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) Microsoft Windows[4]PlayStation 3[5]
Xbox 360
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, open world
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer
Distribution Optical disc, download

Saints Row 2 is a 2008 open world action-adventure video game developed by Volition, Inc. and published by THQ. It was released in October 2008 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and ported to Microsoft Windows by CD Projekt in early 2009. A mobile tie-in version was developed by G5 Entertainment and released the same month. The game is the second title and first cross-platform release in the Saints Row series, following 2006's Saints Row. It is succeeded by 2011's Saints Row: The Third and 2013's Saints Row IV.

Set in the fictional city of Stilwater five years after the events of Saints Row, players control the same protagonist and lead a new order of Third Street Saints gang against the three rival gangs occupying their turf and the corrupt Ultor Corporation conglomerate. Players navigate the open world and unlock missions by spending Respect, a currency earned by completing numerous off-mission activities. Before the multiplayer mode was deactivated, two players could cooperatively progress through the game and compete in 12-player deathmatches.

The developers opted for hyperrealism to set the game apart from Grand Theft Auto, a series featuring common gameplay elements. The game's promotional effort included various public showings, special editions and downloadable content including the Ultor Exposed and Corporate Warfare mission packages. Initial reviews were largely favorable, praising the action and hyper-realism, while criticizing technical issues. Reviewers were less receptive to the Windows port, citing worse technical issues. The game had sold around 400,000 units by November 2008, and at least 3.4 million units by 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][11] 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[12] 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.[13][unreliable source?] The player can also wreak havoc upon the environment which can provoke potentially fatal attention from authoritative forces.[14] 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.[15] Entering cheats will disable Xbox 360 achievements.

Players drive vehicles that are stolen, bought or unlocked. Aside from automobiles, players can use boats and water craft,[16] helicopters,[17]fixed-wing aircraft and[18] motorcycles.[14][19] A cruise control system can be activated while using land or sea vehicles.[20] Waypoints can be placed on the pause-screen map, leaving a GPS route between the player character's location and the set destination. Players can hail taxicab services and pay a fee to quickly navigate the city. By taking land vehicles to chop shops, players can apply paint schemes, body mods, hydraulics and nitrous oxide.

Players create their own character through a system that allows them to modify gender, ethnicity, fitness, voice, face and hairstyle.[21][22][23] Walk and fighting styles, and personality traits can be assigned.[15][19][23] Players purchase clothes, tattoos and piercings, and set outfits can be bought or created and saved to the player character's wardrobe.[17][24] "Cribs" (safe houses) allow players to withdraw earnings, change outfits, replay missions and save the game.[21] Cribs can be customized by applying themes and purchasing objects like TVs and pool tables.[19] Boats and fixed-wing aircraft can be stored at purchased docks and hangars. Players select the outfits, vehicles, gestures and graffiti styles used by street members of the Third Street Saints.[25]

The combat systems from Saints Row have been updated but many of the basics remain unchanged.[11] While engaging in melee-based combat, the player character will perform combos and charge up attacks,[24] and can execute a finishing move if three consecutive hits are dealt.[15] With a gun equipped, the player can perform a groin attack, and can zoom in for a finer aim reticle.[23] The player can also employ the use of human shields,[15] and can use makeshift weapons pulled from the environment e.g. fire hydrants, cement blocks.[21] 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.[14] 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.[26][27] 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.[18]

Open world[edit]

Players navigate the open world, fictional city of Stilwater. The city consists of forty-five neighborhoods divided between twenty districts. It is expanded from Saints Row's version of Stilwater, roughly one-and-a-half times as big and featuring new districts such as the prison, nuclear power plant, and expanded airport among others.[23] Game developers stated that the city has very much been redeveloped and each individual neighborhood has been touched up in one way or another.[28] According to the storyline, the in-game corporation Ultor spent more than three-hundred million dollars redeveloping the city,[23] 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.[29] 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.[30] There are also several completely new districts, such as the Marina and the University.[28]

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,[16] including over ninety shops which can be purchased when the player controls each shops' associated territory.[25] 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.[25] The game shares technology with that of Red Faction: Guerrilla, another Volition-developed game and so certain elements of the environment are fully destructible.[15] A number of Easter eggs are placed within the sandbox, including the pop-out Easter Bunny which won "Top Easter Egg of 2008".[31]

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.[12]

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.[13] Examples include an underground fight club, a parody of the Cops television show known as FUZZ and numerous others.[24][32] 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.[33] 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][32][34][35]

