We Used to Own This City! The Saints Row Retrospective: Saints Row 2

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Saints Row Retrospective Introduction hereSaints Row 1 here, Saints Row The Third here.

Saints Row 2. This is where it gets real. The first Saints Row was good and all, but this is where the series cut its teeth. You’ve probably heard of the Saints Row series being wild, chaotic, and proudly removed from reality, but if you started with the first Saints Row, you would understandably end up confused. “Why don’t I get to crash into things on a quad while on fire?” you might ask. “Where are the missions where I let lose with a septic truck?” “I thought I would get to kill people with a giant purple dildo!”

Well, you don’t get to in the first game. That game has its moments, but it still leaves a foot in the real, the rational, the “mature.” It was content with its position as being “mostly a GTA clone” and did not stretch itself any further than that. Saints Row 2 was where the series got its wings, where it finally took efforts to distinguish itself from Grand Theft Auto and its many imitators. And although Saints Row 2’s gameplay did get updated, that’s not what really sets it apart. This is where the Saints Row character was defined. This is the game that established the insane moments, wild fun, and blatant, loving immaturity the series is known for. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Gameplay

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Beyond the character, Saints Row 2 adds a lot to gameplay, turning the engine from the first game into something actually enjoyable. I played this game first, and picked up the original Saints Row later, and I recall my impression at the time being something along the lines of “Saints Row 2 is just Saints Row without the suck.” Much of the ways they improved things are hard to see going backwards. Moving from the original to the sequel, though, is an entirely different experience. It’s mostly a lot of little differences that add up to make a much better experience overall. Of course, there are a couple of more obvious changes as well, fixing up many of the flaws that kept dragging Saints Row down.

The most obvious advancements, at least to me, is in the driving mechanics. On the basic level, driving just feels a lot tighter. The controls feel a lot smoother, sharp turns are easier, and driving feels a lot more precise. I was zipping between gaps in traffic, driving on and off the sidewalk, crashing through people’s yards and sending my car through crowds of gangsters with a lot more ease than I was last game. The field of view has changed; lowered a bit, so now the camera is more behind your vehicle than above. This leads to quite a few times where you’ll be sidelined by something from off camera, but you can see what’s in front of you a lot better. Funny how that might be useful when driving around. There’s a lot more variety to vehicles too. In addition to the cars, trucks, SUVs, etc. from last game, you can now fly helicopters and planes, drive motorcycles and four wheelers, and pilot boats and jetskis. Car combat is plentiful in this game as well, but it’s made a lot easier by one very welcome addition. You’ll recall last time that I complained about not being able to accelerate and aim at the same time because both those functions used the same thumb. Well no more! It seems somebody at Volition actually bothered to play the game this time, and came up with a solution! Thanks to the magic of cruise control, you can now set your car to keep going forward and safely take aim at whomever’s giving you trouble. Well, as safe as you can be waving a gun around and not paying attention to where you’re driving.

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On-foot controls are much improved as well. The basics are still the same, you still run, jump, and shoot like a typical third-person shooter, but the controls, especially aiming, are a lot less finicky. It’s a lot easier to point your gun at something with precision, and if you’re having trouble, you can zoom in for some extra help. I can’t overstate how much the added precision helps. Running around shooting thugs actually feels good now. Melee combat as well has gotten both more interesting and more viable. Trying to bum-rush groups without a gun in hand will still get you shot down, but at close range both hand-to-hand combat and melee weapons can have you moving between enemies faster than you might by gun. Hand-to-hand in particular has benefited from having both four distinct martial styles as well as finishing moves. Additionally, you’ve now got the ability to take human shields and to throw enemies, giving you a lot more variety in a fight.

In general, the game feel is a lot better here. I’m not going to say it’s got great game feel, but it’s definitely a few marks above average. Gone is the sluggishness of last game, your character is a lot more responsive now, and it works wonders. Both on foot and in vehicle controls are a lot more precise, making it far easier to pull off the maneuvers you’re intending to without your character veering off in just the wrong angle. The camera’s pulled closer, especially when your behind the wheel, giving you a much more direct sense of action and movement.

The format is largely as we remember from last time. This game does use the same engine, after all. It’s a big, open world crime simulator, that exists primarily for you to mess with. You’re actively encouraged to just screw around with the world, too. Once again, you need to earn respect to unlock the story missions, but this time around they give you respect for pretty much everything. Drive on the wrong side of the road? Respect. Flip off some policemen? Respect. Get your car up to top speed and bail out just before it hits a crowd of people? Yeah, you get the point by now. You don’t get a lot of respect this way, but it does provide a small amount of encouragement to just get out there and screw Stilwater up.

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Customization is a very strong factor in this game, and you’re given a lot of tools to make it work. You can finally be a woman character. It only took them a fair degree of internet whining before the developers thought that might be something people would like to see. Thanks to tweaks to the graphics engine and the degree of changes you can make, you’ve finally got a wide array of options on facial and body structures to work with. You can actually make characters that aren’t big fat-faced blobs, for once! Clothing options, which were previously fairly limited, are now much more varied, and you’ve got more options to customize them as well. Additionally, you can customize your cars, your cribs, and even your gang’s style and preferred cars. It doesn’t always have much of a gameplay effect, but it’s still nice to take something and make it your own. Being able to customize things is one of a video game’s option that I tend to have a lot of fun with, and Saints Row 2 goes above and beyond most other games in the customization sphere.

Once again, most of the respect you’ll get for your story missions will come from activities, which are small little sidequests with a specific stated goal in which you usually commit some form of lesser crime than your usual mass murder. Although you’ll probably go through plenty of mass murder in the process of these lesser crimes, so… don’t pull your morals out just yet. Some examples of activities include joining in fight clubs, pretending to be a police officer for a COPS-style reality show, and driving prostitutes and their clients around town. Most of the activities from the original Saints Row are back, and the ones that aren’t… well, we’re not exactly worse off for their loss. Most of the returning activities have some minor improvements that make them a bit more fun to complete, such as combo meters in the insurance fraud and mayhem activities. You’ve also got a lot more incentive to complete them, too. Aside from the required respect and money, you’ll also get bonuses for completing them, just like in last game. This time around, there’s not as many levels in the activities, so you’ll get these bonuses faster, and the bonuses are much more significant. You’ll be getting stuff like special weapons, unlimited ammo, faster healing, reduced damage, and other things that make it well worth your time to be going through these activities.

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Again, the story missions are the main thrust of the game. They do seem a bit less varied than they were last time, but there’s still enough different about each one that there were very few times I got bored with them. They usually center around killing gangsters. Usually, you go some certain place and kill gangsters. Sometimes you drive around and kill gangsters. Other times, you may be defending a particular person or location while killing gangsters. There are some variants on this, though. Sometimes you kill gangsters with swords. Other times you might kill them with bombs. Sometimes you might have to escape after you’re finished with killing gangsters, killing some more as you flee. Occasionally, you’ll have to kill someone who’s not even a gangster. Like a bum or a cop or something like that. Luckily, though, combat is quite varied and really fun, and you’ll be in so many different situations that all this gangster killing rarely ever gets dull.

They’ve done a lot to tighten up the design in the sequel. Glitches, while still present, don’t occur nearly as often as they did in the first Saints Row and aren’t nearly as large a factor on play. Getting bullets, one of my strongest complaints in the sequel, is now more in line with… well, what they should have done in the first place. It’s a bit more standardized game design, stuff you’ll see from any developer, but getting your resources is a lot simpler in this game. Bullets now fit into any weapon of that type, and you can buy bullets separate from guns, so you’re no longer going to be dropping $20k on a mission’s worth of ammunition anymore. Enemies no long spawn within firing range, able to attack as soon as the game creates them. There are a lot more things to buy and stuff to do outside of activities and missions, and most of the biggest issues with each individual gameplay aspect has been mitigated somehow to make them, if not enjoyable, then at least more tolerable.

Of course, where’s the fun in removing glitches without putting more in? Generally, the game is much less glitchy… in the Xbox 360 version. I hear the PC version has so many bugs entomologists have started running studies on it in labs. Even the 360 version doesn’t come off cleanly; there’s still one issue that plagues it, one issue that they really should have corrected, one issue that has caused me so many ragequits and is one of the reasons this retrospective is coming up so long after the last one. The game has the unfortunate tendency to just freeze up after you’ve completed a mission. Like, right after. You finish the mission, do your traditional victory dance through the living room in your underpants, and come back to find the code is not reloading after the ‘Congratulations You Did It!’ screen. And you don’t get the chance to save after the mission, either. All that hard work? Well, you’ll have to restart and do it again. It’s frustratingly common, too. It happened to me about once every two or three hours. Generally, the game runs much smoother, but that’s large enough of an issue that I would be remiss not to mention it.

