The main reason the missions are still fun is the unrestrained freedom in how you can complete them. Enemies can be killed at any time, using any weapon in your arsenal. For instance, the bosses in the game are all just normal human beings. You can choose to pepper them with your pistol if you choose, slowly witling down their life bar as you carefully dodge their attacks. Or you can just ignore typical video game logic and kill them with a few glorious shots from your rocket launcher. This freedom extends to every element in the game, letting you mow down enemies in whatever manner you see fit. Saints Row 2 fully embraces its sandbox moniker, letting you carve your own path of destruction without any arbitrary strings tying you down.
Pedestrians are so easy to run over, you'll swear they have magnets in their pants.
Aside from the main missions, there are a bevy of side quests to take part in. These are much more original than the standard missions, so it's easy to get distracted by these for a while and forget about the story. These activities are where Saints Row 2 completely ignores reality and lets you have some ridiculous fun. Trail Blazer is probably the most chaotic. Here, you'll ride an ATV wearing a flaming, fireproof suit. You get a time bonus for lighting cars and people on fire, so you just set out to cause as much destruction as possible. There's little challenge here (who would oppose a man wearing a flame-drenched suit?), but lighting the world on fire is utterly satisfying. There are a few other tasks that aren't as fun, but overall, the minigames in Saints Row 2 are excellent and imaginative additions that go a long way toward extending your gameplay.
The best diversion is the terrifying zombie uprising. You can access this on the big-screen TV in any of your cribs, and it provides some of the most exciting moments in Saints Row 2. As opposed to an emulation of a 2D arcade game from years past, this is a 3D adventure to save your soul from bloodsucking zombies. It takes place in the dilapidated hotel that serves as your headquarters, and you have to mow down wave after wave of these undead creatures. With a limited amount of ammunition and melee weapons that break after a few hits, you'll have to constantly run around to evade the threat of these relentless demons. The slow-moving zombies may not seem too scary at first, but as more fill the screen, this becomes an intense and oftentimes exhilarating experience. Being surrounded by a group of zombies as you try to push them away to resurrect your fallen pals is an awesome divergence from the typical inner-city mayhem.
If killing zombies alone sounds too frightening, you can play through Saints Row 2 with a friend. The co-op is extremely well implemented here. You can hop in or out at any time, and there aren't even any chains tethering you to each other. The entire city is open to your crime-wave whims. You can partake in missions and minigames together, or, if you're not feeling very cooperative, one person can tackle missions while the other drives aimlessly around town buying gas stations. There is a little bit of lag and some problems with cars and pedestrians popping in directly in front of you, but the experience of teaming up with a friend makes these slight hiccups easy to ignore. Just make sure you have an understanding with your cooperative pal; one person's violent actions will set cops loose on both players, so it's easy to ruin your buddy's fun if you set the police on him while he's peacefully trying to spray-paint walls. Regardless of your friend's penchant for attracting unwanted attention, it's preferable to the atrocious friendly AI you have to put up with. These morons get stuck on doors and benches, can't figure out how to get in your car, and lag far behind you in firefights. Teaming up with a friend makes the already great campaign even better.
Zombies are the best dressed undead monsters out there.
Competitive multiplayer isn't quite as engaging as the cooperative portions, but it does provide some excitement in brief bursts. The main mode here is Strong Arm, a team-based affair that tests people in a variety of events. You'll randomly be assigned to many of the activities found in the Campaign mode, and you have a few minutes to best the other team before you move on to another event. The racing and capture-the-flag variants are fairly standard, but there are unique events that add some life to these matches. Insurance Fraud is quite chaotic. Here, each team tries to get into the most horrific car accident. The best way to play defense is to simply shoot them dead, so it's a matter of quickly getting hit by cars before you're unceremoniously dispatched by your competitors. Strong Arm also uses the spray-paint mechanic in a novel way. If you successfully tag a wall while everyone else is worried about killing one another, you grant bonuses to your team, such as more health or causing smoke to pour out of your enemies, making them easier to see. The only other mode is Deathmatch, which is just too hectic to offer long-term appeal.
It's a shame the PC port is so poor, because the core of Saints Row 2 is still a blast. The great cooperative integration, unique activities, and super-cool zombie-slaying mode are just as creative and silly as they were in the console iterations, but everything is hampered by severe technical problems. If you have plenty of patience and a powerful gaming rig, you'll happily create havoc in Saints Row 2 for a long time. But for everyone else, this lazy port should be avoided.