Saints Row 2

The Baltimore Sun

Reviewed on PlayStation 3. Also available on Xbox 360. One player; up to 12 players online. Rated Mature for intense violence, sexual content, strong language and drug use. $59.99. ***


With Saints Row 2, the comparisons to this year's best-selling game, Grand Theft Auto 4, are inevitable. They both share underworld plots and open-ended or so-called "sandbox" game play. But where Grand Theft Auto 4 strives for technical and narrative sophistication, Saints Row 2 is, well, just ludicrous.

Luckily for Saints Row 2, the absurdity makes for a highly entertaining if not enlightening game. Loaded with drugs and guns, the game is so obscene it comes across as cheeky parody. One challenge asks players to "go around town and murder rival pimps, recruit their hos and build up a stable of your own." Some people will be shocked; I snickered.

The game puts players into the shoes of an unnamed but notorious gang member. In a coma since the explosive end of the original Saints Row, you awake in a prison infirmary and start killing doctors and guards in a bid to escape. Once on the outside, you find that your gang has dissolved, and it's up to you rebuild the Saints.

Along the way, there are plenty of side challenges (e.g. drug trafficking, insurance fraud) that make the ridiculous main game look staid by comparison. New mini-games include "Crowd Control," where you act as a bodyguard for a celebrity and take out meddlesome fans.

Like the original, the sequel allows players to fully customize the look of their thug. Saints Row's outlandish bent is in full force here: What other game lets you run around beating people with a crowbar while dressed as a hot dog?

Also : out today: : Dead Space (for Xbox 360) challenges players to shoot their way out of a mining ship overrun with zombielike aliens. Dead Space drips with gore, but the designers pace the carnage to create genuine suspense.

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