There are also a few issues with some things that haven’t really changed in the engine to match some of the new features. Case in point, you pretty limited in how far you can look up. Apparently all the explosions and murder you’ve been through has given you a stiff neck. Last game it wasn’t a problem, because last game didn’t have helicopters. This game does, and oftentimes they’ll be high enough that you won’t be able to aim at them as they’re firing at you. Given how deadly their missiles are, this can be a game-ending oversight.

This is also the first game in the series where they’ve implemented paid DLC. I wouldn’t recommend biting at that particular worm. Each of the two DLC packs gets you three missions which are largely poorly implemented, go on too long, and are not designed particularly well. They do get you a bit of unique equipment, but nothing particularly game changing, and the missions themselves are either boring or frustrating. I still regret actually spending money on those. It didn’t stop me from buying the Saints Row 3 DLC, but that’s only because I’m a little dumb.

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But even with these problems, Saints Row 2 is a very fun game. One of the best sandbox crime simulators, I’d say. It managed to fix so many problems that dragged the original down, and in doing so turned itself into a thing of absolute beauty. If you’re into sandbox gameplay, solid third-person action, and aren’t bothered by casual violence in games, this would probably be a very good one to try.

Stilwater

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We’re back to our old haunts this game. Well, mostly. Saints Row 2 takes place in Stilwater, the setting from the first Saints Row game, five years after that boat exploded with our hero on board. It is very familiar driving around, and you’ll bump into quite a few recognizable sights. The team took great pains to replicate even the street layout of the first game, and you can still go visit some of the old landmarks, such as the Saint’s Church, Price’s Mansion, etc. There’s been quite a bit that’s been expanded on, too. According to the lore, Stilwater experienced a massive earthquake sometime in between games. Massive enough to turn the town from a peninsula to an island. In effect, you’ve gone from this in Saints Row 1:

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to this in the sequel:

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Thanks to the new construction they’ve had to do after that earthquake, there’s about one and a half times as much landmass to work with in the sequel, mostly developed on the left side of the map. Not only that, they’ve greatly expanded the amount of indoor locations as well. While the first game was almost entirely an outdoors affair, with Saints Row 2, you’re inside some building or other pretty much every other mission. It really serves to make Stilwater in Saints Row 2 seem much larger than its former incarnation was.

The atmosphere of the town is still pretty consistent, though. It’s still a grungy, industrial city. While the city’s been added to, each individual district is still largely the same as it was last game. The only district to undergo major changes is the Saint’s Row district, your old home. The Ultor Corporation (yes, Red Faction fans. That Ultor Corporation.), a mere clothing manufacturer in the original game, has built themselves up over the past five years to the point that they pretty much control the city. They’re making their new base of operations right behind your old headquarters, putting the tallest building in Stilwater, the Ultor Tower, just a couple blocks from your form house. The entire district has been turned around, from a hive of poverty and gang activity to a high-class industrial headquarters. The church itself, your base in the initial gang, has been completely restored and turned into a tourist spot, complete with former Saints boss Julius as a tour guide.

Tone

So from here on in, we’re going to be talking about the plot, so I’m going to have to lay down a nice bold Spoiler Warning at this point. If you haven’t played the game yet and you still want to, you might want to skip this section. If you haven’t played the game and don’t plan to, or you have played the game and just want a refresher, I’ve got a nice, long plot summary later in the piece. You can scroll down to that for context, then pop back up here for the meat of the thing.

Anyways, I mentioned before that Saints Row 2 takes the original’s wild, irreverent tone and stretches it further. It’s not quite to the point of cartooniness yet, but it definitely plays violence and chaos for a light laugh. This is a video game! You’re not supposed to wonder about the families of the people you run down, you aren’t supposed to wonder about the ethics of shooting up gangster by the thousands, and you aren’t supposed to feel all dead inside over the havoc you’ve caused this poor city. Instead, you’re supposed to attempt to ramp your car off a jump and land on another car so hard you glitch through it. You’re supposed to lead the police on high speed chases through highly populated public parks. You’re supposed to see if you’re able to fling gangsters into the back of a garbage truck from three stories up. The game’s developers know that if you hand players a living, breathing sandbox world, they will immediately treat it with all the grace and maturity of a two year old kicking down a block tower they’ve spent hours building, and would have just as much fun. This is a game about embracing the chaos you can bring to an open world, of finding fun through simulated violence. They present to you the tools and toys you need to inflict destruction on the world, knowing you’ll find your own fun doing so. That mentality is backed up through the game mechanics. Wanton, random destruction is encouraged in certain missions and activities. There are parts of the game that actively encourage you to find your own weirdly fun moments. They’re giving you a playground here, and they’ve geared engine, setting, and plot towards making sure you get as much out of it as you want to.

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That said, just because the game is a lot more wild doesn’t mean it isn’t darker. The new Saints are run by you and Johnny Gat after all, the two most violent characters from last game. And you do a lot of wicked, evil things. You are the worst kind of comic book supervillain with no hero to stop you. You kill the wounded and defenseless. You bury a man alive. You trick one man into crushing his own girlfriend. You process an enemy’s body into prepackaged meals. The story, if not Stilwater itself, is much edgier than it was last game. You’re not fighting to stop the gang wars and save lives anymore; you’re in it for yourself, and you just enjoy killing. The fact that the protagonist speaks now only makes things worse. Your character is actively sadistic, and demonstrates his or her psychopathic nature over and over again.

Themes

Escalation

This is all over the game on both an in-game and meta level. Just following along the game’s plot, all three lines deal with escalation of some form or another. The Brotherhood probably has the clearest examples. Your dealings with the Brotherhood start with Maero insulting you. So you blow up his trucks and inject nuclear waste into his face. So he tortures and kills your lieutenant. So you trick him into killing his girlfriend, and cripple his best friend. So he and his gang destroy everything they can find in your turf. So you shoot up the Brotherhood’s base and everyone you find there. The other two gangs are no different. The Ronin go from not thinking you’re worth the bother to assaulting you at funerals and trying to sink entire districts of Stilwater around you. At the beginning of the game, you’re not even in open warfare with the Sons of Samedi, and are simply trying to take the drug market out from under them. At the end, you’re laying siege on police stations just to find out where they are. Rather than ebbing and flowing like last game, with various organizations gaining then losing control, in Saints Row 2 the gang wars only ever get worse, until you’re the only one left standing.

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On the meta level, you can see this happening to your capabilities in the game. As you complete more and more activities, you gain more destructive power, until you’re carting around homing rocket launcher with unlimited ammo and can run forever without stopping. It’s also much escalated over last game. Your bodycount is higher, your capacity for destruction is higher, and there are many more ways for you to wreck chaos on the town than there ever were before.

Relations between Generations

Specifically, that’s generations of gangsters, not generations of age. A lot of the plot covers how the new gangsters deal with those who’ve earned tenure. You and Gat have only been out of the picture for five years, but you’re already the old guard compared to both the other gangs in Stilwater, and your own reformed Saints. Maero even calls you out on that right at the end of the first Brotherhood mission, and your entire conflict with that gang is sparked by the fact that they think you’re old and washed up, too much so to properly control Stilwater. They’re the young blood out to prove themselves better than those who came before, namely you. You can see the same themes in the other gang’s plotlines as well. The Ronin deals with modern gangster Shogo Akuji’s futile quest for his classic yakuza father’s approval. The Sons of Samedi see the relatively inexperienced Veteran Child pushed around and terrorized by those who’ve already made a career out of crime back in their homeland.

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Even within the 3rd Street Saints, it’s apparent. Just look at your lieutenants. They all seem fairly new to the thug life, and The Boss, monster that he or she is, takes a decidedly parental role with each of them. You mentor Carlos, aiming to ‘make a banger out of him’. Pierce and Shaundi compete with each other for your approval. Whenever any of them are in danger, you’re immediately rushing out to save them, even leaving Johnny Gat to handle himself to do so.