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.[36][37] While in co-op mode, both players can explore the city and progress through the game's storyline missions and minigames.[37][38][39] Both players are rewarded and credited for completion of such activities,[37][40] and the players can furthermore play against each other in competitive metagames.[41][42][43] 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.[16][37][44]

The game contains competitive multiplayer modes, supporting between four and twelve players in a match.[45][46] There are two standard deathmatch modes; the free-for-all "Gangsta Brawl" mode and its team-based variant, "Team Gangsta Brawl".[47] Another mode, known as "Strong Arm", puts two teams against each other fighting for control over the neighborhood.[38][48] 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.[49][50] While in a party, players are free to roam around a lobby.[47][51] The player can rank up in multiplayer and displays this by earning various "badges" which are displayed next to the player's name.[51][52] By ranking up, the player can unlock more expensive clothing for their multiplayer character.[citation needed] The multiplayer mode was discontinued in May 2014 when GameSpy's servers were shut down.[53]

Synopsis[edit]

Plot[edit]

Years after the destruction of Richard Hughes's boat, Julius has gone missing, and the player, his second-in-command, apparently died in the explosion, the Saints have dissolved and three new major gangs took over - Brotherhood of Stilwater, a heavy metal gang that specializes in weaponry, Sons of Samedi, an African-American gang which controls drug trafficking, and The Ronin, a Japanese gang that controls casinos and night clubs. With the dissolving of the Saints, Johnny Gat, Saints's trustful enforcer, was arrested and is awaiting of trial for mass murder, and Aisha, his girlfriend, has faked her death for her own protection and lives on selling her records, which are very popular in Stilwater. Also, an earthquake leveled down much of Stillwater, and as such, a powerful company named Ultor Corporation has took over Saints's old slum territory and turned it into a Stillwater's big financial district and set up headquarters there.

However, the player is actually alive, and is in a coma in Stillwater prison. Being in a coma for the last 5 years, he wakes up, thinking that he was in a coma for only a few weeks. Another inmate, Carlos Mendoza, is next to him and helps him escape, also explaining that his brother was in the Saints and he wants to help him, and they manage to escape, and the Boss is shocked by Stillwater and how it changed. Upon arriving in Stilwater, the Boss frees the old Saints' enforcer and mass murderer Johnny Gat, sets up a new headquarters for the resurrected Saints gang in an old underground hotel, and recruits Carlos and two other new lieutenants - Pierce and Shaundi - to plan how to retake Stilwater.

The Brotherhood, a group of tattoo artists and monster truckers' leader, Maero, initially offers to make a truce with the Saints, and Boss arrives with Carlos to their main base, and Boss also notices Donnie, a former Westside Rollerz member, being Maero's personal mechanic. Maero offers a deal; with the Saints weakened and a shipment of weapons coming in for his own gang, he has no interest in treating the Saints as equals and gives them a deal of 20-80. The Boss, offended by the offer, start a gang war. He first kidnaps Donnie and forces him to blow up several Brotherhood's trucks and he also replaces Maero's tattoo ink with nuclear waste, disfiguring him. In retaliation, Carlos is kidnapped and dragged through the street, tied to the back of a truck. By the time the Boss rescues him, Carlos' injuries are too severe and the Boss is forced to kill him out of mercy. The Saints then kidnap Maero's girlfriend and puts her in the trunk of a car in a monster truck arena. Maero, not knowing his girlfriend was in the car, rides over her in his truck, crushing the car and his girlfriend. After exiting the truck, The Boss hands him the keys to the trunk and walks away. Much of the Brotherhood is then arrested in a police crackdown. Maero threatens Dane Vogel, the Ultor executive handling the company's business in Stilwater, to release his imprisoned allies, only for the Boss to kill them before they reach Stilwater's streets. Vogel then attempts to seize the weapon shipment from the Brotherhood, only for the Saints to snatch it from both of them. Now heavily armed, the Saints destroy the Brotherhood's dockside headquarters and the Boss kills Maero in a demolition derby.

To eliminate the Sons of Samedi, a group of Haitian drugs dealers, the Boss works with Shaundi to take over the trade of their trademark designer drug "Loa Dust," killing the Samedi's dealers and destroying their drug-manufacturing infrastructure. Shaundi's ex-boyfriend and now a Samedi enforcer, DJ Veteran Child, kidnaps her, but she is rescued by the Boss after he shoots his way through his nightclub and kills DJ Veteran Child, and saves Shaundi. Afterwards, a limousine belonging to The General, Samedi's leader, pulls up and he is drugged and forced into the vehicle. The General explains to the drugged Boss how much he is displeased with The Saints taking over his business and territory. He almost kills him but the Boss manages to escape from the limo in time. After destroying an inbound shipment of Loa Dust the Boss sets out to kill the Samedi's leadership. First the boss kills the gang's voodoo[disambiguation needed]-using second-in-command, Mr. Sunshine, at his hideout. Then, after Shaundi hacks Stilwater's CCTV system, the Boss ambushes the convoy of the gang's leader, The General, and kills him in a car chase in an in-door mall.

