Saints Row 2 is destined to go down in geeky history, if only as one of the minuscule number of games to which the pessimistically pedantic Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation fame ever gave a decent review. Coming across like GTA: San Andreas meets Crackdown, with an impressive open world in which to rampage, ruin and recruit as you try and make the 3rd Street Saints the biggest and most badass gang in town.
If you don't mind a game that favours anarchic enjoyment over a sculpted blockbuster experience, you can now pick up a copy of this hilariously over-the-top sandbox fun-fest for just £7.99 from Play.com, saving you about three quid on the nearest in-stock competitor (Tesco - £10.97).
First of all, don't write this game off if you happen to already own GTA IV. I nearly made that mistake myself, but this is a very different game to Rockstar's effort, and there are many who might just suggest that Volition's offering is a little bit better. Me, I like the fact that you can customise your character from the get-go. From gender to race to the look of your homies and the layout of your crib, the level of customisation here is fantastic and really involves you from the start.
I like the facetious sense of humour, the fact that nothing is taken particularly seriously in this game except for fun. Volition have clearly looked at the rather serious nature of the recent GTA games, bought a bumper bag of jelly beans and some space hoppers, and gone toddling off in the other direction. Explosions are bigger here, you feel almost invincible half of the time, like a John Woo film every single bullet connects and destroys. In fact, if Michael Bay and John Woo ever made a video game baby (don't think too hard about it) it'd probably look a little bit like this.
The missions are incredibly varied too. You have some run-of-the-mill stuff going on, but then there are tasks that come straight out of left field, like kidnapping members of the public and speeding around the city until they come up with a ransom, or playing chauffeur to a TV network and boosting their ratings through increasingly devious and explosive means.
This game surprised me a lot more than GTA IV. It's a cracked game, you can see rough bits and pieces that need a bit of a polish, and the graphics are certainly a little dated. But with its richly drawn and memorable roster of characters, brilliantly implemented Crackdown-style co-operative multiplayer, and staunch emphasis on making the game your own with a deep customisation system, Saints Row 2 erases all of your worries and doubts.
GTA IV is a game I liked to play for long periods, but it's one that since finishing I rarely go back to. This, however, has been keeping me occupied for a good 18 months. Snap up a copy if you can, you won't be disappointed.
Thanks to oliverreed at HUKD