Plot Summary

Backing up a bit here, let’s set the stage by going over a bit of the last game. You were the Playa, enforcer for the Third Street Saints and the fastest rising star of the whole organization. Over the course of the game, you silently killed your way through the other three gangs of Stilwater to end the gang violence and bring peace to the streets. Yes, really. After you forced the other three gangs out of town, you were promoted to second-in-command of the Saints, just in time to take command once Julius, the boss, was arrested. The chief of police held Julius hostage and forced you to kill the current mayor. You did so, then killed the chief and confronted the incumbent mayor, who was behind the whole scheme, on his yacht. Before things could get ugly there, the yacht exploded, leaving the fates of everyone on board uncertain.

Saints Row 2 picks up five years later. Turns out you survived! Who would have guessed?!

The Boss

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This is you, the same character as last game. Playa no longer, you’re taking control of the newly formed Third Street Saints. You talk now. A lot. And you’ve got a real personality, too. Turns out you’re the psycho that everyone played you as throughout the first game. You love violence, and strippers, and a good one liner. You can be a girl now, too! And if you are a girl, you were totally a girl the whole time, what are you talking about? Either that, or they just gave you a sex change while you were unconscious, and I think I’d prefer the retroactive continuity version.

Turns out, ever since the boat explosion, you’ve been in a coma in a prison hospital. Troy, the undercover cop placed in the Saints five years ago, has been making sure they keep you on life support rather than just pulling the plug. I’m not sure they can legally put you to trial, and thus prison, while you’re unconscious, but something tells me ethics may be a little lax in the Saints Row Universe.

In 2011, you wake up. Hooray! Then you promptly begin to… sit in your bed for a while. Some berserker gangster you are. Luckily, Carlos comes in to save the day. Apparently you’ve become a legend while you were out, and Carlos’s brother was some nameless thug in the Saints, so he decides he just has to meet you once you’ve woken up. He gets himself shanked so they’d take him to the hospital. Yep… yep, that’s Carlos.

Carlos Mendoza

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Carlos is… well, probably not too cut out for the gang business. He doesn’t have a whole lot of self-confidence, and doesn’t seem to build up either the planning or combat skills necessary for the criming you call on him to do. He’s a loan shark, which is probably what landed him in prison in the first place. He has a habit of just taking the most direct solution to any problem. Hence the shanking.

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Carlos does at least come up with a plan to break out of prison, which involves fighting all the guards and then stealing a boat. Again, direct planning. Carlos isn’t a schemer. You take that plan, thus proving that the entirety of the prison guards are no match for a man with a bleeding gut wound and somebody that hasn’t moved a muscle for five years. Getting off the prison island, Carlos lets you know that the Ultor Corporation’s taken everything over, and all the Saints either dropped their flags or got arrested over the past five years. Moreover, after the Saints eliminated the other gangs of Stilwater then vanished themselves, three new gangs rose up to fill the void. Turns out that happens when you get rid of gangs without getting rid of the underlying causes. SOCIAL COMMENTARY!

You both make your separate ways upon hitting the mainland. Your first stop is someplace to change your clothes, and your second stop is the strip bar, because you’ve got priorities. The news is playing on the TV at the bar, because obviously there’s nothing better to pay attention to at a strip bar. Turns out that the day you broke out of prison is the same day they’re putting Johnny Gat on trial for murder. Taking a brief moment to beat up the other bangers in the bar for pissing you off, you rush to the court house, guns in hand. A quick and absolutely harmless in-and-out later, you and Gat are evading the police, making your way to Aisha’s house.

Johnny Gat

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As you may recall from last time, Johnny Gat was one of the lieutenants in the first incarnation of the Third Street Saints. Except for the fact that he doesn’t dye his hair anymore, he’s still pretty much the same as he was last game. He still loves violence in spite of all else, and still pursues it in the face of any available non-violent alternatives. Case in point, the only reason he got caught in between games was that, instead of leaving town, laying low, or doing anything that might keep him off the radar, he tried to kill Troy for betraying the Saints. As you might expect, the police didn’t take too kindly to that. He’s still dating Aisha, and is your closest companion throughout the game.

He lets you know that Troy’s become the chief of police, and that Troy’s been the one making sure that both you and Gat actually survived prison. You and Gat have your reunion with Aisha, who’s still laying low after you faked her death five years ago. The two of you decide to reform the Third Street Saints, with you in charge and Gat as your second-in-command and enforcer. The first thing you decide is that you’ll need a base, and Aisha refuses to have all those bangers in her house. Luckily, Gat knows a place. An earthquake in the 40’s sunk parts of Stilwater below the surface, which was later built over, and there’s a church that empties out into an old, now subterranean hotel. There’s a bunch of homeless living there now, but since when has something like that stopped the two of you? You clear it out, and that leaves getting some actual members for your gang. Although the two of you together can likely visit more violence upon Stilwater than the other three gangs combined, it’s hard to call yourself a gang if you only have two members. Gat’s charged with gathering up the foot soldiers, leaving you to recruit three lieutenants: two people that impressed Gat in jail, and one familiar face.

Carlos is back to his old loan sharking business upon getting out of prison. He’s more than happy to join up with the Saints, after you help him collect some collateral for a loan. So you steal his client’s hearse. You’re a tasteful fellow.

Shaundi wants you to impress her before she joins. Apparently she’s a fan of Dukes of Hazzard. A couple of reckless jumps later, and she’s in.

Shaundi

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Shaundi is always relaxed, easygoing, and just loves a good time. She’s a big druggie, hangs out with the college crowd, and seems to really enjoy sex. She has had a lot of boyfriends. It comes in handy, though. Using that network of former boytoys, she fills Troy’s old role as the Saints’ information gatherer. She’s initially not much of a fighter, although she grows in that field a bit towards the end of the game. She pursues your approval throughout the game. She’s also appeared in the real world Playboy magazine as one of their “Virtual Vixens” if you’re… you know… into that sort of thing.

Pierce has got some sort of grudge against the Ronin, one of the three Stilwater gangs, and wants your help settling it. With bullets. Once you’ve made a few bodies, he happily joins up.

Pierce Washington

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Pierce is kind of the buttmonkey of the game. He gets picked on a lot. He’s an intellectual, and fills Dex’s old role as the Saints’ strategists, but since the leadership of the gang is now in the hands of you and Gat, his strategies tend to be ignored. When he comes up with a good idea or some unique information, Shaundi steals it. Still, though, he does fill an important role as the ideaman of the group. He enjoys classical music and bad singing, appreciates fashion, and competes with Shaundi for your approval. He’s also ambitious, seeking to rise within the Saints at every opportunity.

With those three recruited, you return to your new base. Gat has successfully rounded up a new crew, and is in the process of canonizing them when you arrive. With these new members, it’s official. The Third Street Saints are back.

Third Street Saints

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Last game, you were, at least on the surface, a force for good. You sought to end the gang wars and make things safer for Stilwater. Even Julius told you towards the end that you saved a lot more lives than you ended.

This is a very different gang than it was last game. You and Johnny Gat are the only people who were members of both, and that should give you a sign as to what this new gang is like. Rather than any sort of benevolence, you seek to take control of Stilwater for your own means. You’re much more violent than before, push drugs harder than before, and are much more willing to draw innocents into your conflicts. Rather than fighting the other gangs with purpose, this time, you’re initially going after them just because they’re in your way. Like before, your gang bears the color purple, although beyond that, you get to choose yourself. You can pick the style of your gang members, what vehicles they drive, what their tags are, and several other things. Your gang fights like street thugs; direct, style-less, and brutal.

Once everyone’s gathered, you give your big orientation speech. You’re not elaborate or poetic like Julius was with his “I don’t care what flags you’re flying” deal. You repeat elements of his speech, but you’re much more direct. You declare that the Saints have returned, that you’re going to once again own the city, and assign your lieutenants each to direct the operations against a gang. Pierce gets the Ronin, Shaundi leads against the Sons of Samedi, and Carlos covers the Brotherhood. At this point, the narrative once again breaks into three lines, that you can follow at your whim.

But wait, waitwaitwaitwait. That doesn’t tell us anything about what happened at the end of the last game. A lot of our crew just disappeared for the final mission, and we have no idea what exactly caused the boat to explode. We can kill the other bangers ’till the cows come home, but there’s still some plot threads that need to be wrapped up. What was the deal with the yacht explosion that ended the first Saints Row and sent you into a coma for five years?