The Boss, with Johnny Gat and Pierce, attacks the Ronin by robbing a casino they and the Ultor Corporation share ownership in. Incensed by this, Kazuo Akuji, the father of the Ronin's leader Shogo Akuji, travels to Stilwater himself to take control of the situation. Shogo attempts to recover the stolen cash by having his second-in-command, Jyunichi, kidnap Gat's girlfriend Aisha; this ends with Aisha dead and Gat incapacitated after being stabbed by Jyunichi. The Boss subsequently kills Jyunichi in revenge. By the time Gat recovers Kazuo Akuji has broken the Ronin's connections with Ultor; Vogel reacts by giving the Saints the location of the Ronin's headquarters, with the Boss and Gat destroy. Disgraced, Shogo attacks the Saints during Aisha's funeral, and Johnny avenges her death by killing all the Ronins present and buries Shogo alive. Kazuo continues to attack the Saints, and is killed in a duel with the Boss during Stilwater's Chinese Heritage Festival.

As the Saints take over Stilwater, Vogel plots to wipe them out so he can renovate their new base in the district of Shivington. Once the Saints are the only gang left in Stilwater, Ultor's private security force attemtps to take them out as well, but fails. Under pressure from Ultor's board of directors as the company is targeted by the Saints, Vogel leaks their location to the Boss; the Boss kills them and Vogel takes over as chairman of the board. At the press conference where he announces his takeover, however, Vogel is targeted by the Saints in an assassination attempt. He escapes to Ultor's headquarters, only for the Boss to track him down and personally kill him, leaving no one to challenge the Saints' for control of Stilwater.

At any point in the story after rescuing Johnny Gat, the player can unlock a secret mission by visiting the Stilwater Police HQ and listening to wiretap conversations that reveal former Saints' leader Julius Little planted the bomb on Hughes' yacht, hoping to kill the Boss and let the Saints dissolve in peace. The Boss also find the phone number of another former Saints lieutenant turned Ultor executive, Dex, who offers to meet with the Boss at the old Saints Row church. When the Boss arrives they instead find Julius and realize they were set up for an assassination attempt by Dex. After they both escape from Ultor's Masako hit team, the Boss shoots Julius. Before the Boss finishes him off, Julius berates the Boss for allowing the Saints to become as destructive as the gangs they were originally supposed to be fighting. Enthralled with their new power, the Boss is unmoved by his words.

Voice cast[edit]

The following actors appear in Saints Row 2:

Development[edit]

Volition, Inc.[a] began to work on Saints Row 2 in 2005, about a year before Saints Row was released.[28][29] While Saints Row was developed as an Xbox 360 exclusive,[b] Volition expanded initial development of Saints Row 2 to the PlayStation 3 platform[5] (with a Microsoft Windows port from CD Projekt to come after it was released).[4] The decision to develop for the PlayStation 3 came from a desire to expand audiences in Europe, where PS3's were enjoying commercial success. Development on the PS3 was handled in-house by a separate team who got moved onto the hardware from the 360. They found the PS3's Cell architecture challenging to develop on.[55]

The game was first announced by THQ's CEO Brian Farrell in a February 2007 conference call, alongside another six franchise continuations for the 2008 fiscal year.[56] 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".[5] On May 14, 2007, THQ's CFO Edward K. Zinser confirmed this at a conference call.[5] A PlayStation 3 port of the original was scrapped to focus resources on Saints Row 2.[57] 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.[58]

An August 28, 2008, American release date was set by THQ on April 3, with pre-order sales commencing from then.[59] On May 28, THQ moved the American release date to October 14, 2008.[7][60] Senior vice president of marketing Bob Aniello told Reuters that the delay allowed for further polish time, as well as moving the release into a better time frame.[61] The redesigned official website and community network was launched on July 15, 2008.[62] The OFLC[c] gave the game an MA15+ rating and October 16 release in Australia on July 23, 2008.[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.[63] 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.[64]

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".[65] He said that the game needed to broaden the competitive window by reiterating gameplay from Saints Row, while adding new features and mechanics.[65] 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"[66] while later reassuring that "95% of gamers aren't even going to come across them."[12] 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".[65] 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".[65]

