THQ knows the way to win over video game journalists. All they have to do is put an event together and promise "fighting, drunkenness and nudity." And if the prospect of nakedness, alcohol and all-out brawls wasn't enough for you to make the trip to San Francisco, then they promised that there would be a man in a hot dog suit making milkshakes. Don't ask.
This week THQ decided to take the time and show off the multiplayer component of the much-anticipated Saints Row 2 for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. They did this at a club called Slide, found in downtown San Francisco. They featured more than a dozen widescreen HDTVs and plenty of demos of the near-finished Saints Row 2. This was my first chance to play the game's online multiplayer modes, which I quickly learned is more than just something added on to what promises to be a deep story mode.
But first … drunkenness. After checking my ID, the Slide bartenders opened up the bar to whatever I wanted. I figure if I'm going to experience fighting and nudity, then I might as well get all liquored up. When in Rome, as they say.
With a few strong drinks in me, I was just about ready to listen to the developers talk about what sets this game's multiplayer apart from all of those other online-enabled games on the market. At first glance this Saints Row looks and feels a lot like the game that came out back in 2006. It is still a Grand Theft Auto-style open world sandbox game, the type of experience that allows you to go anywhere and do anything. The question is: how does this style of gaming translate to a competitive online arena?
As the original game (and this year's mega-selling Grand Theft Auto IV) proved, the open-world sandbox game is ripe for online gameplay. This game may not be breaking new ground in the genre, but at least the multiplayer mode was interesting enough to warrant a look. Will this be the game that everybody quits playing Call of Duty 4 and Halo 3 to play? Probably not, but those looking for a unique online experience need not look any further than Saints Row 2.
As with the original game, Saints Row 2 offers several different online modes to play through. There's the obvious stuff, such as a deathmatch-style mode that you can play either by yourself or with teams. This mode is a lot like what you found in the original and should not be a surprise to anybody that has picked up a first-person shooter (or any other type of shooter) in the past ten or fifteen years. You can play it with up to eleven other people, giving you a room with a dozen competitive gamers.
Of course, if that was the extent of Saints Row 2's online mode then there wouldn't be a reason to invite us game journalists to San Francisco to play the game. The big news was a new mode called "Strong Arm," which is a four on four battle for money and respect. This isn't one of those modes that just has one or two things to do, instead you and your team try to complete a bunch of random tasks before the other team does, ultimately giving you money, which in turn leads you to victory.
So what are these tasks? Well, they're random, which means that you can go from trying to protect a "ho" (their term, not mine) to competing in a race to finding yourself in a demolition derby. I was impressed with the amount of different tasks you had to complete, each short enough to never get boring. If this mode is even half as good as I played, then this is going to be one heck of an addictive online game.