Luckily, there’s a mission with the answers to these questions. A secret mission. A mission so secret it’s easy to play through the game several times over without even realizing it’s there. The content is oriented towards endgame-level characters, but you can start it at any point, so long as you know where to go. If you go to the police station, and make your way towards Troy’s office, you’ll find three recordings of phone conversations. The first is between Dex and Troy, fairly late in last game’s plot, probably right after Dex helped you kill the chief of police. Dex realized Troy was an undercover cop, but decided not to do anything about it. He’d been offered a position at Ultor, and was just going to walk away and leave the rest of the Saints up to fry. The second is between Troy and Julius, in which Troy offers to let all the Saints off the hook if Julius can convince you and Johnny Gat to leave the gang behind. The third conversation is again between Troy and Julius, right after the bomb went off. Julius didn’t think you’d ever drop your flags. So, in order to keep the cops off his back, he decided to kill both you and the incumbent mayor. Julius was the one that set the bomb and put you into a coma for five years.

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My search stats tell me that several people found the last Saints Row post trying to figure out just what exactly the Boss’s beef with Dex was. Well, for those of you still looking for that, it starts here. You find Dex’s number in Troy’s office and give him a call. Dex offers to meet you at the church, the Saints’ old headquarters, and help you find Julius. Arriving at the church, you find Julius there instead of Dex. You react to his presence as will as the average psychopath would react to someone who’d previously tried to kill them, and bash Julius around while he tries to tell you that Dex set you both up. Dex, wanting to sever any ties to his old gang life, sends in Ultor’s security team to kill the two of you. You and Julius fight your way through them, and affect some old fashioned destruction through the streets, before finally ending up at a theater set in the upper class district. Then you shoot him. Julius says that the Saints ended up being just as bad as the gangs they ran out of Stilwater, and didn’t do anything towards ending the gang war. He claims that he had to kill you, because you never would have left da lyfe. So you shoot him again. This one seems to stick.

Well, that was fun, wasn’t it? Let’s get back to killing bangers!

The Brotherhood

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These guys take over the Westside Rollerz’ place as the resident vehicle-based gang, but instead of being focused around fast cars and racing, the Brotherhood’s into large trucks and demolition derbies. They carry that same attitude into their general activities. They’re probably the least organized and best armed of your rival gangs, and tend to stay away from more nuanced crimes in favor of smash-and-grab operations. They do seem to be maintaining fairly strong gun smuggling operations, though. The gang’s mostly white, are big fans of mullets and tattoos, and wear very basic clothing. Their gang’s color is red, and they fight with wrestling moves.

Your campaign against the Brotherhood starts with a phone call. Carlos has made contact with the Brotherhood, and they’re willing to negotiate a partnership with the Saints. You and Carlos meet up with Maero, the Brotherhood leader, at the Stilwater Caverns tourist spot.

Maero

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Yeah, big guy. Strong guy, too. He used to be workout buddies with the Los Carnales’ Victor ‘Tanque’ Rodriguez, and has similar physical strength and toughness. He leads the Brotherhood, and, thanks to the gang’s lack of organization, also seems to fill pretty much every official role in it. He’s the gang’s boss, its enforcer, and does the duties that would be normally left to a lieutenant. He’s ill-tempered and violent, yet is very loyal to his friends and comrades. He also has a passion for tattoos. In case you couldn’t tell.

Anyways, you and Maero don’t get far in negotiations before the police show up, having heard about the meeting because Maero is not one for planning and trying to catch two gang bosses at once. So the three of you fight your way out of the caverns and make your way back to the Brotherhood’s base, where you meet the rest of Maero’s crew.

Jessica Parish

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Jessica came from moneyed stock, and seems to be the closest thing the Brotherhood has to someone with real brains. Maero’s girlfriend, she’s the only one who’s able to get through to him when he goes into a rage. Unfortunately, she’s very vindictive and can be quite sinister herself. She’s also a bit of a racist.

Matt

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Matt’s not technically part of the Brotherhood, but he wears their colors, and is Maero’s best friend and the tattoo artist for the gang. He plays lead guitar for the Feed Dogs, a metal band that literally nobody in Stilwater likes.

Donnie

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Yep, he’s back, and once again serving as the chief mechanic for one of Stilwater’s gangs. He’s just as we remember him from last game, weak-willed and easily manipulated, although you’re a little more forceful about it than Lin was. Speaking of Lin, Donnie still seems to be pretty torn up over her death, in spite of the fact that she never cared about him and was simply using him for the Saints purposes. Poor guy.

After meeting everybody, it’s back to business with the Brotherhood. That partnership they were talking about, they’ve got a big project coming up, and they’re willing to split it with the Saints… 80/20. Obviously, you don’t take too kindly to that, and Maero makes it clear he thinks you’re a has-been, that you don’t have what it takes to deal with the new gangs. You’re just going to have to prove him wrong, aren’t you?

You start by catching up with Donnie, as he visits the place where Lin was drowned. You’ve got some pro-bono work for him to do. Namely, attaching bombs to several of the Brotherhood’s trucks. After some convincing at gunpoint, he’s happy to do it. Sure, he complains the whole time, but we all know he’s just hiding his joy. His work done, you drop him off at the Brotherhood headquarters, where Maero is absolutely livid about you turning his offer down. Apparently that was a serious offer, he just needs to work on his people skills a bit. Donnie runs in crying about what he did, mentions some mysterious shipment, Maero almost kills him for not… getting himself killed earlier or something, but Jessica talks him down.

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Fresh off that success, you meet up with Carlos to find out what he learned about the Brotherhood, which is… nothing. Good job Carlos. You’re disappointed but committed to turning Carlos into a real gangster, when a glimpse of the nuclear power plant gives you an idea. And an idea inspired by a nuclear plant can only be the best idea. Picking up a geiger counter at the weapons store, because apparently they sell those, you head over to the plant. A quick in-and-out later, you’re calling Carlos to come pick you up, nuclear waste in hand. Carlos, in his great wisdom, rather than picking up a helicopter from your stash and any of your homies who can fly it, decides to just pull a gun on a chopper pilot and force him to do the pickup, and the dude’s not too good under pressure. Luckily, you and Carlos survive the trash, and are able to make a third trip to Fort Brotherhood and sneak the nuclear waste into Matt’s tattoo ink. Some time later, Matt unknowingly makes use of it, and it boils some flesh off Maero’s face.

In retaliation, the Brotherhood kidnaps Carlos. Jessica gives you a call to let you know that they’re going to give him a similar makeover to what you gave Maero. In a rage, you assault Donnie’s garage and shake Donnie down to find their location. You arrive there to find them dragging Carlos over the asphalt on the back of a truck. You disable the truck and try frantically to free Carlos. Unfortunately, it’s too late for him. He’s lost too much blood and flesh to the road, and doesn’t have long left to live. Silently, you take his hand, and give him one last bit of mercy. It’s a really dramatic, touching scene. Then, you immediately ruin the emotional impact by calling up the voodoo store and getting Carlos back as a zombie companion, just like Lin of last game.

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With Carlos gone, both Pierce and Shaundi start filling in on leading the charge against the Brotherhood. Shaundi’s playing hacky sack outside a bank, which is apparently a thing people still do. She spots Jessica going in to deposit a payment for that shipment Donnie mentioned three paragraphs ago. Shaundi gives you a call, you drop in, fight your way past the police, stuff Jessica into the trunk of her own car, then make your way to the college stadium, where Maero is scheduled to compete in a monster truck show. You somehow slip Jessica’s car among the rest of the junkers, and wait for Maero to crush it, with Jessica still inside. Then you do the whole supervillian emerge-from-the-shadows thing, toss him the keys to the trunk, then slip off like the smooth criminal you are.

Afterwards, you realize what a foul move that was, and are filled with regret. Not over making Maero kill his own girlfriend, of course not, have you been paying attention? You’re feeling down over not pumping Jessica for information before doing her in. Luckily, Pierce has an idea. That Shaundi immediately steals. The Feed Dogs are performing that night, meaning you know exactly where Matt will be. You and Pierce sneak into the concert venue using a scheme that involves a fireworks truck and lots and lots of explosions. Stealthy explosions, though. Once inside, you continue that commitment to stealth by sneakily strolling right on stage and smashing Matt in the face with a guitar. Then hitting him with a bunch of other stage equipment and chasing off the rest of the band. Stealthfully. Unfortunately, the Brotherhood tries not to get Matt involved in the affairs of the organization, so the only thing he knows is that the shipment’s coming by boat. Dissatisfied, you force Matt’s hand over the pyrotechnics and kick off the fireworks, crippling him and ruining both his vocations.

In retaliation, the Brotherhood’s running rampant over the Saints turf, killing gangsters, robbing Saints-protected stores, and torching the streets. To make things worse, the Saints crew that showed up to help got arrested, so its all on you to stop them. And you do. You’re kind of a beast. The police manage to arrest a significant number of Brotherhood members, too.

