Friday, December 16, 2011

Saints Row: The Second

While the rest of the world is busy with the polishing of their lightsabers or the rimming of their sky, I turned my attentions to an older but equally deserving title: Saints Row 2.

'But surely you must be aware that they released the third installment recently?' Ah, but I wasn't about to pay full price for a game I would most likely not enjoy.

Saints Row falls in a genre I like to call "thug-oriented sandbox" or "thugbox" for short. I was never a big fan. In fact, the last game of the kind I played was GTA3 so I was well behind the times. I'm as comfortable playing them as I am in sitting on a warm toilet seat. Still, I felt the need to drive around a bit and maybe buy some new clothes. Seeing as I can't actually drive and I have no budget for clothes this month, I struck a deal with Mike: he could have his SWTOR if I could have the same sum of money in Microsoft Points. Thus I acquired Saints Row 2.

I purchased it full aware that I was by no means the game's target audience. I value human life dearly since I grew up and realized my own mortality. So the prospect of going on killing sprees wasn't exactly the most appealing to me. The character customization and the city to explore were, all things I enjoyed in GTA3. That and the car radio.

I decided to plow through the game as non-nonchalantly as possible, doing as little bloodshed as possible. I absolutely abhor American gangsta culture so I was delighted when, in character creation, I was given a choice to go for a more... European approach to outlawing. Now, I was born in a world where every proper super villain/crime lord has a british accent, with Mojo Jojo being the obvious exception. More recently I fell head over heels in love with goody-two-shoes archetypes like Alistair in DA (thank you Mr. Valentine) and, to a lesser extent, Anders and Hawke himself in DA2. So off I went sporting what I heard called a "Cockney Accent". Has cock in it, will do. I was going to be stylish, I was going to be smooth, I would bring a taste of Old Country to those sunsabitches. And I would do it all in a snazzy suit. I made him ginger to boot. If you're going to be a prick, ginger pricks are sexiest, as a friend taught me not so many moons ago.

I have to say, I wasn't expecting much from the story at all, I just started going through it in the hopes of acquiring enough money to buy more expensive clothes. But, somehow, I got quite interested in it. At one point I stayed up until 6 in the morning just to take down those Sons of Samedi for good. I couldn't find the name of the guy that did my character's voice acting but I was pleasantly surprised. I remember thinking it could only get any better if it was Boots doing all the swearing. He has a knack for it.

One aspect I found completely hilarious is the way I started earning respect. How much respect you have dictates what missions you can embark on. More respect means more missions, more missions mean more story content and more respect earning opportunities. Your Style rating (the money you spend on your homes, your cars and your clothes) dictates how much bonus respect you gain by doing mundane things like nearly avoiding a traffic accident or shooting a rival hoodlum in the nuts.

Scene: Two ne'er-do-wells sitting on the curb, sharing a smoke. A faint sound creeps from around the corner, louder and louder, the sound of a roaring engine, an island voice asks if you can hear the thunder. The car turns sharply, leaving a trail of disembodied limbs and hot dog stands in its wake as it disappears as suddenly as it came, the islander advising a dash for cover.

'Did you just see that?'

A billow of smoke rises silently from his lips.

'That was one nice hat he had on...'

And so it was that I came to love the game, with all the running-over of animal mascots and indiscriminate RPG launching. Random NPC interaction lead to some golden comedy moments. Like that time when I was idled in an intersection, enjoying that hour's rendition of another 80s classic when I spotted an ambulance mowing down an old lady. She was having none of it, though and she pulled the EMT out and bashed him to death, leaving the ambulance to cause a massive traffic jam. Or when I decided to hijack one of my underlings cars but, instead of pushing out the driver like he'd insulted my father's virility, I sat in the drivers seat, with two of my three-man entourage taking the back, leaving the third on the sidewalk looking a bit miffed. He then took me for a little ride around town to the sound of Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries.

I developed a deep bond with my character, the one that took me on all those late night drives in the rain against cheap Styrofoam traffic lights. I grinned contently when I caught him singing along to A-Ha's 'Take on Me' while driving a boat through the sewers. And not just for a while, no, he sang the whole damn thing, even the nut-crunching chorus, and he sang it as poorly as a gangster ever should.

I got so attached to him that I took 2 hours of my life to dig out my old camera and tape a little tribute to him, my first ever at that.

Now excuse me while I go stylishly off some more rival thugs.

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