release date is 14 Oct 2008
release date is 14 Oct 2008
release date is 14 Oct 2008
AGOURA HILLS, Calif., September 24, 2007 – THQ Inc. (NASDAQ: THQI) today announced Saints Row 2, sequel to the multi-million unit selling title that redefined open-world gaming for next-generation consoles, is scheduled to deliver all new, genre-defining features and game play for the Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system and PLAYSTATION3 computer entertainment system in 2008. Developed by THQ's critically acclaimed internal studio Volition, Inc. using their proprietary open-world engine, Saints Row 2 will offer vastly expanded customization options, a totally transformed and expanded city of Stilwater, all new vehicles, sandbox tools and toys as well as both online co-op and competitive multiplayer. More information on the game can be found on the official Saints Row 2 web site at www.saintsrow2.com.
"Saints Row set the bar for next-gen open-world development, earning praise for its unmatched customization, controls, and the genre's first-ever online multiplayer," said Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of sales and marketing, THQ. "The team at Volition, Inc. is leveraging invaluable experience gained on Saints Row to build Saints Row 2 into a game that sets the standard for combat, player freedom, customization, vehicle game-play, team-based co-op and the most compelling online open world experience to date."
"Saints Row 2 has a much darker and more sinister story that leads your character down a path of betrayal, revenge and redemption against the city that has left him for dead, although we've blended that with the same light-hearted humor from the original." said Greg Donovan, lead producer, Volition, Inc. "Couple that with the most robust open-world feature set ever developed in the genre, and Saints Row 2 promises a gaming experience that will offer players the perfect balance of gripping narrative and compelling gameplay options."
With the release of Grand Theft Auto IV now less than two months away you could be forgiven for forgetting all about Saints Row 2. After all, Volition's upcoming sequel to the other open-world crime-themed action game doesn't even have a tentative release date yet. We're told that it'll be arriving this year, though, and we recently had an opportunity to check out an early version that already incorporates plenty of new features.
Set a few years after the events of Saints Row, the sequel will see you reprising the role of a Saints gang member who, in the years since the first game, has risen to power and become the leader of the gang. With that said, the first game forced you to play as a male character, but that's not the case in Saints Row 2. We spent some time with the new character customization system during our meeting, and it's clearly something that Volition has spent a lot of time improving. You can not only play as a male or a female but, since those options appear at either end of a sliding scale, you can choose to play as someone whose appearance isn't obviously either of the two. Other sliding scales you can play around with will affect fitness level and age. You'll also be able to determine your character's ethnicity and modify his or her facial features.
You play as the same character you did in Saints Row, regardless of whether you opt for a similar appearance or even the same gender.
Character customization in Saints Row 2 won't end there, though. After settling on a look for your gang leader, you'll want to figure out how he or she moves. You might choose a guy who walks like a gorilla, a ballerina, or any of the numerous options in between. You'll also need to choose a voice, favorite taunt and compliment actions, and fighting style. Available taunts--which are presumably intended for use primarily in multiplayer games--will include such classics as the middle finger, the tea bag, and the wanker. Compliments will include a salute, thumbs-up, riverdance (don't ask), and many more. The number of fighting-style options available to you will increase as you defeat gangs in the story mode and add their moves to your arsenal.
The story mode will pit you against three rival gangs, all of whom are hoping to fill the power vacuum resulting from the Saints' fall from grace. It's a similar setup to that in the first game, but there appear to be plenty of changes and improvements planned for Saints Row 2 that'll make it a worthy sequel. For starters, the city of Stillwater is now considerably larger and barely recognizable as the same location from the first game. This, we're told, is the result of urban renewal efforts on behalf of a large corporation. All of the existing neighborhoods have been given a face-lift, and all-new neighborhoods have been created as a result of the city's expansion to the west. You'll be able to visit the interiors of well over 100 of Stillwater's buildings this time around, including no fewer than nine gang cribs that you can make your own as you progress through the game.