Meanwhile, Maero is making a visit to the Ultor Corporation’s Head of Special Projects Dane Vogel, who… you know what, he shows up a lot and there’s no better place for this, let’s get a bio up there.

Dane Vogel

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Charismatic, respected, intelligent, ambitious, power-hungry, ruthless, wicked. Dane Vogel is completely committed to the success of the Ultor Corporation, so long as it benefits him, as well. He’s a very well connected man, and seems to have his fingers in most everything that goes on in Stilwater, including the new gang wars. He’s not much of a fighter himself, but is incredibly resourceful. He’s responsible for a lot of the advancements that happened in Stilwater while you were unconscious, and he was the one who turned Dex away from the Saints at the end of the last game.

Anyways, Maero forces his way into Vogel’s office. He wants Vogel’s help in getting his boys out of prison and taking down the Saints. Vogel doesn’t care much for the idea, but changes his tune after Maero dangles him out of the window of his skyscraper for a while. Vogel makes the call to Troy, and the Brotherhood members are set free.

The release of the Brotherhood members is a big enough event to make the news. Apparently, you do watch the news once in a while, so you’re able to react quickly enough to stop it. By destroying every single vehicle the Brotherhood’s being transferred from prison on. Well. Nobody can say you aren’t direct.

As you might expect, Maero isn’t too happy about this, and he breaks into Ultor again to do something about it. Because Vogel’s connections are even able to bring people back from the dead, or something like that. Vogel’s ready for him with Ultor’s security force/private army this time, and in the face of such superior firepower, Maero just leaves with his tail between his legs. And that’s the biggest difference between you and him. Anyways, as he’s leaving, Vogel calls out to him. Ultor’s already beat you to the punch and found out about the shipment that Brotherhood’s been planning for all game, and are seizing it as payment for their help in getting Maero’s crew out of jail. Poor guy just can’t get a break.

Maero, fast losing control, has been shaking down people at the dock trying to find when his own shipment is going to be coming in. He’d been leaving enough of a trail that Shaundi was easily able to pick up on the same information he got. It’s a massive shipment of weapons they’re bringing in, and Ultor’s already taken the boat. You fly out there and put a stop to their presence, just in time for the Brotherhood to show up and try to take the boat for themselves. As you might guess, with you sitting on a boatload of heavy weapons, it doesn’t work out so well for them.

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With the Third Street Saints now having a bunch of brand new hardware and the urge to use it, you begin a full-on seige on the Brotherhood headquarters. You kill your way to the roof of the warehouse they call home, where Maero is waiting for you with a minigun and satchel charges. Seems those could have been more useful on the ground floor, before the Saints broke into the building and killed all his men, but whatever. Maero soaks up a lot of fire, and eventually, your fight causes the roof to collapse beneath you. You fall a couple stories, wrestling with each other the whole way. You get the upper hand on Maero, just in time for Matt to tackle you off him. He gets a brick to the head for his trouble, but he still buys enough time for Maero to escape with Donnie.

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At this point, Maero may yet live, but the Brotherhood is pretty much broken. Of course, you’re not willing to let things rest until you’ve burned the ground beneath the Brotherhood completely. Maero gives you a phone call, summoning you to the Ultor Dome to finish things completely. You show up alone. Maero doesn’t. The remnants of the Brotherhood are all in their vehicles, ready for a destruction derby with you as their only target. You fight them off, destroying Maero’s monster truck in the process. Maero’s trapped in the wreckage, leaving him only time for a snide remark as you finally execute him, leaving the wreckage of the Brotherhood behind you.

The Sons of Samedi

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The Sons are strongly influenced by Haitian culture, or at least as Haitian culture appears in American pop culture. Both spiritual and highly militaristic, the Sons of Samedi control Stilwater’s drug trade with an iron fist. They take their name from the Vodoun lord of the dead, and are known for being fearless in combat. Failure is punished harshly with the Sons. They’ve got a stranglehold on the university district, and most of their members seem to be fairly young. The bear the color green, primarily drive lowriders and muscle cars, and fight with a variation of Capoeira and machetes.

The first mission against the Samedi starts simply enough. The Sons have been pushing their designer drug Loa Dust throughout Stilwater University, and are making copious amounts amounts of money. In my first draft, I used the phrase ‘mad bank’ in the last sentence, and now I hate myself just a little bit more. You want in on the Loa Dust market, but you have no idea how to make it. Shaundi’s idea: go kill a couple of drug dealers and bring their products back for analysis. Sounds like it’ll work well enough, so you do so. Of course, killing their dealers is going to have an affect on their bottom line, and when the Sons meet at the end of the day, it’s immediately noticed. Which leads us to our characters!

The General

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No, we don’t know what his name is. It’s never mentioned. The General is refined, very polite, and absolutely ruthless. He had great success with violence and the drug trade in the Caribbean before settling his gaze on Stilwater. He demands utter loyalty from his crew, punishing betrayal or failure with ritualistic mutilation. He is incredibly calm and level-headed, and seems rather distant, guiding the gang through his lieutenants whenever possible.

Mr. Sunshine

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Second-in-command, enforcer, and voodoo priest for the Sons of Samedi, Mr. Sunshine is not someone you want to mess with. He is incredibly quick to violence, and acts out the General’s commands without question. Voodoo has given him mystic powers, too, because in this game voodoo can do that, as evidenced by all the zombies you’ve had as comrades. He’s rumored to be immortal.

Veteran Child

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The Triple Platinum Veteran Child is a DJ, heads up the Sons drug dealers, and is one of Shaundi’s former boyfriends. Evidently, he’s not really good at any of those things. You can actually listen to him on one of the in-game radio stations, if you’re so inclined. Aside from being one of those white boy rastas, he really doesn’t seem to fit into the Sons. He’s non-violent, doesn’t seem too committed to the gang lifestyle, and is not nearly as sharp as he needs to be to hold his position.

The three of them meet in the General’s limo, with Veteran Child passing of the day’s collections. Noting that the wad of cash is considerably smaller than it should be, the General presses the matter, to which Veteran Child confesses he couldn’t get in touch with all of his dealers. Having no idea of the Saints’ involvement at this point and suspecting the dealers are simply stealing from him, the General charges Veteran Child to investigate. Mr. Sunshine contributes to the discussion by making some very mean faces.

Turns out Shaundi’s not quite up to the task of reverse engineering the mystery drug. Luckily, she knows someone who can do it, but that someone is still in prison. Hordes and hordes of police officers have never stopped you, so with the help of some explosives, you break back into prison. Turns out this person Shaundi knew is Laura, the drug-dealing domestic goddess you helped out in some side activities from the first game. Stealing a helicopter on the way out, because subtlety just confuses you, you take her back home to her new husband, Tobias, another drug dealer you helped out five years ago.

Laura has no problem breaking down the Loa Dust, and passes the recipe off to Shaundi. Of course, being able to make the stuff isn’t going to help you much if there’s not an opening in the market, so you decide to cut off the Sons of Samedi’s supply. Shaundi’s drug addled brain conveniently remembers a past boyfriend telling her where the Sons grow their ingredients, and Tobias is more than happy to give you a ride to the farm in his helicopter. The flames and destruction you provide yourself, however.

Of course, the Sons of Samedi are going to take notice when a maniac dressed in purple razes their farm with a helicopter-mounted machine gun, and they quickly figure out the Saints are behind their recent troubles. However, they can’t quite figure out how you knew about the farm. So they go to Veteran Child to try and figure out the leak. Turns out the DJ was Shaundi’s old boyfriend who let her know where the farm was, and he quickly puts two and two together. The General gives Veteran Child an ultimatum, either kill Shaundi, or be burned alive. The General’s a cheery guy, in case you couldn’t tell.

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To his credit, Veteran Child tries. He just walks straight into your underground hotel headquarters and accosts Shaundi out in the open. Not a planner, that one. He knocks her out, but before he can finish her off, you stroll up. Who would have guessed he might run into you in your own base? He takes Shaundi as a human shield, the only thing that’s preventing you from filling him with holes, and escapes. Then he gives you a call and tells you to meet him at a nightclub to throw down. Surprise, surprise, it’s an ambush. It works about as well as all the other ambushes you’ve lived through. Veteran Child wasn’t there, but Pierce is able to track him to another club. You show up there, and the DJ’s still holding a now conscious Shaundi as a human shield. A couple well-applied flashbangs negate that advantage, and you turn Veteran Child into swiss cheese. Shaundi’s no worse for wear, and makes her way home.

