Saints Row 2

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Saints Row 2 Game Poster Image
Brutal GTA-like gangster game -- not for kids.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 25 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 49 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

The player's avatar kills innocent people, steals cars, drugs and other valuable items, and generally behaves in unsavory fashion. Unlike the protagonists of some open-world gangster games, Saints Row 2's antihero is not morally conflicted. He or she (players can choose to play as either a man or a woman) kills people not only for profit, but also pleasure. Some missions are possessed of a dirty brand of humor, including one in which players are tasked to spray buildings and people with the contents of a mobile sewage tank.

Positive Role Models & Representations

You play as a gangster with no moral compass.

Violence

Graphic violence is persistent and unrelenting. Players use not just guns, bats, and cars to kill other characters, but also random objects found in the environment, such as chairs and trash cans. Blood is frequently seen, and fatal blows are often highly stylized. A killing stroke with a katana, for example, involves the sword being jammed through the victim's chin and exiting the top of his or her head.

Sex

Features scantily clad men and women, frank conversations about sex, and the sounds of people engaged in the act. Some missions see the player's avatar acting like a pimp, chauffeuring around personal escorts and picking up clients. Others actually have the player moving joysticks in rhythm to particular sexual escapades (though the act takes place off camera).

Language

A cornucopia of cuss words. If it has four letters and can offend, it's here.

Consumerism

No real world brands are featured in the game, but there is plenty of fake, humorous advertising heard on the game's radio stations and seen on billboards scattered about the environment.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters are seen drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, and using drugs. Players also steal and sell narcotics.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 16 year old Written bythebeastparent August 25, 2010

just get this version

just get the platinum hits version it has no sex mini game and sounds of people in the act and plus it has not as much violence.
Parent of a 9 and 12 year old Written byGood Parenting ... June 29, 2009

Not such a bad game after all

I personally think that this game is one of the best games you can play. Some other members say that the game has "Too much sexual content, use of drugs, o... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byecwgmr July 6, 2010
I play this game and it doesn't encourage me to kill police officers to advance the plot except for the prison escape mission. You don't even need to... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byTHE WATCHDOG January 20, 2011

My idea

Watch the language, and skip cutscenes

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?

Game details

  • Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows
  • Price: $59.99
  • Available online? Available online
  • Developer: THQ
  • Release date: October 14, 2008
  • Genre: Third-Person Shooter
  • ESRB rating: M for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Sexual Content, Strong Language, Use of Drugs

For kids who love action games

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