When the original Saints Row came out two years ago, it served to placate fans until Grand Theft Auto made its next-generation debut. Saints Row’s deviant destruction didn’t push the boundaries of what to expect from a free-roaming urban assault game, but it did provide an enjoyable outlet for consequence-free chaos while never taking itself too seriously. Since then, Grand Theft Auto IV has injected a dose of maturity into its typical sandbox fare, removing many of its outlandish behaviors to create a more grounded portrayal of the gangster lifestyle. Saints Row 2 is not concerned with growing up. It is a morality-free alternative to GTAIV, an unremorseful descent into mindless mayhem. The lack of any major advancement in gameplay or storytelling may elicit a few flashes of deja vu, and the technical problems will haunt your every turn, but the unrepentant joy of terrorizing this humble metropolis makes Saints Row 2 a viable palate-cleanser for anyone willing to embrace the role of immoral dirtbag.
Unleashing unprovoked havoc on the streets of Stilwater can be as much fun on the PC as it was on consoles, but while the core elements have made the transition intact, the visuals have taken a serious hit. On a PC that exceeds the recommended requirements, Saints Row 2 has a choppy frame rate and jarring pop-in that make driving around this busy metropolis a pain. The forgiving driving physics make it possible to get from one point to another without too many of crashes, but vehicles and even buildings pop in and out of view with regularity, and any element that requires precise maneuvering will torment all but the most patient players. Firefights are particularly agonizing–trying to mow down a target from afar, even a stationary one, is a matter of luck more than dexterity. If you’re running a machine that far exceeds the recommended specs, you’ll experience a sometimes choppy but ultimately playable thrill ride through this open world, but anyone with a more modest configuration should proceed with caution.