Some time later, you meet Shaundi at a frat party, where she introduces you to another of her ex-boyfriends. This guy knows where the Sons have been setting up their chemical drug labs, and of course you can’t have that in your town. So you blow all the labs up. This catches an entire district on fire. Don’t do meth, kids.

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With the amount of trouble the Saints are causing him on the rise, the General charges Mr. Sunshine with taking your gang down. Mr. Sunshine suggests that they meet with you personally. So, as you’re strolling down the street, minding your own business, the General’s limo pulls up and a couple of Samedi thugs jump out and knock you unconscious with baseball bats, because they can do that in cutscenes. They drug you up while you’re out and attempt to “negotiate”when you come to, but of course, no matter how many narcotics you have coursing through your veins, you just don’t have it in you to submit. So they try to kill you, you fight your way out of the limo and cause a pile up in the highway, then Shaundi phones you to let you know the Samedi are laying siege on your base. You drive there and arrive just in time to save Shaundi, then Pierce shows up, and the three of you fight off the invasion.

After you’ve sobered up, Pierce starts whining about not getting enough work, and Shaundi gets a call letting her know that the Samedi are shipping product into Stilwater by helicopter at that very moment. Figuring on solving two problems at once, you have Pierce chauffeur you around while you blow the helicopters up. Pierce doesn’t do a very good job of it. But he tries. He does well enough that none of the helicopters touch ground intact, at least. Somehow, this must really be Mr. Sunshine’s fault, because the General cuts of his ear for his ‘failure’. It does little to improve Sunshine’s looks.

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At this point, the Sons of Samedi have no Loa Dust left, and a ton of junkies begging them for product. Mr. Sunshine is a very reasonable fellow, so he murders one of the junkies and commands the rest to steal the Dust from you. Apparently somebody knows where you’re stashing the stuff, because they start showing up in droves at your warehouse. Pierce goes and retrieves a truck to move the Dust to your better-defended headquarters while you and Shaundi kill some bums. Then you defend everybody as they load up the truck and drive it back to your headquarters. And honestly, it’s just a bunch of junkies, I’m not sure what Sunshine expected them to be able to do. At the end, you do catch one of them and manage to beat out of him Mr. Sunshine’s regular haunt. Turns out the guy hangs out at an old meat-packing plant.

Shaundi wants to come along with you, but you leave her at base, figuring that if she can’t handle a fight with Veteran Child she’ll have no chance against the Samedi’s enforcer. You fight your way through all the thugs in the meat-packing plant, making your way to Sunshine, who attacks you with the power of his voodoo doll. Yes, really. You shoot it out of his hands, which apparently doesn’t hurt you any, then gun him down until he’s dead. Then you turn your back and he gets up again. So you shoot him some more. Then, just to make sure he’s good and dead, you cut off his head and toss it into the assembly line, where it’s turned into a tv dinner. And yet, the Sons of Samedi you pass in the street after this mission still claim he’s going to rise again. Well, we’ll see about that. Maybe in Saints Row IV.

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That leaves the General as the sole remaining member of the Sons’ leadership. Unfortunately, you don’t know where to find him. He makes his base in his limo, and that’s constantly on the move. Shaundi’s got an idea, though. An idea that will make it impossible for you to leave her behind. An idea that is so boneheadedly stupid it could only come from your most drug-happy lieutenant. In the first step of her plan, you and Shaundi disguise yourselves as repairmen. Then, you go into the policestation under the guise of repairing their computer systems. Then, Shaundi hacks into the traffic camera system and reroutes it to the Saints headquarters, which sets of the police station alarms and makes your disguise absolutely pointless anyway. Also, just a side note, this mission is just straight player punishment. Shaundi takes forever to hack the system, there’s not enough enemies in the police station to occupy that time, there’s not checkpoint after she finishes, and if you take the game’s recommended escape route, you’ll be sitting ducks for the police helicopter’s instant kill homing missile, sending you right back to before Shaundi started hacking anything. It’s a pain, is what I’m saying.

It pays off though, because it’s not too long before the Saints find the limo through those traffic cameras. Gathering up Shaundi and all the other Saints on hand, you guys head to the entrance to Stilwater’s underground mall, lying in wait for the limo. As it passes nearby, the Saints smash a bus into it and run it off the road. Your lack of subtlety is rubbing off on them. You and the rest of the Saints kill the General’s escort, but the General himself manages to escape to the underground mall, so you and Shaundi give chase. Apparently the Samedi were prepared for you, because they’re already all over the mall. The General even had a military vehicle prepped for him here. By this point, you’ve probably got all manner of explosive devices in your pocket, so it doesn’t stop you much. You destroy the General’s vehicle and kill the man. And steal his cigars. At this point, there are Samedi still alive. But they’ve got no leadership, no drug trade, and no turf, so they really can’t be called a gang at all anymore.

The Ronin

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So the Ronin are ostensibly a Japanese gang, although they seem to have aspects of other Eastern cultures as well because all Asians are pretty much the same, right? Aside from their boss, you don’t see too many traditional yakuza trappings from the Ronin. Instead, they’ve got a lot more in common with the bousouzoku, the teenage biking gangs that were pretty problematic for Japan in the eighties and early nineties. Appropriately, they predominately drive motorcycles and ricers. Their turf takes up most of the upper-class areas of Stilwater, and they’ve got some apparently very nice protection deals going on with Ultor. Aside from that, they’ve kind of taken over the Vice Kings’ role of committing vice crimes. Gambling, prostitution, and drugs bring them in a pretty solid income stream. Their ranks are made up of mostly Asian-Americans and whites, and they’re probably the most well-trained gang combat-wise. They fight with katanas and what looks to be Tae Kwon-Do. Their gang color is yellow, and I’ll just let you make your own jokes here.

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The campaign against the Ronin starts out with Pierce planning an almost exact replica of Grand Theft Auto San Andreas’ overly complicated casino heist. Luckily, you and Johnny Gat have more sense than the protagonist of that game, and decide to forget Pierce’s plan and just shoot the Ronin-protected casino up instead. Having done so, you take the money to Aisha’s place while word gets to the upper ranks of the Ronin, introducing us to two of our leading antagonists this round.

Shogo Akuji

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Ruthless, prideful, and really, really dumb, Shogo Akuji doesn’t seem to care that much for the gang life. He is, however, leading the American branch of the Ronin, as his father is the gang’s leader back in Japan. Johnny Gat doesn’t think much of him, and his own gang often questions his leadership. He doesn’t have a good relationship with his father, and constantly tries to get daddy’s approval. He’s pretty acclimated to American culture, and seems to prefer it to that of his homeland. He always seems to prefer pleasure over work, and only does the gang-running stuff when circumstances really demand it.

Jyunichi

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The Ronin’s enforcer. In contrast to Shogo, Jyunichi is all business. He’s cold, very loyal to Shogo’s father, and quite skilled with a blade. In fact, he’s never seen using a gun. And just like Anthony Green from last game, he’s a pretty boring character. Let’s move on.

Basically, at this point, Jyunichi wants to do something about your assault on the casino they were protecting, but Shogo doesn’t really seem to care. Shogo verbally brings Jyunichi in line, then gets back to what he was doing before the casino became an issue.

At Aisha’s place, you, Gat, and Pierce are arguing about something or other when your heist pops up on the news. Troy tries to cover for you, but it’s pretty clear that you were the ones committing the casino robbery. Turns out the casino was owned by Ultor. What fun! With your newfound fame in mind, you and Pierce launder that money.

Meanwhile, Shogo’s father found out about your robbery, is pretty dissappointed in him, and decides to come to America to take over the Stilwater branch. Finally taking you seriously, Shogo decides that the Saints need to die before his dad makes it over, and sends a bunch of his folk after you.

Back at Aisha’s house, Johnny Gat finds a member of the Ronin lurking around the neighborhood. You and he interrogate the guy, and learn that Kazuo Akuji is coming to town. Johnny heard some pretty dire stories about the elder Akuji while in prison; apparently the man is a big deal. You head out to find out what the Ronin are up to, and run into them on the streets prepping for an assault on your base. It’s a pretty simple matter to make sure that they never reach your headquarters alive.

Vogel, like the Shogo’s dad, is pretty upset that the Saints managed to get away with robbing Ultor’s casino, and puts pressure on Shogo to do something about the Saints. Shogo passes the buck onto Jyunichi, who is already waiting outside Aisha’s home.

