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Game Review

"The game requires you cast your morality aside, and I'm sure the intended audience (you know who you are) will relish this celebration of depravity." —Electronic Gaming Monthly

There are some video game titles out there that don't require hours and hours of play for reviewers to get a crystal clear understanding of what it is intended to be and do.

Saints Row 2 is such a title.

"It is a morality-free alternative to GTA IV, an unremorseful descent into mindless mayhem." —gamespot.com

Writing game reviews for Plugged In, I always like to find some aspect in each title to talk positively about. No matter how content-ridden the game is, there's usually something about the story, or an interesting twist in the conclusion, or perhaps even a unique game mechanic that I can put in an affirmative light. My colleagues do, too. But two years ago, when the first game in the Saints series bubbled up from a city storm drain, Marcus Yoars and Kevin Simpson waded through the Grand Theft Auto wannabe and found precious little light at all. In fact, the best Marcus could say about it was:

"Only 15 seconds into the game the f- and s-words make their first of countless appearances. Yet after a while, even those words seem tame compared with some of the despicable, unprintable phrases used. Sexually vulgar comments, references and sounds aren't just heard from the lips of prostitutes and johns, they're also uttered randomly by not-so-innocent passersby—soccer moms, grandpas and children included."

What's the upside there, you ask? Well, he made it through 15 seconds without a problem. Saints Row 2 is, if anything, far worse.

"There [is] quite possibly no other game that can come close to the sheer number of explosions, bullets, murder and vulgarity on tap here." —worthplaying.com

Gamers create a male or female avatar to represent them and then jump into the game as an amoral dirtbag who wakes out of a multi-year coma. Straight away the unrepentant thug flexes his or her (somehow healthy) muscles, kills doctors and guards, and makes it back to the streets of Stilwater to rebuild a gang and retake dominant power. The majority of missions are over-the-top, run-and-gun levels that essentially amount to driving around the city and butchering everyone with breath.

When gamers aren't lowriding their way to the next bloody shootout, they might stop by the local club for a striptease or lap dance. And if players pick up a prostitute, a sex minigame lets them listen in as their avatars build their way to a sexual peak.

"As is true with pornography, as is true with violence, the subsequent products tend to push the envelope even more." —longtime game critic Jack Thompson

Just about any boundary you can think of, Saints Row 2 is more than willing to give a nudge or two (or an elephant-stomping in some cases). For instance, a prostitute outside a little clothing establishment—with a name I can't even print here—says, "You wanna head upstairs for a confessional?" Another, dressed in a habit, reports, "No, it's not a fetish thing, I used to be a nun."

Clothing is revealing. Language is excessive and raw. Weaponry is gore-splatteringly deadly. Digital human life is shockingly cheap. The whole city is vile and corrupt (including the police). And morality is an antiquated concept that has no place to call home.

"These horrible and violent games desensitize young people to violence while encouraging depravity, immorality, while glorifying criminal behavior." —NYPD union head Patrick Lynch

The game's creators, however, are unrepentant concerning their prized bruiser. In a New York Daily News article, gamemakers at THQ insisted, "Saints Row 2 is not a gang simulation game, it's a tongue-in-cheek game." So all of the game's saw-to-torso brutality, ear-scorching profanity and sleazy sex is supposed to be funny? The game that one avid blogging gamer summed up as "the disgusting, deformed, evil twin of GTA IV " is meant to be a chuckle?

"In many ways it is badly intentioned, failing not just because of its conga-line of racial and sexual clichés, but because of the way it makes it a little bit easier to criticize videogaming as a hollow and sadistic pursuit." —Edge

So let the criticism commence.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

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Crude or Profane Language

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Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC




On Video

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Bob Hoose Kevin Simpson

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