If you've played Saints Row, you might remember that cribs were primarily places that you could save your game, change your clothes, and store your car collections. In Saints Row 2 you'll still be able to do all of those things, and lots more besides. We were shown one of the new cribs during our meeting, a two-story building that looked pretty run-down. It looked so nasty, in fact, that we were surprised to see several gang members hanging out there in the hope that they'd be chosen for an upcoming mission. Fortunately, as you accumulate money you'll have the option to spend it on upgrading the place. The crib customization options don't appear to be nearly as numerous as those for your character, but they're a welcome addition nonetheless. Options for the crib that we visited during our demo included upgrades for the table, the bed, the home theater, and the stripper pole, as well as "cheap," "classy," and "ultra modern" decor. Spending money on your crib will increase the amount of respect that you earn for completing missions and other objectives, and it'll also make your fellow gang members more effective when they're fighting alongside you. Other features promised for cribs include different radio stations to listen to, a more intelligent wardrobe system that lets you group individual items of clothing into outfits, and garages that can store motorcycles as well as cars. (Your Jet Skis, boats, helicopters, and planes will need to be kept elsewhere.)
Your crib doesn't look like anywhere you'd want to spend any time on day one.
Once our guided tour of the crib was over we were treated to a look at one of the early stronghold missions from Saints Row 2, in which you'll be tasked with taking out a base of operations belonging to the drug-running Sons of Samedi gang. The stronghold was a well-guarded trailer park that looked quite different from any location in the first game, and we were pleased to see that you'll have plenty of new moves and weapons in your arsenal when you're taking on enemies on foot. The new over-the-shoulder view for precision aiming will undoubtedly prove useful, as will the option to take other characters hostage and use them as a human shield. Gang members and cops will purportedly react differently to you depending on who your shield is, and the Sons of Samedi certainly seemed a little reluctant to fire at one of their own on this occasion. Your enemies will have the ability to hide behind human shields as well. The only new weapon that we got to see during our demo was a satchel charge, which sticks to anything it's thrown at and can then be detonated manually. The resulting explosions were pretty huge, and the potential for creative uses of the charges (you can turn a car or even an enemy into a moving bomb, for example) have us crossing our fingers that they'll be included in the competitive multiplayer arsenal.
Volition and THQ aren't really talking about the multiplayer features of Saints Row 2 yet, except to say that they've learned a lot from the first game and won't be making any of the same mistakes again. What they did tell us about, though, is the option to play through the entire story mode cooperatively with a friend. That's an exciting prospect, to say the least, especially when you consider some of the other activities and "diversions" that you can earn respect and money from in Stillwater. Saints Row 2 will purportedly introduce a number of all-new activities in addition to "the good ones" from the first game. The insurance fraud game in which you attempt to cause as much damage to property and to yourself isn't going away, of course, and promises to be a whole lot of fun with two players working together. Incidentally, all of the activity missions will be optional, since their function is to provide comic relief from the main story, which deals with revenge and is apparently much darker than the first game's.
Based on what we saw during our meeting, Saints Row 2 is shaping up to be a strong sequel to 2006's Saints Row. We look forward to bringing you more information on the game's multiplayer content and other features as soon as it becomes available.
Lead designer James Tsai talks to us about some of the co-op features in Saints Row 2.
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Earlier today, during a meeting with THQ and Volition, we had an opportunity to play Saints Row 2 for the first time. Joining us in the city of Stilwater was the game's lead designer, James Tsai, who was kind enough to play through a stronghold mission and a helicopter activity with us in the two-player co-op mode before the session degenerated into an infinite-ammo-fueled rampage.
Saints Row 2 promises a user-friendly approach to cooperative gameplay that'll let you jump in and out of online co-op games at any time, regardless of how far into the campaign each player is. You'd have to be pretty dedicated to playing alongside a friend to completely avoid playing solo for fear of getting out of sync with each other, after all. You'll be able to help other players out with missions that you've already beaten, of course, but what's really neat is that when playing alongside someone who's a lot further into the story than you you'll have the option of playing through their missions as well. Said missions would almost certainly be unavailable to you in single-player mode at that time, but the game will remember that you've beaten them in co-op and, when you reach them in your own story, will give you the option to skip them accordingly.
Screenshots of the Sons of Samedi trailer park are in short supply, apparently, so here's one of an unrelated locale.
The mission that we played through during today's session tasked us with taking down the same Sons of Samedi stronghold that we were given a brief tour of the last time we saw Saints Row 2 in action. The stronghold is a trailer park where the Caribbean-influenced gang manufactures a designer drug known as Lower Dust. Our goal was to destroy five trailers being used as labs, and thanks to a cheat that afforded us infinite ammo for every weapon in our arsenal, we had no shortage of toys with which to accomplish it. Favorite weapons on this occasion included a shotgun, an assault rifle, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, and satchel charges. The two guns were effective at close- and long-range, respectively; the RPG was useful because it locks on to targets pretty quickly if you position your crosshair over them; and the satchel charges are a lot of fun because they adhere to just about anything (or anyone) you throw them at and can then be detonated manually.
