“This game has a single player mode?”
This was a question I jokingly received from my buddy SkittlesMcGee (a soon to be contributor here) while playing Saints Row 2 in co-op as we so often did. So far, I’ve clocked somewhere close to 180 hours in my main Saints Row 2 save game and I’m sure that at least 150 of those hours was spent playing co-op online. I’m as shocked as you are. To think, when I reviewed it, this was a game that I thought of as being a flash in the pan sort of experience. For as long as it lasted, it would be a great experience, but not one that had any real staying power.
And then, by chance one day, I started playing co-op again.
150 hours’ worth of pure, unadulterated fun later, here I am, reading over my review of Saints Row 2 and shocked that I only devoted one paragraph’s worth of text to this amazing mode. Well, now I’m going to change that by telling you why this is one of the greatest co-op modes you’ll ever play.
Saints Row 2’s biggest asset in the single player mode carries over ten-fold in co-op and that is its unbridled freedom. Sure, you can play through the campaign and side activities (more on those later) with a friend but the real fun in Saints Row 2 is the fun you make yourselves. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that more than half of the time I’ve spent in co-op has been outside of those activities and it’s where I’ve had the most fun. Running/driving/boating/flying/biking around aimlessly doing whatever came to mind was surprisingly entertaining. Whatever came to mind could be anything from stirring up trouble and seeing how long we could last against wave after wave of law enforcement officers to having a fist fight atop the Ultor Tower and it was all incredibly fun.
One of the best features of Saints Row 2’s co-op mode is the fact that you can play through the entire single player storyline and do all of the activities with a friend and when you partake in these activities with a friend, they become that much more entertaining. The biggest benefit of this is that most missions have been retooled for co-op support. For example, in one mission, one player will drive a truck full of fireworks to a certain destination while the second will sit in the back, tossing boxes of fireworks at oncoming gang vehicles attempting to take you down. That’s just one example of the way the campaign missions receive minor changes in the way they play out when you tackle them with a friend.
The activities are also reworked to accommodate two players. Heli Assault is perhaps the best example of this, in which you and a partner in crime take to the skies in a single attack helicopter with one flying and the other controlling the weaponry. While that particular activity is one I enjoyed while playing through it alone, that activity is a great deal more entertaining with a friend. The same goes for all of the activities in the game.
The experience isn’t flawless, sure enough and of course, all of the flaws that were inherently present in Saints Row 2 carry over to the co-op mode. I’ve encountered more full game crashes than I’d like during my hours of co-op play but these incidents were very rare indeed and, my friend and I usually reconnected to one another and resumed whatever madcap shenanigans we had going on prior to the game crashing. Saints Row 2 is a relatively glitchy game at its core and some of the glitches and bugs present are incredibly annoying to deal with and some are even game-breaking. There was one case in particular in which my save file was corrupted somehow to the point where attempting to load it caused the game to crash. Luckily, I was able to load an autosave that was very close to where I’d left off on my corrupted save file and continue on, business as usual but I can imagine that I would’ve been very upset if I didn’t have that safety net.
Sometimes though, those glitches aren’t necessarily a bad thing. While I was playing co-op with a friend of mine, we encountered a hilarious physics glitch that involved one of us tossing a human shield at the other, which usually resulted in that player being sent flying hundreds of feet into the air. It’s amazing how entertaining the act of throwing human shields into one another became after the discovery of that glitch.
One misstep Volition has made in relation to the co-op mode is the poor integration of DLC. Unfortunately, in order to play a co-op game with another player, the two of you must have the same DLC installed on your system. This is very limiting for people who have bought all of the paid DLC, those who have only bought one DLC pack and not the other and those who have not bought any of the premium DLC packages. There are a few friends of mine who own the game that I cannot play co-op with because I do not have the premium DLC that they have and I have no plans to get the DLC partially because I have very little interest in buying it but mostly because I don’t want to be cut off from my other friends who don’t have any of the premium DLC.
The saying “two heads are better than one” has never been more true in regards to sandbox co-op gameplay experiences. GTA IV may have an awesome free mode which supports up to 15 homicidal maniacs running around the city alongside myself but given the choice of playing GTA IV or Saints Row 2, I typically go for the latter. The experience is certainly limited in terms of the maximum player count in comparison to GTA IV but the level of freedom afforded to players within its co-op mode is simply unparalleled. After so many hours of playing Saints Row 2, I am positive that the experience will hold even more hours of fun going forward. Saints Row 2 is the kind of game that never gets old. I’ve done nearly everything the game has to offer in the form of missions and side missions and I’m still finding plenty of entertaining things left to do. This is the type of experience that’s mostly shaped by the player’s imagination. Saints Row 2 gives you the tools for creating incredibly fun gameplay experiences. It’s up to you to take those tools and make something amazing with them.
So, what’s my verdict on this? Saints Row 2’s co-op mode is simply amazing and should serve as the bar for future sandbox games going forward (yes, that includes you Grand Theft Auto). This is one of my most played games this generation and comes incredibly highly recommended. In my book, the co-op mode alone is a 10/10; five out of five stars or whatever grade you’d like to apply to it that synonymous with “fantastic”. Saints Row 2’s co-op mode is just fun and very few games come close to delivering that in such high quantities.