Design and graphics[edit]

As a direct sequel, the game shares design similarities with Saints Row. Many developers who had worked on the first game joined the Saints Row 2 team, allowing them to "learn from the mistakes" they made during Saints Row's development.[64] By overhauling the game engine, the team were able to enhance Saints Row 2's graphics. "Much of that comes from the fact that we were able to work closely with the team behind Saints Row", lead producer Greg Donovan explained.[67] Lead designer Scott Phillips felt that the team considered every facet of Saints Row's gameplay for refinement.[68] Added contrast and higher-quality textures allowed Stilwater to look more realistic.[25] Visual enhancements were also applied to people, cars, explosions, lighting and shadows. The team added more effects to the weather system.[25][67] The "over-the-top" design approach incorporates cartoonish hyperrealism into the gameplay. Lead designer James Tsai felt the game would accommodate players seeking "wild and outrageous" gameplay. He noted that during early development, the game featured content too crass to be included in the final build.[69] Donovan summarised the game as "all about over-the-top memorable moments [and] hyper-realism".[11]

The developers improved Saints Row's AI system by letting non-player characters (NPCs) interact further with the game world.[70] Tsai considered that a fundamental goal was to "create a world that exists independent of the player", featuring NPCs that would behave in realistic ways.[71] NPCs can smoke cigarettes, use cellphones, drink coffee and open their umbrellas at the onset of rain. They can interact directly with each-other, such as by sitting together and cuddling—impossible in Saints Row because its engine could not support two NPCs interacting within close proximity of each-other.[70] Developers hand-placed 20,000 action nodes throughout the game world that trigger NPC actions.[70] Placing the nodes was a laborious process for the developers that happened late in the game's development once the nodes became functional and the city's design finalized.[70]

The game became subject to comparison with sandbox-style action game Grand Theft Auto IV, which has notable similarities with Saints Row 2.[72][73] 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".[74] 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."[11]

Writing and casting[edit]

The story was put together by three of Volition's script writers.[70] The final script had roughly 80,000 lines of dialogue, twice the amount of Saints Row's.[70] Developers have stated that the story draws strong cinematic influence from Quentin Tarantino's 1994 film, Pulp Fiction.[67] "There's definitely a strong Tarantino vibe in Saints Row 2. ... Stylistically, we drew a lot from Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill", Tsai commented.[75] Lead producer Greg Donovan considered that while the story follows the player character's journey "down a path of betrayal, revenge and redemption", the game retains Saints Row's light humor.[76] Tsai noted that the "over-the-top, socially distorted" overall narrative juxtaposes some of the dark, gritty moments.[75] Saints Row's silent protagonist speaks in Saints Row 2, granting the protagonist more personality and improving the storytelling, according to Tsai.[75] The Saints Row narrative was conceived as a three-part story, with Saints Row 2 being the second of the three.[77] Tsai left the question as to whether Saints Row 2 would feature a cliffhanger ending in the vein of its predecessor open. He felt that the team prioritized accommodating both new players, and those who had not played the original Saints Row. "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", he explained.[28]

The team sought to heavily stylize the game's characters and assign them unique personality traits.[28][68] 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."[28] 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."[68] 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.[78]

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.[79][80] There are twelve radio stations the player can listen to whilst in a vehicle or at an in-game crib.[79][80] Stations will play different genres of music, such as alternative rock, hip-hop, heavy metal and 1980's pop.[79][80] A particular radio station, My Radio 85.5, allows the player to create a custom soundtrack from the music featured in the game.[80] 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.[79][80] 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]".[81]

An objective for developers was to try and depict the Ultor Corporation as a large presence within the media of the game.[82] As such, many of the in-game radio advertisements promote Ultor-branded products; demonstrating how Ultor maintains control over the city.[82] 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.[82] 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.[82] Many of the in-game commercials went through several drafts and developers found this writing process to be a challenge.[82] 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.[64] 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".[64]

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.[61]

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.[83] In early April 2008, American film actor Gary Busey became part of the marketing campaign for the game.[84][85] 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.[86][87][88] Two additional Busey clips were released at the end of April 2008, demonstrating heavy weapons[89] and police response[90] 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.[91] 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.[92][93] A fourth trailer was released in mid-July 2008, showing some of the customization options available in the game.[94][95] Two Busey clips were also released in mid-July, demonstrating groin attacks[96] and improvised weaponry[97] in gameplay. In late July 2008, American pornographic actor Tera Patrick became part of the marketing campaign for the game.[25][98] A "Developer Diary" video was released featuring Patrick presenting the game.[99][100] 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.[101][102][103][104][105][106] Two Busey clips were released at the end of August 2008, demonstrating customization[107] and flying[108] in gameplay, and the improvised weaponry clip was re-released alongside them.[109][110] An additional Busey clip was released in early September 2008, demonstrating motorcycles in gameplay.[111] 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.[112][113][114] The official launch trailer was released in early October 2008, a week before the game's release, taking another look at the storyline.[115][116]