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Some time later, you and Gat are returning from doing whatever it is you two do in your leisure time. It’s probably best not to ask. Aisha’s been taken captive by Jyunichi in here own house, were a bunch of the Ronin are waiting in ambush. The Ronin’s enforcer promises not to harm her as long as she cooperates. Seeing the door to Aisha’s place ajar, you and Gat immediately detect something wrong. Gat calls for Aisha, who immediately tries to warn you of the ambush, but Jyunichi slices through her before she can even finish her sentence. With Johnny in a rage, the two of you kill every Ronin in the room but Jyunichi, who manages to escape after running Gat through. With the help of one of the other Saints, you manage to hold off the Ronin and get Johnny to a hospital.

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Pierce has managed to get the passenger manifests of the planes coming into Stilwater, and tips you off to when Kazuo Akuji is getting in. You and Pierce shoot your way through the Ronin at the airport, trying to make your way to Kazuo. While you kill a bunch of lieutenants, the oyabun is nowhere to be found. Turns out that Jyunichi stopped by to welcome the elder Akuji to Stilwater, saw you on your way in, and managed to sneak Kazuo off his plane and away from the airport. At least that’s how he explains it in a phone call to Shogo, who’s not in his dad’s good graces, to say the least.

Kazuo Akuji

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Johnny Gat refers to the elder Akuji as a ‘boogeyman’, and that’s a pretty accurate designation. Absolutely ruthless, Kazuo has no qualms about sacrificing his men if it achieves his ends. In spite of his age, he’s still a deadly combatant. He’s never liked his son, and always views him as a big dissappointment. The man’s the founder and international leader of the Ronin, and has come to Stilwater to bring the American branch in line.

Shogo’s pretty upset with Jyunichi for getting so close with his father, and calls you up to let you know where the enforcer is hanging out. Aisha’s death is rubbing raw on you, so you make your way there and fight your way in. You’re immediately jumped by Jyunichi and his bodyguards, and have yourself a badass sword fight with all of them. And by ‘badass’ I mean completely lame, because you have to play the sword fighting minigame, and it’s just not as good as straight shooting him in the face. Anyways, Jyunichi’s twin blades and lifetime of training are no match for your ability to just pick up a weapon and instantly be an expert in it for no reason, and the Ronin enforcer gets a blade through the skull for his trouble.

Kazuo gets the news of Jyunichi’s demise, and goes into morning. Shogo vows to finish what Jyunichi started and end the Saints, but Kazuo doesn’t care. He just wants Shogo away.

You visit Gat to let him know you’ve avenged Aisha. It’s lucky you did, too, because you’re there just in time for the Ronin to assault the hospital, trying to kill Gat. You’re lieutenant’s still wounded, so you wheel him out of there on his hospital bed, killing Ronin all the way. Thanks to a conveniently placed helicopter, you manage to get Gat back to Saints headquarters.

Vogel gets both the Akujis in for a meeting. He’s not too impressed that the gang he’s partnered with is assaulting the hospital, because for some reason, that’s a little bit of a PR hit. Kazuo isn’t willing to dance to Vogel’s beat unless Ultor pays up some more cash, which he’s not willing to do. After some basic disrespects are exchanged, the partnership’s off. The Ronin lose one of their major income streams, and Ultor has to go somewhere else for protection.

So Vogel comes to you. Not for protection, you’re more likely to rob Ultor than defend them. Instead, he simply wants to let you know the hotel where the Akujis are staying, as a sort of vengeance for snubbing him. Leaving Vogel in Pierce’s care just in case it’s a trap, you and Johnny Gat make your way to the hotel. It’s a glorious hotel, too, one of the tallest buildings of that section of Stilwater. You make your way up each and every floor, slaying Ronin and setting bombs, before base jumping off the hotel as it explodes. Unfortunately, neither Shogo nor Akuji were there, but with all the Ronin you’ve killed, you’ve still dealt them quite a blow.

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Next up, it’s time for Aisha’s funeral. You and Gat are in attendance when Shogo, desperate to get his father’s approval, shows up. For once, Gat pleads for peace. He’s willing to fight any other time, but he wants more than anything to give his wife a proper burial. Shogo’s having none of it, and he proceeds to… run off while the rest of his gang attack you. Obviously, you fight them off, catch up with Shogo, and throw him to Gat’s mercy. Johnny proceeds to lay a cold, systematic beatdown on Shogo, even punching him through a tombstone while the Ronin leader begs for mercy. With Shogo not willing to leave even a funeral in peace, neither of you are in a very charitable mood, and you’ve both got pretty sick minds. Slowly, silently, you stuff Shogo into a coffin and bury him alive.

 ronin_10_medium

Some time later, back at Saints headquarters, Pierce shows up with Mr. Wong, one of the guys who gave you assassination side missions last game. Turns out Wong has had a longstanding grudge against the Akujis, and is quite pleased you killed Shogo. Then you hear the sound of motorcycles. Pierce was spotted and followed here. With Mr. Wong and his translator at your side, you and the rest of the Saints prepare to defend your base. You keep the Ronin at bay long enough for Kazuo himself to appear, then you do enough damage that Akuji has no choice but to flee. He’s… actually a worse tactician than his son. At least the Ronin managed to draw blood under Shogo’s leadership.

Mr. Wong’s holding a Chinese Heritage Festival, and you, suspecting the Ronin may be out for blood, have Johnny Gat guarding him. Your suspicions were right on the money, as the Ronin attack. Johnny’s separated from Wong, who ends up dueling with Kazuo on one of the Chinese boats, while Wong’s translator calls you for help.

Grabbing a jetski, you make your way to the site of the conflict, evading a helicopter dropping charges on you the whole while. Arriving on scene, you make your way across a series of burning boats, reaching Wong just in time to see Kazuo knock Wong down the stairs. You enter the fray against Akuji, once again going through the dumb sword fighting minigame. Eventually, you gain the upper hand against Kazuo, and stab him through the face, killing him instantly.

Then, the cutscene starts, and it turns out you didn’t kill Kazuo at all! In fact, you’re losing the fight! Kazuo crows about how he’s so much of a better swordsman than you, because everyone forgot about the face stabbing. You agree, and just shoot him in the chest. Then you use a sword to pin him to the deck, and jump off as the boat explodes. Just like the previous two, the Ronin are done with as well. At this point, the Saints have taken total control of Stilwater.

So now that you own the city, everything’s all good, right? You’re raking in cash, there’s no one left to stop you, you can pretty much just lay back and do what you want, eh? Nope. Not quite. We shift scenes for a moment to Dane Vogel, giving a presentation at an Ultor shareholder’s meeting. He’s got big plans for Stilwater. Turns out that Ultor was behind the new gang wars the whole time, supplying your adversaries and subtly escalating things until one gang killed the other three off. Now that your gang violence has successfully driven property values down, Ultor’s been buying up land for pennies on the dollar, with plans to raise values once more by eliminating the remaining gang completely driving the poor out of Stilwater by force, and redeveloping the impoverished sections of town just like they did Saints Row. Doesn’t bode to well for you, does it?

Ultor

 640px-Ultor_logo

So, as stated above, this is the same Ultor Corporation from the Red Faction games, and I’m given to understand that they’re just as corrupt on Mars as they are in present day Stilwater. In the first Saints Row, they were just a clothing brand, but they’ve since expanded their operations into a wide variety of industries. They control nearly every aspect of Stilwater politics, with Dane Vogel even able to push Troy around. They employ the Masako security force, who are your best equipped and trained opponents in this game. Maero called them a private army, and he wasn’t that far from the truth.

 Masako1

Because you’re a man (or woman! You can be that in this game!) of class and taste, you’re minding your own business in an upper-class nightclub. The Masako, ever paragons of subtlety and discrimination, attempt to assassinate you by shooting the bar up. Taking cover behind the bartender, you manage to turn the tables on them and escape the building. Gat gives you a call, under attack by the Masako as well. He’s able to handle them, but he figures that they’re probably after Pierce and Shaundi too. It’s up to you to rescue them. Pierce is cornered but still fighting against the Masako. You’re able to help him gain ground. Shaundi, because she’s a woman in a video game, has already been arrested, and you have to run the van carrying her off the road to get her back.

