A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this game isn't intended for children. It features extreme violence in the form of bloody murders carried out with guns, bats, blades, cars, and a variety of other potentially lethal implements. It's also a stage for excessive profanity, drug and alcohol use, and intense sexuality, including missions that require the player to move the controls in rhythm with specific sexual acts. What's more, unlike some other games in the genre, the protagonist never shows hesitation or remorse. Indeed, he or she (players can choose to play as either a man or a woman) often deliberately chooses the most violent means possible of carrying out missions -- declaring such methods "more fun" at least once -- and appears to take pleasure in homicide.
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What's it about?
SAINTS ROW 2, like its predecessor, is an adult game not meant to be consumed by younger players. Its gangster-themed play, which takes place in a free-to-roam game world, features intense violence, profanity, and sexuality. The protagonists murder for fun and are concerned with only one thing: increasing the presence and influence of a gang called the Saints in the town of Stilwater. That said, it can be entertaining for older players with a taste for the sort of dark humor found in adult-oriented gangster films, such as those made by directors Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie. There's a dash of offbeat comedy in the words and actions of the game's main characters that manages to keep them on the right side of likeable, despite their criminal nature. The bulk of the action involves hijacking cars and driving through a large city en route to criminal missions that range from trafficking drugs to ferrying prostitutes to dispatching rival gangs.
Is it any good?
If it sounds a lot like the Grand Theft Auto(GTA) games, that's because it is. But it has several traits that distinguish it from Rockstar Games' popular franchise, for both better and worse. Example: Whereas GTA protagonists typically have complex motives and are sometimes conflicted about their evil acts, Saints Row 2's main characters are basically one-dimensional bad guys. Their only driving force is personal gain and the growth of their gang. It would have been nice to play as a character with just a hint of scruples. Still, Saints Row 2 does do some interesting things in character creation. Players have the ability to customize the appearance of their avatar, changing body type, facial features, race, and even gender. Playing as a tough as nails woman gangster with several hardboiled men under her command is a strange -- but not unappreciated -- step towards gender equality in a genre in which women more often than not are relegated to the role of prostitute or nagging girlfriend.
Other differences between Saints Row 2 and its competition in the sandbox gangster category are essentially just small, evolutionary steps forward for the genre. For instance, players can pick up random objects like cinder blocks and barrels and use them as weapons. They also have to be wary of some non-player characters, who are capable of defending themselves with cans of mace and tasers, which can immobilize your gangster for long seconds. While features like these won't sell a game on their own, they do help give this dark, adult-oriented criminal fantasy its own distinct flavor. (Saints Row 2's primary rival at the moment is Grand Theft Auto IV, another gangster game targeted at mature players.)
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about criminal behavior. What do you think drives a person to become a gangster? Do you think that the bloodthirsty, merciless gangsters seen in this game are authentic? Or do you think real gangsters are more complex, that they engage in most criminal acts out of a perceived sense of need or honor? It seems unlikely that characters like those that appear in the game could be dissuaded from continuing their brutal ways, but can you think of anything that could be done to help real gangsters change their lifestyle?
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