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.[117] 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.[118] The second week of the competition offered a radio-controlled helicopter.[119] 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.[120][121] 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.[122][123] The third run of the "Summer of Bling" contest launched on September 19, 2008 offering the Joystick Junkies-themed shirts as prizes.[124][125] The "Trick Your Pack" tool launched on September 23, allowing the player to create their own box art for the game.[126][127] The fourth run of the "Summer of Bling" launched on October 4, 2008 offering an Ultor-themed Flak jacket.[128] 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.[129] On November 6, 2008 a competition launched in Australia offering an airbrushed 60GB PlayStation 3 system.[130]

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,[131] PAX '08, GameStop Expo '08[132] and Leipzig Games Convention. In addition, Saints Row 2 provided funding and marketed itself with the Myspace Music Tour.[133] Saints Row 2 also supported Movember 2008, an Australian fundraiser for men's health.[134] In November 2008, THQ signed a deal with Massive Incorporated to include in-game advertisements on their Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 products.[135] 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.[136]

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.[137] 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.[138][139] 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.[140]

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.[141]

THQ confirmed to Big Download that a Microsoft Windows port of the game was in development on June 2, 2008.[4][142] 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.[143]

Although a setup guide for the Steam digital distribution platform was posted,[144] the port was delayed on Steam after minor issues,[145] while the retail version was released in North America as planned.[146] 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".[146] 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".[146] 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][147]

The port underwent marketing with the release of a PC launch trailer on January 8,[148] and a patch for the port was confirmed on January 22.[149] 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.[150]

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.[151] However, there has been no official confirmation on this from Volition or THQ.[152]

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]

Saints Row 2 reviews
Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings (PS3) 83% (44 reviews)[153]
(X360) 83% (66 reviews)[154]
(PC) 71% (11 reviews)[155]
Metacritic (PS3) 82/100 (50 reviews)[156]
(X360) 81/100 (75 reviews)[157]
(PC) 72/100 (24 reviews)[158]
Review scores
Publication Score
1UP.com B[159]
Edge 5/10[160]
Eurogamer 9/10[161]
Game Informer 8.75/10[162]
GameSpot 8/10[163]
GameSpy 4.5/5 stars[164]
IGN (US) 8.2/10[165]
(AU) 8/10[166]
(UK) 7.5/10[167]
Official Xbox Magazine 9/10[168]

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw of The Escapist's Zero Punctuation named Saints Row 2 his 2008 game of the year.[169][170] It was a runner up for GameShark's overall and Xbox 360 games of the year.[171][172] Game Developer named Volition in their top 50 developers of the year for their work on the game,[173] and THQ in their top 20 publishers.[174]

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".[159]

Eurogamer gave the game a 9/10, stating that it "is one of the most ridiculous and enjoyable games of the year".[161] 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".[162] 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".[163] 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".[164]

IGN U.S. gave the game an 8.2/10, stating that "the core gameplay experience is extremely enjoyable".[165] IGN AU gave the game an 8/10, stating that it is "big, dumb fun".[166] 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".[167]

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".[175][176] 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".

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".[177]

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".[178]

Entertainment Weekly flagged the game as "racist, misogynistic, crude, cynical, humorless and stupid" and labelled it the worst game of 2008,[179] despite previously giving the game a B and calling it "a larcenous good time".[180]

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".[181]

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".[182] 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.[181]

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.[182]

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.[183] 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.[184] From THQ official fiscal results for 2008, Kotaku reported that the game shipped over two million units by early November 2008.[185] According to Cowen & Co. analyst Doug Creutz in January 2009, the game's sales results were well below expectations.[186][187][188] 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".[186] 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.[189][190] 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.[191][192] 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.[193] 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.[194]

As of September 2010, Saints Row 2 has sold over three and a half million units worldwide.[195] The game's success led THQ to shift its focus to large franchises.[174]

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ Now known as Deep Silver Volition.
  2. ^ An announced PlayStation 3 port of Saints Row was cancelled in 2007.[54]
  3. ^ Now the ACB
Footnotes
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