While playing through the stronghold mission we were free to work as closely with or as independently from the other player as we liked, though since you'll have the ability to revive each other when you die it's definitely a good idea to stay pretty close. Simply taking the shortest route through the mission and blowing up the five trailer labs wasn't terribly difficult with two players, and even with numerous gang members attempting to stop us we rarely needed to worry about retreating into cover so that our health could replenish. Our first play-through of the mission was a little underwhelming, to be honest, but that's only because it was a little too easy to beat with an overpowered arsenal that we hadn't started to get creative with yet.
That all changed on our second play-through. Landing satchel charges on a stationary target as big as a trailer isn't very challenging or particularly satisfying, but landing those same charges on cars as they drive by or even on unsuspecting pedestrians who then go into a panic is infinitely more enjoyable. By sticking a couple of charges onto a car and then driving it toward one of the trailers before bailing out and hitting the detonate button, Tsai also showed us how seemingly innocuous vehicles can effectively be turned into powerful missiles. The new cruise control feature that lets you keep your vehicle's speed constant while freeing up your accelerator thumb for other things proved useful here, though its intended purpose is really just to make drive-bys easier. By adhering multiple charges to a pedestrian and then detonating them individually it's even possible to "juggle" the target using explosions to keep them in the air, and when the day comes that we're allowed to capture our own footage of Saints Row 2, you can bet that'll be one of the first things we try.
Another fun feature of Saints Row 2 that we experimented with while playing through the stronghold mission is the ability to grab pedestrians and use them as human shields. Gang members and cops are somewhat reluctant to fire at their own people when you're hiding behind them, and even innocent civilians that gang members will fire upon without a second thought do a good job of soaking up bullets for a time. When you no longer need your human shields, you have the option to execute them with a quick headshot (that doesn't work with the RPG, we discovered; you just break their necks instead) or simply push them away--preferably toward a fire or fast-moving vehicle so that there's no danger of them trying to exact revenge.
The helicopter activity that we played through next will, like other activities, be completely optional as you progress through the game. On this occasion we were tasked with providing air support for a friendly vehicle that was being used to complete a drug deal and coming under fire from rival gangs. In co-op mode, helicopter activities have one player jump into the pilot seat while the other uses a chaingun and laser-guided missile system to take out hostiles. The chaingun seemed a little underpowered on this occasion, while the missiles were perhaps just a little too quick and easy to fire and forget.
We completed the activity from the gunner's seat with a minimum of fuss after shooting down a number of enemy helicopters and blowing up plenty of hostile vehicles on the streets below. We were eager to pilot a helicopter for ourselves, though, so we had Tsai show us to a location where we could jack one and just fly around without having to concern ourselves with objectives. Predictably, the controls for the chopper were a little more complex than those for cars and bikes, but they're still quite easy to pick up. Your accelerator and brake buttons are the same as they are on the street, except that they can also be used to influence altitude, you still steer with the left analog stick and move the camera with the right, and you can use the shoulder buttons to rotate left and right.
And here's a great screenshot of the helicopter that we used to explore Stillwater.
The work-in-progress demo version of Saints Row 2 that we were playing on this occasion afforded us the opportunity to explore only a portion of one of islands that make up the gameworld. From our vantage point inside a helicopter flying high above, though, we were still impressed by the scale of the environment and by the variety of the neighborhoods that we could see. As we flew from one end of the island to the other, we left the trailer park behind and headed toward a large, modern-looking city before ultimately ending up at a museum site that incorporated what appeared to be the ruins of an ancient temple. That's where we ditched the chopper (OK, crashed it) and decided to have some more fun with satchel charges before bringing the session to an end. A few hundred explosions later we still weren't bored of them, and we'd managed to attract the attention of several SWAT teams by the time we reluctantly put down the controller.
Saints Row 2 is currently scheduled to ship to stores later this year. No more-specific release date information has been announced at this time, though we're assured that it will be soon. We'll bring you more information on Saints Row 2 as soon as it becomes available.
Previews: Saints Row 2 THQ demonstrates how to roll with a homey.
By Thierry Nguyen 07/16/2008
You're reading an E3 2008 preview, which we've broken into three sections to make it easy to sift through during this week of convention madness. Check out E3.1UP.COM for all (meaning words, screens, and videos) of our E3 2008 coverage.
