Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Return To Stilwater

Saint's Row 2!  The, actual, unquestionable, irreplaceable gaming legend finally returns thanks to XBONE Back Compatibility.  And it really...doesn't hold up all that well.

It's particularly disappointing because the first time around I was playing on a mid-to-bottom range PC and had to really turn the graphics to the bare minimum and even then it was still choppy.  And the XBONE graphics which I thought would be so amazing...not a whole lot better.  And there are still massive frame-rate drops, especially when rendering water textures.

As for gameplay, it foreshadows the problem I had with Mass Effect:  Andromeda and am currently having with Neverwinter on XBOX.  That is, trying to cram too many functions into console controls resulting in extremely awkward gameplay.  It was a no-win scenario on PC because the mouse/keyboard controls were so poorly optimized that I eventually went out and got a 360 controller anyway.

But what still does hold is the writing and general tone of the game.  I had previously tried Grand Theft Auto III (again on PC with shitty graphics and crap PC controls) and just did not like it.  It's tone (and this can be fairly said for the later expansions and sequels) was relentlessly grim and depressing.  Even the running gags had the air of being told by an exhausted Mall Santa who was running out the last 10 minutes on the clock.  Putting wanton mayhem in the middle of that felt almost sadistic.

Nevertheless, I was fascinated by the idea of a procedural generated open-world, so, after hearing a very good review I immediately logged onto Steam and the rest is, as they say, history.  Where Saint's Row succeeds where GTA fails is that it's not afraid to be a little lighter in tone.  The overall color scheme is even a bit more vibrant.  The characters, good and bad alike, hit a perfect pitch between "realistic" thugs and over-the-top cartoons.  They're just extreme enough that you feel they're "letting you in on the joke" but grounded enough that when the dramatic moments happen they still have impact (one particular moment in the Brotherhood storyline that I wouldn't dare spoil comes to mind)

Despite the flaws, this is a great piece of gaming history and is highly recommended for story hounds.

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