Hands on with Saints Row 2 on mobile
We posted a video of THQ's forthcoming Saints Row 2 a couple of months back, but since then we've been uncharacteristically delinquent about bringing you details. Well not any more. After bumping into THQ's immaculate PR people in Leipzig last week, we managed to sneak away with a handset that contains, wouldn't you know it, Saints Row 2.
The original Saints Row on mobile was slightly disappointing. This isn't to say it was bad, but rather that we hoped for more. Since mobile gaming became even remotely fun, we've been saving a GTA-shaped space on our favourite chair, and Saints Row is nothing if not GTA-shaped.
And it was good. Really quite good, but it wasn't what we wanted. It wasn't ace. It didn't get to sit in the chair.
Saints Row 2 is looking more promising. Amongst the things we criticised first time around were the nasty habit vehicles had of jamming up the roads and sticking to you, and the smallness of the sprites.
You'll be glad to hear that both of these problems appear to be fixed. The roads are now much emptier, and the camera's a good deal closer to the action. It's also at an angle, rather than top-down, which doesn't make a difference functionally, but feels different nonetheless.
The action is, as you'd expect, fairly violent. The first thing you do in the tutorial mode is steal a car. The second thing is kill a policeman. The third thing is drive into a 'Forgive & Forget' unit to shake the pigs from your tail. The fourth thing is mug somebody. And so on.
The graphics are clear and detailed, but their bulk causes problems. Because the sprites are so large there's very little available screen in front of you, so your speed is necessarily restricted. Because of this, you never quite go fast enough to make all the drifting and power-sliding plausible.
It's a trade off between poor general visibility and poor forwards visibility whilst driving. Whether it pays off will be a matter of personal preference.
Outside the car, the controls are perfectly functional. '5' lets you smack people about or shoot them, and if your first strike isn't fatal they'll run away. Being on foot isn't the disadvantage that you might expect, either, since you can run faster than most cars drive.
Of course, a game like this relies on the quality of the environment in which it takes place, and although we've only played through the tutorial the signs are promising. Rain and lightning appear intermittently, owners of 'jacked cars chase you down the street, cops leap out of shunted cars, and people go about their business in a fairly organic fashion.
There are moments of absurdity, though, such as when AI cars blithely flatten AI pedestrians and continue on their way, or trees evaporate on contact with the bumper of your car.
Still, if the original Saints Row is anything to go by, Saints Row 2 will transpire to be a big game, and it's far too early to say whether these problems will be visible against a larger backdrop.
It's due out in October, so click 'Track It!' to hear word of the review.