What's the game about? If you haven't finished the original Saints Row, I'm about to hit you with a massive spoiler about the end of the game. Saints Row 2 picks up almost immediately after the ending of the original, so any talk about how the game begins will reveal how the first ends. Here goes: [spoiler] After the explosion that supposedly killed you in the original, you actually find out that you're not dead -- you're just in a coma. Saints Row 2 starts a few years later as you wake up from your coma in a random prison hospital somewhere in Stilwater. [spoiler] After your escape from this particular predicament, you start work on making your gang the baddest boys in town.
What's new for E3? Designer James Tsai and associate producer Roje Smith demonstrated two aspects of Saints Row 2: the very first mission and how it plays out when playing with a partner in co-op (which supports system link and Xbox Live but, alas, no splitscreen). Smith created a pretty traditional urban-gangster fellow while Tsai went pretty nuts with the crazy character-creation options (oddly enough, he professes to play the game with serious/traditional characters, but he decided to go wacky for this demo). How weird? Tsai demonstrated how you can take the typically shapely female avatar and warp her dimensions around to make her resemble a feminized version of the Michelin Man (you can alter the menfolk in terrible ways as well), but he settled on having an "average" female build with an "insane" face that grinned a lot, and he accentuated that grin with some goofy clown makeup. Making her hair purple and adding yellow/purple sunglasses wasn't the last thing Tsai did; he also gave her a male voice that oscillates between a Michael Caine soundalike and a random Australian accent. It's an amazingly bizarre yet awesome disconnect to hear that rumbly voice pop out of her mouth during all of the cut-scenes.
The first mission focuses on breaking out of prison and shows off all sorts of features, like human shields, fine-aim mode (now with an enhanced zoom function for certain weapons), and the ability to dual-wield guns. Tsai and Smith methodically worked through the prison guards, and they eventually end up in a mission-ending boat chase; armed with machine guns, Tsai decided to shoot up the police boats while Smith shot down the pursuing helicopters.
If you are anxiously awaiting the story content of Saints Row 2, know that one of the major plot points is how Stilwater has changed over the years. Many of the run-down areas have been gentrified to become a series of chic glass buildings filled with snazzy stores and the like. So not only are you actively trying to get the gang back together, so to speak, but you're also reclaiming the city from The Man.
Finally, Tsai showed off one of the optional side activities: Fight Club. As you can guess, it's an underground brawling sport for cash prizes. Fight Club got that extra weird edge thanks to Tsai's continued use of the male British/Australian hybrid voice with a woman.
What's our take? It does fundamentally look like an improved version of Saints Row, which was generally received as a blatant yet extremely well-made GTA clone. You can do any mission in co-op, and the game tracks the progress of each player -- that's pretty neat. Spiffy new tweaks to melee combat include the aforementioned human shield move. But what about maintaining Saints Row's over-the-top style when it comes to gunplay and violence? That query is answered when Tsai unloads a shotgun on some guard, and the impact of the bullets causes the guard to do some crazy triple air flip/twirl maneuver.
The solid-looking first level is a vast improvement from what we saw in our previous look at the game, which was a functioning but clearly in-development build. The demonstration had no bizarre framerate drops or disappearing weapons. Our main concern is that while this first mission does a lot to acclimate and refamiliarize the player and shows off some incremental improvements, it's all in a very confined scenario. We're especially curious to see the improvements to the open-world part of the game.
But one thing that's pretty awesome is that the game does a good job of keeping whatever clothes/costume you're wearing integrated with the cut-scenes. Tsai briefly showed a ninja outfit before having his character don a hot dog costume. The hot dog costume adds a lovely amount of absurdity and humor into what would normally be a cringe-worthy cut-scene that involves the main character getting the crap beaten out of him before shanking some guy in the neck. It normally looks American History X serious if you have a normal character, but with a hot dog costume flapping around, it just looks weird and awesome at the same time.
New impressions of the crime sequel, including how you customize your gangs.
By Thierry Nguyen 07/31/2008
No matter how it turns out, I have to give Saints Row 2 props for one thing: It's bringing back the themed gang.
Remember the days of The Warriors, the Street Thunder gang from Assault on Precinct 13, or the punks from Repo Man? Days when gangs were outrageously dressed -- and often multiethnic -- bands of mischief makers and not just guys who talk funny while wearing gold jewelry. Those are the kinds of gangs you can roll with in Saints Row 2 (though if you prefer the modern urban thug, those kinds of bad boys are available as well).
