164]
GameSpy 4.5/5 stars[165]
IGN (US) 8.2/10[166]
(AU) 8/10[167]
(UK) 7.5/10[168]
Official Xbox Magazine 9/10[169]

Critical reception[edit]

The console version of Saints Row 2 has received generally positive reviews. The PC version was relatively less well received due to frame rate issues and visual pop-in. 1UP.com gave the game a B, stating that it "relishes the hedonistic aspects of the open-world genre", that it has "plenty of innovation" and that the "excellence in the presentation makes the world of Saints [Row] 2 a great introduction for newcomers to open world games".[160]

Eurogamer gave the game a 9/10, stating that it "is one of the most ridiculous and enjoyable games of the year".[162] Game Informer gave the game an 8.75/10, stating that "in its own silly, b-movie way, it's a damn fun game" and a "profanely good time".[163] GameSpot gave the game an 8.0/10, stating that "from beginning to end, this is one of the most fun urban chaos games out there" and that it will "keep you happily creating havoc for a long time".[164] GameSpy gave the game four and a half stars out of five, stating that it "offers up a shooting and driving experience that is plenty of fun" and that it is "self-consciously funny in its irreverence" and "will definitely appeal to much of its audience".[165]

IGN U.S. gave the game an 8.2/10, stating that "the core gameplay experience is extremely enjoyable".[166] IGN AU gave the game an 8/10, stating that it is "big, dumb fun".[167] IGN UK gave the game a 7.5/10, stating that it "demonstrates that there is still plenty of mileage to be eked out of open-world games" and that "there's certainly enough here to keep any fans of sandbox violence entertained".[168]

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw of The Escapist, in his Zero Punctuation reviews, gave the game a rare highly favourable review and awarded it as his personal Game of the Year, stating that he "had more fun with it than any other 2008 release".[170][171] He referenced it a few times in other reviews, including as part of the opening of his review of Saints Row: The Third, calling it "...more fun than an entire swimming pool full of disembodied tits".

The game was awarded "Game of the Year 2008" by JustPressPlay.com.[172] It also came runner-up in GameShark's "Xbox 360 Game of the Year" and "Overall Game of the Year".[173][174]

Among positive acclaim, some publishers gave the game generally negative reviews. UK magazine Edge gave the game a 5/10, stating that "few of the game's details will stick in your mind for long, and its pranky focus means it rarely gives you anything interesting to do with the toys on offer".[175]

GamingNexus.com gave the game a C+, stating that it "has to mature, or make a more convincing argument that it's never going to – and never has to – grow up".[176]

Entertainment Weekly flagged the game as "racist, misogynistic, crude, cynical, humorless and stupid" and labelled it the worst game of 2008,[177] despite previously giving the game a B and calling it "a larcenous good time".[178]

The game did not gain a favourable response from New York City officials and police. City spokespersons requested that the game be pulled from shelves upon its release; NYPD union boss Patrick Lynch criticized the game, stating that "these horrible and violent video games desensitize young people to violence while encouraging depravity, immorality while glorifying criminal behavior".[179]

Jack Thompson, a former lawyer and longtime critic of violent video games, called Saints Row 2 a "Grand Theft Auto ripoff", and said that "as is true with pornography, as is true with violence, the subsequent products tend to push the envelope even more".[180] On Tuesday, October 14, 2008, the game's US release date, candidate Leslie Crocker Snyder and others spoke out against the game, surrounded by police union members who support her bid.[179]

Governor David Paterson signed a bill in July 2008 requiring prominent display of age ratings on video games and mandating parental control on game consoles by 2010.[180]

Sales[edit]

Media reports for Saints Row 2's sales performance have been mixed. The game sold approximately 365,000 units in total during its first month, outselling same-day release title Dead Space and becoming the sixth-best selling title in October 2008.[181] In an interview with Game Daily, THQ director of marketing communications Rob Cassel announced that the majority of these sales were from the Xbox 360 system, which sold approximately 270,000 units compared to 95,000 for the PlayStation 3.[182] From THQ official fiscal results for 2008, Kotaku reported that the game shipped over two million units by early November 2008.[183] According to Cowen & Co. analyst Doug Creutz in January 2009, the game's sales results were well below expectations.[184][185][186] He stated that "Previously we had been optimistic that the franchise could break the 1 million mark, given its launch on two platforms. The original Saints Row sold roughly 750,000 US units during its first four quarters in release on a single platform at a much earlier point in the console cycle".[184] THQ financial results in February 2009 concluded that the game had shipped over 2.6 million units by February 2009, after the game was ported to Windows in January.[187][188] THQ experienced a $431 million loss in revenue in May 2009, but shipped a further 200,000 units for the game, totalling 2.8 million units.[189][190] From Saints Row 2's sales, the series has had worldwide sales in excess of six million, making it one of the best-selling video game franchises.[191] Due to its financial earnings, the game has joined the Xbox 360's Platinum Hits and the PlayStation 3's Greatest Hits line of games.[192]

As of September 2010, Saints Row 2 has sold over three and a half million units worldwide.[193]

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