When Crackdown shipped for Xbox 360, it proved that online co-op in open-world games was not only feasible but incredibly enjoyable. The crew at Volition and THQ were apparently taking notes, because amid all the improvements and additions to Saints Row 2 (read our hands-on Saints Row 2 preview), the team is also including hop-in/hop-out online co-op. This feature isn’t just a simple tack-on addition, though; it’s turning into as core a feature in Saints Row 2 as it was in Gears of War. And that importance (and fun) is what compelled us to write a stand-alone preview about co-op in Saints Row 2.
Like the other gameplay additions in Saints Row 2, the online co-operative mode starts at the beginning, with character creation. All the gender, body and taunt options from the single-player game are available in the co-op mode, with the added bonus of being able to hang out with your buddy in the crib while you customize your character. This can create some fun moments as you play around with the settings and yell at your friend to “check this out,” but it also creates some opportunities to create pop culture-themed teams, such as a Bonnie and Clyde-like duo (remember, female bodies are now a playable option).
One the co-op characters and crib are created, it’s time to start the campaign, which is playable online start to finish with a friend. Players can drop in and out of the game at any time, so if two players start a campaign together and one person has to leave, the other person can keep playing without any interruption. Then, if the second player comes back later, he or she can simply plug in and join his or her friend once again.
When this situation arises, however, players have two choices. Saints Row 2 charts each player’s progress both independently and as a team, so when the second player returns, the gang-banging tandem can either resume playing together at the current mission, or they can “revert” back to the point where their co-op escapades left off. Also, because of this dual-progress save system, players can tackle any mission alone and, if they have trouble, call on a friend to help them get through a particularly tough spot before dropping out again. Considering the approachable nature of Saints Row 2, we highly doubt this latter option will be used very often, but at least it’s an option.
THQ is planning a variety of adversarial multiplayer modes as well, but the company is keeping quiet on those modes for the time being. However, that’s not to say the campaign and versus modes are all players have to look forward to in terms of online play. In fact, the co-operative modes extend well beyond the campaign to include several mini-game-like scenarios as well.
One of the most compelling is a helicopter assault, which feels an awful lot like the co-op setups in Perfect Dark Zero and Gears of War. In the co-op helicopter assault, one player takes control of an Apache-like chopper while the other hops into the driver seat of an un-gang-like sedan. As the sedan speeds through the streets trying to avert the rival gangs in hot pursuit, the helicopter watches from above and tries to blow up the pursuant foes’ cars. This isn’t really difficult, considering the helicopter’s rockets have a lock-on feature, but it’s still a fun diversion and will inspire a couple of different play-throughs of each mini-mission as players take turns flying the helicopter and driving the car.
A wealth of other co-op madness abounds in Saints Row 2, but the majority of it arguably revolves around players just dinking around with a friend and causing digital mayhem. Find the sex cave and inflatable love dolls? Grab two of them and see who can beat down the most cops. Car-jack a particularly fast vehicle and want to see who can jump the farthest of a certain ramp? Go ahead and take turns. Like any open-world game worth its salt, Saints Row 2 is all about exploration and adventure within the confines of a story-driven game. And like any good co-op game, Saints Row 2 provides plenty of time to experiment with different tactics and tricks. If GTA IV will provide your springtime sandbox fix, Saints Row 2 will give you all the co-op autumn autonomy you can handle.
— Jonas Allen