|Saint's Row 2
|» Price: $71.90; $89.90 for collectors' edition
» Genre: Action shooter
» Platform: Xbox 360
» Rating 9/10
MANY might dismiss Saints Row (SR2) as a copycat of Grand Theft Auto (GTA), the indomitable gang leader of the sandbox genre.
Although SR2 indeed feels like a compilation of GTA's 'greatest hits', the former proves that it does have sufficient clout to stand on its own.
You play the leader of the Saints, a gang that used to rule the city of Stilwater. Waking up from a long coma after surviving an explosion in the first game, you find the city overrun by the mercenary Ultor Corporation and several rival gangs. Your mission is to revive the Saints and reclaim Stilwater one neighbourhood at a time.
The story-related missions require you to disrupt the operations of rival gangs, like destroy their drug labs, clean out their strongholds and hurt their leaders.
Apart from the core missions, SR2 offers an impressive array of mini games and activities that will keep you busy. These range from Fight Club style fistfights to pimping and escorting prostitutes to acting as a cop in a reality drama.
One mini game that had me in stitches is Insurance Fraud where you have to deliberately get hit by traffic to claim insurance.
SR2 makes you feel like a real gang leader by allowing you to customise your character, gang members and vehicles down to the smallest detail. For example, you can mod vehicles a la Need For Speed with body kits, performance boosters and colours of your choice. In true gangster fashion, you can install vicious kneecappers on your wheels to shred other tyres or even the knees of hapless pedestrians.
In SR2, you get to explore the vast city of Stilwater either on foot or in a choice of vehicles for land, sea and sky. For wreaking serious havoc, an arsenal of weapons is available, ranging from baseball bats and samurai swords to rifles and rocket launchers.
Gamers who hanker for completing 100 per cent of the game will have a field day with many 'completist' activities like stealing a list of specified vehicle types and tagging gang graffiti scattered all over the city.
As gang leader, you can rally homies as your posse. Although they are intelligent enough to carjack vehicles to keep up with you, their poor pathfinding skills mean they often get left behind. To increase your gang's dominance, you can buy businesses and hideouts in the various neighbourhoods, giving you the incentive to earn money.
Apart from the massive single player campaign, SR2 also features elaborate multiplayer games. They include 'Strongarm' where you earn money through team activities and wage war on the opposing gang and 'Gangsta Brawl' where you need to kill as many rival gang members as possible.
SR2 is a well-produced title that has everything we love about the GTA series and packs in a bunch of original ideas. With its addictive gameplay and endless activities, SR2 will keep you hooked for a long time. However, its gratuitous violence and remorseless glorification of crime limit it to a strictly mature audience, so keep the kids away.
By Yap Hui Bin, a freelance writer who loves roaming in a gangster's paradise.
This story was first published in The Straits Times Digital Life on 12 November 2008.
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