Welcome to a new ranking of a video game franchise. This time, it’s all about dressing up in purple and calling un-saintly people saints with the Saints Row series. This rank is going to be a little different from others because I am skipping the first game. I have no (legal) way to access the game, so I’m going to start with the second game. To make up for the missing first game, I am going to add Agents of Mayhem to the rank. As always, you can find the rank of the game here. So, let’s get into it.
Taking place 5 years after the first game, you wake up from a coma in prison. The 3rd Street Saints have disbanded, and three gangs have taken control of Stilwater in their place. After breaking out with the help of a friend and helping Johnny Gat get out of a death sentence, you revive the saints and take back the city.
Like I said earlier, I do not have the first Saints Row, which means my judgement of the series is going to be based on this game. I do not know what is different between this game and the last, so for the sake of this ranking I am not going to compare this game to the last and instead say this game is the base game of the series.
One thing I forgot to mention is that I am playing this series on a few different platforms, and that I played this game on PC. This is worth noting because the PC version of this game is hot garbage. The game runs at a frame rate low enough to ask why even put it here in the first place, the controls range from feeling okay to terrible, and there are even small things like seeing an Xbox thumb stick in the middle of the weapon wheel. Also, I had some bad pop-in, with the worst being cars that only spawn on streets you are looking at and de-spawn when you are looking away. I eventually got used to the game’s technical shortcomings, but some of this stuff can’t be shaken off.
Optimization aside, my time with the game was pretty positive. At its core, Saints Row 2 feels like a GTA ripoff but with more raunchy humor and a checkbox open world. The story isn’t anything to write home about, but there are some fun aspects to it. The best way I can sum up my thoughts on this game is something that is fun, but is still trying to find its identity beyond being a GTA clone.
The story is about as basic as it gets: take back the city. The personality of the story lies in the characters and in the world. You are part of the 3rd Street Saints, a gang known for the color purple and the Fleur De Lis symbol. Three other gangs occupy the city. The Brotherhood is a gang known for tattoos, big cars, and heavy metal. The Ronin is Asian gang that seems at war with itself on whether to be futuristic or traditional. Finally, the Sons of Samedi are a Haitian Voodoo gang who use fear and drugs to control part of the city. Each gang is unique, and each (including the Saints) have their own cast of main and side characters that tell a different story of success and downfall. On top of that, you can choose whatever gang you want to tackle in any order. The only issue I had with the story is with the end, as for it takes around 15 missions to completely wipe each gang, but only three to take over the game’s mega-corporation with its own army. Still, the story isn’t anything memorable, the humor misses but isn’t annoying either, and the small parts around the edges are just that: small.
Saints Row 2 is a third-person shooter with an open world that feels as basic as most other open worlds. I know this game came out before the industry ran off with the checkbox open-world design, but it is a little hard to play this game with that context. Still, there are experiences offered in this game that are unique. Outside of the main missions, the biggest activity to do are called, well, activities. These activities range from throwing yourself into traffic for insurance money to covering houses in septic tank fluid. The activities are varied, unique, sometimes pretty fun, and fun all around. The biggest issue with activities, though, is that I never felt like I truly enjoyed them because the main missions. To play main missions, you need respect points, and the best way to build up respect points are activities. This meant activities for me were a form of grinding just to play the main missions more than a fun side thing to do in Stilwater. Still, the activities add flavor to the game.
Other than activities, there are smaller tasks available, like stunt jumps and spots to graffiti. Unfortunately, the smaller activities are not marked on the map, and the mini-game tied to graffiti spraying feels awful. As for the city itself, it isn’t anything remarkable, but there are some issues with it. For starters, there is no fast traveling, even though the map is on the smaller side. The second issue is that the city feels desolate, though this could be because of the game’s poor PC port.
One thing that definitely surprised me with this game is how much customization there is. The game has a character creator, and there is a surprising amount of options available. Vehicles, gang member, clothing, and more can be heavily customized as well. There is also plenty of music to find around, and the stations you want to hear or not hear can be chosen as well. The one place where customization and choice isn’t so great is with weapons, as for there is no way to tell which weapon is better than the other.
Before I wrap up this rank blog, I want to mention this game has both co-op and multiplayer. I don’t plan on playing either of these modes in any of the Saints Row games, but I do appreciate both options being there.
In conclusion, Saints Row 2 is a game on the way to forming its own identity and gameplay style, but one that isn’t quite there yet. I still had fun with this game, and I can see a diamond starting to form out of the coal, even with its terrible optimization. I am excited to see how the series will turn out over the next few entries based on what is here. This game is at the number one spot right now (obviously), but I think it will stay pretty high on the list by the time I reach the end.