Your lieutenants safe, you find a keycard for something called ‘The Pyramid’ on one of the Masako. You charge Pierce and Shaundi with finding out more about it. Shaundi finds out that it’s Ultor’s secret research headquarters, and that it’s in a dug out mountain like so many supervillain lairs. The four of you spend some time wrecking Ultor property, then you and Gat slip inside the Pyramid while Pierce and Shaundi keep Ultor security occupied. You and Johnny blow the Pyramid up. If you’ve been paying attention, you probably could have guessed that. Quick and simple. You do get a nice escape sequence on an APC, at least, erupting out of the side of the mountain just before the base goes boom.

Obviously, the Ultor board of directors aren’t pleased with losing their secret underground lair, and they lay the blame on Dane Vogel, pressuring him to do something about the Saints. Instead, Vogel sends you an anonymous package with the times and location of an Ultor fundraising event that all the board members are going to be at. He’s not a nice guy, in case you haven’t figured that out. Because you and yachts are best friends after last game, you immediately rush out to the boat the fundraiser’s being held on. You hop on a jetski, and an Ultor helicopter blows you up before you get anywhere near the yacht. Then you try again a dozen more times, and it just keeps happening. Homing missiles are ridiculous in this game. Finally, you give up and just freaking swim all the way out to the boat, so the helicopter can’t get a lock on you. Once there, you shoot up the ship, killing off most of the board members, then chasing down the survivors and making sure they don’t reach shore. All the time, Vogel’s just watching from his window. The creep.

 354-1-1

With the board gone, Dane’s been promoted to chairman, and decides that the best course of action is to hold a press conference so he can talk about himself. Luckily, Gat’s on the scene with a sniper rifle. Unluckily, he gets caught by security, and Vogel is ushered into an armored limo. You chase after the limo, doing damage but not able to destroy it before it heads back into Ultor tower. The building’s on lockdown, but you can open it up again by taking a helicopter and destroying a bunch of security stations on the outside of the tower. This works because videogames. A couple of missiles and destroyed Ultor helis later, you fly up to Vogel’s office on the top floor and leap in through the window. After slaying his security, you have the Ultor chairman at your mercy. Vogel tries negotiating for his life, but you cut him off mid-sentence. With a bullet. And a 60 foot fall.

Pierce and Shaundi show up just in time to do absolutely nothing. With Vogel dead, assumedly there’s no more “Kill the Saints for Corporate Gain” plan at Ultor. There’s no one left in Stilwater that can stop you. Once again, you own the city.

But it’s not quite done yet. There’s a couple of DLC missions that take place sometime after Vogel’s been killed. They suck. Let’s go over them anyway!

Ultor Exposed

So word of your vendetta against Ultor gets out. Even though they may not be actively gunning for you, you’re not exactly pleased with them for trying in the first place. One of Ultor’s microbiologists, Tera Patrick, has come across a moral quandary at Ultor and needs your help exposing it to the world.

Tera Patrick

 Tera_Patrick_2

AAAAAAAAAAAAH!!! AAAAAAAH!! OH MY GOD WHAT IS THAT? Ok, ok, deep breaths. So, a common problem when making CGI characters look too realistic is the Uncanny Valley. Apparently, when Volition decided to bring a real-world actress into the game, they decided to avert that problem by making her look monstrous. I’m told that there is something called pornography on the internet, and that Tera Patrick is an actress in these pornographic films. I wouldn’t know. I’m sure she’s beautiful in real life, but the character designer at Volition must have just had an off day, or something. Anyways, Tera’s an Ultor microbiologist who catches wind of some questionable experiments and has the morals to call upon the Saints to help stop it. She wants you to bring these experiments to the attention of the media. She’s voiced by her real life counterpart, who has the voice acting abilities you might expect from anyone in her profession. Err… not that I’d know anything about that.

Ultor buried a bunch of their dead human experiments around Stilwater. Tera charges you with digging them up again. The Masako want to stop you. You can probably guess how that works out. The bodies themselves are mutilated. Ultor was working to increase the human lung capacity in preparation for the events of Red Faction, but it seems they turned them into zombies instead. Following Tera’s advice, you drop the bodies off in front of the news station. I’m sure they’re used to that.

Geniuses the two of you are, you and Tera were completely unprepared for Ultor taking the absolutely predictable move and just paying the news station off. You decide that some stronger proof is what’s needed, because Ultor can’t possibly pay the media off twice. The chemicals Ultor has been using would apparently fit the bill, and as luck would have it, they’re moving them by truck as you speak! You and Tera move to hijack the truck. The police have little objection, after you put enough holes in their vehicles. Tera takes the wheel, while you hang out in the back with an assault rifle. You get good use of it too, because Ultor sends their prototype mining tanks after you which take forever to destroy. But you do, Tera stashes the truck somewhere, and the news is willing to grant you a story… if they can get an interview with Tera.

You convince Tera to go along with it, then head to the interview site on a hill in the closest thing Stilwater has to the middle of nowhere. Of course, the Masako don’t want you to be doing that interview, and they assault you from every angle. With the help of a nice weapons stockpile you thought to prepare, you defend yourselves and get Tera to the newscasters. Turns out the Masako needn’t have bothered, because the news station screws you over anyway, twisting it so that Tera takes the blame for experimenting on the bodies. Tera Patrick swears vengeance on Ultor, the promptly is never heard from ever again in these games.

Corporate Warfare

This DLC opens with Pierce speaking with Eric Gryphon, the man who now holds Dane Vogel’s old job at Ultor. Gryphon needs help, and is willing to trade information for it. He’s got some dirt on Dex, Ultor’s new head of security, your former ally, and the man who tried to have you assassinated along with Julius. Dex wants to kill him for it. You protect Gryphon, and the information’s yours.

Eric Gryphon

 Eric_Gryphon_torso

The new Ultor head of special projects. He was previously some sort of administrator for the Pyramid, but your actions bought him a promotion. He’s not afraid to get his hands dirty, but is not much of a fighter himself.

Dex Jackson

 1639836-dexterjackson_sr2

He tried to have you killed earlier in the game. You’re kind of holding a grudge. He was one of the Saints lieutenants and chief tactician, but dropped his flags as soon as an offer from Ultor came in. Later, he tried to erase you to cut off any ties to his past. He controls the Masako, meaning he’s been part of the group hounding you the entire endgame.

In his armored limo, Gryphon is already under assault from the Masako, and it takes you and a helicopter-mounted machine gun to set him free. Unfortunately, his driver is killed in the exchange, and of course he can’t drive the thing himself, so you have to hop in and help him escape. You manage to get him back to your headquarters. Then he leaves and goes back to his office at Ultor, confronting Dex directly. Obviously Dex won’t kill him when he’s right in front of him. That’s not… ethical or something.

Gryphon, as he promised, gives you the information Dex was willing to kill for. Dex has been illegally selling nuclear waste, and using the Masako to destroy evidence. That… wait, that’s it? The Boss does worse than that just walking to the convenience store! Anyways, you’re willing to do whatever it takes to get Dex all good and pissed off, so you set about stopping him from helping terrorist groups build nuclear weapons or whatever. Ok, on second thought, what Dex is doing could be pretty bad. You collect the remaining nuclear waste yourself with the help of Ultor security guards, while the Masako try to kill all of you. Then, once you’ve got your truck filled up and that waste out of Dex’s hands, Gryphon sends you an assault helicopter to keep the remaining Masako from destroying the truck. Dex gives you a phone call so he can talk about how badass he is and how much trouble you’ve bought yourself, then he gets himself a transfer and leaves Stilwater entirely with his tail between his legs. He’s a smart guy. He knows what you can do with a bullet.

Dex has left the city, and you can’t follow him, because with your criminal record, I’m pretty sure you just start melting as soon as you approach airport security check in. You’re infuriated though, and in lieu of Dex, you decide to kill anyone he ever knew. Luckily Ultor’s having a company picnic, and you can do just that! With Gryphon spotting targets and you making good use of a sniper rifle, you manage to kill Dex’s favorite people. These include his favorite street performer, his favorite ninja, his favorite hair dresser, etc. Then a bunch of mimes attack you. They do this because of reasons. Then you have to defend Gryphon from some Masako, because this is still a videogame. With that done, you and Gryphon promise a ceasefire. You’ve done as much as you can to get to Dex, now you’re just biding your time for your next chance.

Of course, the developers planned for Dex to die at the hands of a completely unrelated assailant in an unreleased game, so current canon could be pretty disappointing.

And… that’s that.  If you liked what you saw here, you may want to check out the other posts in this Saints Row Retrospective saga.  You can find the introduction here, the post on the first Saints Row here, and Saints Row The Third here.

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