About 4 years ago I was cruising ebay and found a game that caught my eye. Admittedly, I am by no means a modern gamer; I don't know what games came out for the Xbox 360 unless I actively pursued them. So when I saw Saint's Row I quickly went into research mode to see what it was.
Through roughly 10 minutes of research I found out Saint's Row was a GTA clone, of sorts. After the initial search I moved ahead to the "Lets Play" type search, where I watch a few episodes of someone playing the game, to see if I'm interested in pursuing the game any further. Turns out the answer to that question was a resounding yes, yes I was interested in pursuing Saint's Row, so I did!
I can't remember exactly what I paid, but the auction included a complete copy of Saint's Row and the Brady guide. When the package arrived I noticed it cost the seller more to ship to me than I had paid for the whole auction, which made me feel slightly uneasy, because I've done this as an ebay seller as well and it doesn't feel good paying more than I was paid to ship a product. There was nothing I could do, so I just decided to set my feelings aside and pop it into my semi-functional Xbox 360.
One of the main features of any GTA, or clone, is the plethora of vehicles you can snatch and drive around, which Saint's Row doesn't disappoint! In GTA you would steal a car, total it and run off to find a new one, yet Saint's Row had an ingenious garage system where you could store, seemingly, endless amounts of cars and never have to steal another one again, unless you wanted more of any specific car. Not only that but Saint's Row also harkened back to GTA San Andreas and offered players the ability to customize vehicles in much the same way.
Although not perfect, players were given the ability to add hydraulics, nitrous, many different wheels, custom paint jobs, among other things. Once the car was customized all you had to do was drive it into any of your garages and it would save that car, never to be lost or stolen, unlike in GTA.
Since this is the first thing I brought up about Saint's Row, I have to admit that its basically all I did for the first few days I owned the game. Endless stealing cars and finding out what all I could do to them, testing many different ways of customizing them, and only doing story missions to gain money to customize more cars! But eventually I did finish the story mode, which left a little to be desired.
The final mission, which I won't spoil here just in the off chance someone might not have played it yet, doesn't go away. So even with 100% complete the final mission is left undone and sticks out on the map like a sore thumb, unless you turn all icons off, which is possible.
Overall I found the game to be interesting, not as good as GTA, but good in its own right. But personally the strong points were the cars, the ability to customize them and the way you could store them in your garage. With many different side missions strewn about throughout the city this game kept me busy for a while, but once it was over I wanted to move forward with more!
Lucky for me, and being so far behind in modern gaming, Saint's Row is currently up to 4 games in the series, so finding a new Saint's Row wasn't impossible. So my search went to finding a copy of Saint's Row 2. I wasn't concerned about whether is was a limit edition, a platinum hits edition or just a plain release version, all I wanted was Saint's Row 2, which is exactly what I got.
Before purchasing Saint's Row 2 I saw a video from Dan (aka Nerdcubed), which made me want the game even more than I already did. So, again, I went to ebay to find myself a copy of the game. After an anxious few days of waiting the game finally arrived and I popped it into my 360 and got straight back onto the streets of Stilwater, only this time they were slightly different.
Through Dan's video, and a few other Saint's Row 2 videos I had watched, I noticed that Stilwater was different in the second game, which the story explains away. This brought a very welcome element to the game, as you're essentially exploring a brand new town, with hints of something familiar. So the player starts fresh and has to regain their reign over Stilwater in Saint's Row 2.
Again, for the first day or so I spent my time finding new cars and customizing them, as well as finding cars from the first Saints Row and using the new customizing abilities on them. The very first vehicle I saw, and stole, was a tow truck, which looked awesome and actually functions, sort of, which I knew would come in handy later in my endeavor to gain vehicles and customize them. Needless to say it took me a few days to actually start the story missions.
But once I started the story missions it really didn't take me all that long to complete them all. A few side missions here and there to gain respect to continue on my way, as well as a dozen or so retries on various missions, and within a few days I had beat Saint's Row 2. Now all I have to do is finish up all the collections and other miscellaneous odd jobs to get 100% and I can move on to Saint's Row the Third!
Although Saint's Row 2 improved over the original, in some ways it is worse, such as draw distance. Many times I found myself waiting on a street corner for a certain car to drive by and noticed that cars would pop into view then almost instantly disappear, off in the distance. As well as while I'm out on water, many water vehicles can only be seen when they're within crashing distance, you'll notice their waves in the water before you'll actually see any boat or jet ski.
Saint's Row 2 does add flying, which is another welcome change, even if the flight controls are a bit wonky. Airplanes and helicopters, as well as the ability to parachute, have helped me a few times during missions that I was just too lazy to drive to. But, again, sometimes flying, especially the helicopters or "Destroy", is more of a hassle than it is a pleasure.
Other than the few flaws I believe Saint's Row 2 is the best version of Stilwater, as it affords more freedom and air to breathe, while still packing the city with life and plenty of scenery. The first Stilwater had many annoying blockades that you'll find, especially when you're looking for the hidden CDs. All I needed to do was jump over a fence, but I simply couldn't, making it more of a chore than it needed to be.
Saint's Row 2 took care of most of the issues with the original Stilwater and made a very fun town to explore and dwell within. After I've accomplished 100% I'll be looking forward to moving to Steelport! Where I'll be staying for the next two installments of Saint's Row, beyond that who knows where we'll be.