Saints Row 2
| Saints Row 2

Whereas banks on these shores tend to offer us a selection of free railcards or book tokens when we open a new account, rumour has it that some banks in the States offer first time investors a free firearm or two to sweeten the deal. Can you imagine what would happen if scores of British students up and down the land were awarded with a gun for opening up their first bank account, rather than ten per cent off a bunch of CDs at HMV? The Daily Mail would implode.

That, my friends, is a vision fitting of an apocalyptic planet; people running for their lives and dodging bullets, killing each other and caring about no-one else but themselves. If you're wondering what a world filled with such lunacy might look like, you need go no further than Saints Row 2 on your mobile, where driving cars fast and gunning down rivals is the order of the day. Thankfully, it's nowhere near as grim as it sounds, with THQ making such violent encounters sweet enough for all of us to digest.

That's because progress has been made in regard to the original game's shortcomings. As we discovered during our hands-on preview back in August, rather than sticking with the zoomed-out top-down view that plagued Saints Row, this sequel adds an angle to proceedings and also focuses further in on the action somewhat, enabling you to fully marvel at the cars and people that patrol the streets of Stilwater. And there really is much to marvel at here – traffic casually idles by and folks of the many gangs that live in the city make their way down the sidewalks.

Like almost no other game on your mobile, it's possible just to watch life flow by without any input from your fingers – though it's not as if Saints Row 2 doesn't give you plenty to do. It's possible to wander round sectors of the city at your leisure (albeit, a city is split up into zones rather than a single entity), but Saints Row 2 hands out tasks, one after the other, involving things like taking people out, planting bombs, robbing stores, or committing virtually any other heinous crime you can think of.

Most of them require just a few button pushes, with the challenge being to do so without getting killed by rival gang members or the police in the process. Pretty much everyone, bar random pedestrians on the street and members of your own gang, is your enemy, which is hardly surprising when you consider that your ultimate goal is to reclaim the city for the Saints. Throughout, staying alive is your prime task, and it's not as easy as it seems.

While straight-out shooting or stabbing requires nothing more than repeated tapping of the '5' key when you've targeted the assailant by pressing '#', you're equally vulnerable to attacks yourself, so avoiding unnecessary combat where you can becomes a must – unless that's your bag, of course.

Staying clean is a hard task when you're behind the wheel. Whichever of Saints Row 2's two complicated control methods you choose – one that mimics a real steering wheel, and the other the direction as it appears from above – neither becomes second nature. The end result is a lot of dead bodies (your car more than likely steamrollering over scores of civilians as you contend with both speed and direction) and the police constantly on your tail.

Just how THQ could have handled this differently is not clear, but the current system is a compromise; it doesn't do an especially good job of handing you control of the game's vehicles, but given the game's near top-down view, it's hard to see how this could be rectified.

Which itself begs the question: is a game like Saints Row really made for your mobile? It's certainly packed full of tasks and comes with the added extras you'd expect from a GTA wannabe, but all the various elements of play never really gel as you'd hope and, while Saints Row 2 might have made up for some of its predecessor's mistakes, that doesn't stop it feeling like a collection of genuinely good ideas dragged down by a series of forced concessions.

Saints Row 2

Ambitious action title that attempts to hand you the keys to the city but suffers from one compromise too many in the process
Keith Andrew
Keith Andrew
With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font. He's also Pocket Gamer's resident football gaming expert and, thanks to his work on, monitors the market share of all mobile OSes on a daily basis.