When the original Saints Row came out on the Xbox 360 in 2006, it was the first open-world crime drama on the current generation of systems. But with the release of Grand Theft Auto IV, Saints' developers at Volition know they can't just rest on their laurels. According to Lead Designer James Tsai, Saints Row 2 will come to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on Aug. 26 with some new features, and some others that have been improved from the original, making this more than just a regulation sequel? or a simple Grand Theft Auto clone.
Crispy Gamer: So what's new about Saints Row 2?
Tsai: Saints Row 2 actually offers quite a lot of new stuff. We revamped the combat and have given the player a lot more features, including human shielding and improved melee combat. We have several new vehicle types: helicopters, airplanes, boats and Jet Skis. You can also now play as a woman and can pick your character's voice in cut scenes. You can even personalize your gang and have them dress a certain way. The cars now have cruise control so you can aim without keeping your thumb on the accelerator, which means you can aim more accurately. We also added mission checkpoints, improved the GPS, and have added co-op play, so now you and a buddy can take on missions together.
Crispy Gamer: Does the two-player co-op work for the whole story mode?
Tsai: Yeah, you can play the entire game co-op, and both players can create their own characters, but it's only online.
Crispy Gamer: How does this second game fit in, story-wise, with the first game?
Tsai: At the end of the original Saints Row, you meet with the arch-nemesis, Alderman Hughes, on a boat, and the boat blows up. So you're left with all these questions: Who blew up the boat? Who set me up? In Saints Row 2, we pick up where we left off. You've been in a coma for three years, and when you wake up you find that the city is completely different. The city is a lot bigger, the downtown district has changed, there's now a university, as well as a prison island that you're going to break out of, and there are new rival gangs that have taken over for the ones you destroyed in the first game. But the big news is that there's a new company, the Ultor Corporation, that is overseeing the economic rebirth of the city; it's responsible for a lot of the new construction. So your objective in the game is to figure out what it's up to. Ultor loves to play the part of the white knight, but it's really dirty.
Crispy Gamer: Since the game's story connects so strongly to the one in the first game, will you be able to carry your character over from the original game, or get some added bonus for having a Saints Row save file on your hard drive?
Tsai: No, things don't carry over. We actually explain it by saying that the boat explosion means you need plastic surgery.
Crispy Gamer: The first game featured such actors as Michael Clark Duncan, Mila Kunis and David Carradine in the cast. Will the new one?
Tsai: Yeah, we're going to have a great cast. We're not saying who yet, but we do have several returning characters, including Johnny Gat [who was voiced by Daniel Dae Kim of "Lost"], Troy [Michael Rapaport from "My Name Is Earl"], and Julius [Keith David of Halo 3].
Crispy Gamer: Will you be getting Hollywood talent to be the voices for the player character as well?
Tsai: We're still finalizing our player voices right now, but you won't be just choosing between a male and a female voice -- you'll have several choices within each of those.
Crispy Gamer: Now I'm gonna be a dick here for a second, so forgive me. Some have accused Saints Row of being a Grand Theft Auto rip-off. First, do you think those comparisons are valid?
Tsai: I think? of course we're going to get compared to Grand Theft Auto. We're both open-world urban games. Where I see us differentiating from them is that they seem to be moving in a more realistic direction, while we take a more hyper-real, over-the-top, exaggerated world with tongue-in-cheek humor. I also think our co-op play is a big deal as well.
Crispy Gamer: Besides the co-op, will there be any competitive multiplayer modes?
Tsai: Yes, we'll have a whole competitive multiplayer mode. We're being a little tight-lipped about the details right now, but it will be more than just your standard deathmatch.