Compared to the original Saints Row, the second installment lets you customize your gangs even further. Not only can you customize the types of graffiti your gang tags territory with, the cars they drive around in, or even the signs they throw up on the street, but you can also choose uniforms. Not just bandannas of a certain color or specific kinds of jackets, but full-on ensemble outfits for both ground-level thugs and middle-management lieutenants. A sample of the uniform themes that stood out include '80s (heck, yeah -- headbands, loud pastels, and huge hair), pimp-n-ho, bodyguards, "prephop" (I actually don't know what that exactly entails, I'm imagining Harry Potter's school uniform, but with more bling) and ninja.
Yes, that's right, in Saints Row 2, you can conceivably have an Escalade (well, its SR2 analog) roll up to the curb and unload a band of ninjas to regulate the streets. At the moment I'm having a hard time thinking of something cooler than driving an El Camino-analog filled with ninjas while looking for fast food. The ninja-ness is enhanced by other touches such as the "ronin" fighting style of melee combat (which gives you that kick-heavy kung-fu flair) or Japanese swords.
SCREENS: Click the image above to check out all Saints Row 2 screens.
Of course, in my latest hands-on time with the game, I fully embraced the ninja look. While it was fun to kick fools and swing swords, I went for the un-ninja approach of firing automatic weapons in the later parts of the demo. I first played a rail-shooter-style mission, one where I sat inside a helicopter and unloaded the minigun into some rival gang members -- I first targeted their drug facilities and then their lieutenants, who were attempting to escape in a car. After that, I zipped around in a Jet Ski for a race sequence to get a feel for Sixaxis-controlled gameplay. It's pretty much as you'd expect: tilt the controller around to steer. The Sixaxis motion sensor can be used for watercraft, airplanes, and helicopters (but not cars -- the developers decided that cars didn't quite fit the motion controls).
I then got to play a signature Saints Row mission type: the Stronghold. Like in the previous game, the stronghold is a way to earn a huge chunk of turf for your gang. In this particular mission, I had to break into a private airport, transfer a bunch of money, and finally blow up a bunch of stuff. Lead designer Scott Phillips generously donated a high-end automatic shotgun, an assault rifle with a grenade launcher, and a bunch of satchel charges to my arsenal. In my first try I was able to dispatch the guards and start the money transfer, but I ended up failing because one of the rival gang members managed to pop the computer conducting the transfer with a lucky shot.
SCREENS: Click the image above to check out all Saints Row 2 screens.
On one hand, I'd like to pretend that my awesome skills helped me finish this mission on my second try. In reality, the bounty of weapons, plus a bit of coaching from Phillips, was most likely the key factor in my victory. In the final segment of the mission (which involved a lot of explosion), Phillips advised me to take down gang members from a distance with the assault rifle and its scope. After cleaning up those fools, it was time to hit the supply trucks, and since they were all conveniently parked next to each other, this was obscenely easy. A few well-placed satchel charges did the work for me, but afterward, the final and most difficult objective came up: take down four planes. The first two received the ol' satchel treatment, but the third plane started barreling down the runway. Yikes. This is when I learned one extremely fast way to stop a plane from taking off.
Drive a car into it.
The bad dudes were silly enough to leave a bunch of SUVs and sports cars sitting around at the airport. With the plane becoming smaller and smaller in the distance, a sports car was the logical choice. While zipping down the tarmac, Phillips suggested that I try to get the car in the front of the plane to possibly force it to either slow down or at least veer off course, making it easier to target. I almost pulled that off. Instead, I turned a tad bit early, and, er, the plane's left wing became quite intimate with my car's frame. It wasn't a difficult decision to jump out of the now-flaming car; as an upside, the wing got torn off, and the resulting damage caused the plane to dangerously veer left -- and right into a hangar wall.
After that epic accident, the fact that I laid some satchel charges on the runway and simply detonated them as the fourth plane attempted to take off felt a bit anticlimatic. True, I felt a bit of pride for laying such an "ingenious" trap, but it lacked the spontaneity, luck, and excitement of using a car as a gigantic hammer on a plane's fragile wing. The fact that I was an airplane-exploding ninja is already enough for me to keep Saints Row 2 on my watch-list until its October release.
release date is 14 Oct 2008