Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Saints Row 2 - 10/20 hours

The story of Saints Row 2 is divided into three mini-stories which mostly don't have anything to do with each other. Each of the stories centers around the Saints' conflict with one of Stillwater's three upstart gangs. I've just finished defeating The Brotherhood, a gang of intense, tattooed muscle guys who drive around in big trucks that blast heavy metal. And their leader is Michael Dorn! Or, more accurately, a character voiced by Michael Dorn. It's still pretty cool, though.

The Brotherhood story is one of pride and revenge. Maero offers the Saints a lopsided deal for control of the city - 80/20, favoring the Brotherhood. The Boss takes this as a deadly insult and kills some of Maero's men in retaliation. Things just keep getting worse from there. The Saints adulterate Maero's tattoo ink with radioactive waste. The guy who helped you escape from prison dies from getting dragged behind a truck. A woman is locked inside a car trunk and crushed underneath a monster truck. It's pretty gross.

I guess I don't have what it takes to be a criminal, though, because the initial 20% offer actually sounded pretty good to me, considering that the Saints were basically just five guys with no control over anything. I suppose it's a matter of chance, though. If I'd played the Brotherhood missions third instead of first, I'd have been in a position of overwhelming strength and the 20% offer would have required me to give up two-thirds of my power. Sure, that would be an insult, but starting a war over a single insulting business offer just strikes me as impulsive and irresponsible. Which is probably why I'm a mild-mannered hotel night clerk and not the boss of a sprawling underworld empire.

The thing I liked most about the Brotherhood story is that Maero was a complicated character. It would be easy to write the big, scary-looking guy as a witless thug, but he's very believable as the leader of a powerful gang (except for the scene where he bursts into Ultor HQ and manhandles the CEO . . . why would anyone think that was going to work). Sure, he often flies into terrifying rages, but he's also frequently the voice of reason and restraint, and though his violence is brutely physical, it is usually deployed with cunning. I think, of the three gang leaders, he is the one with most in common with the Boss. So perhaps it was inevitable that the two would come into conflict.

Honestly, though, I'm a bit ambivalent about Saints Row 2's main story. I'll get into it more when I've finished the Ronin mission, but while it is well-constructed, its tone is too gritty and serious for the bonkers world of Stillwater. Like, there's this reality show, Fuzz, where the cops they were going to follow around didn't show up and so they hired a gangster to pose as a cop and drive around town "apprehending" criminals with the help of chainsaws and flamethrowers, and when you encounter the real Stillwater PD, they just sort of go along with it, even going so far as to jump in your cruiser and help you out. It's funny, and I love it (especially the parts where you have to stop NPCs from doing the same ridiculous criminal activities that the Boss gets up to in the other side-missions), but it's not the sort of backdrop that works well as a setting for a serious drama about the folly of revenge.

It's probably an artifact of starting the series with Saints Row: The Third, though. Maybe if I'd played this game first, I'd think that the later entries were too silly for their own good.

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