Genre: Open World
Release Date: April 23, 2009
When Saints Row 2 rolled out last fall, it was an engaging sequel that not only built on its predecessor in nearly every way, but also proved that Volition's foray into open-world gaming with the original Saints Row wasn't a one-hit wonder. Sure, there were plenty of comparisons to Rockstar and the Grand Theft Auto series, but the Saints Row games were anything but clones. Whereas Rockstar was taking its games in a serious direction, Volition was going for pure, unadulterated, over-the-top fun. Given Volition's track record, we were looking forward to checking out Ultor Exposed, the first of three planned DLC packs for Saints Row 2. Sadly, this pack is more flash than substance.
Promising three new missions featuring porn-star and Saints Row 2 spokesperson Tera Patrick, new vehicles, new outfits and new multiplayer maps, the DLC could have been a welcome return to Stilwater. Instead, it feels like a quick cash-in that was pushed out the door by a junior team, while the core developers get to work on the inevitable sequel.
The meat of the DLC is the three-mission story arc, which stars Patrick as a disgruntled Ultor microbiologist who wants to expose the firm's dastardly experiments on unsuspecting citizens. With no one else who can help, she turns to you and the Saints to reveal the truth to the city.
With a premise like that, there is plenty of potential for combat as well as story development, but aside from a few allusions to the Red Faction series, which happens many years later in the same universe, the potential is completely untouched. You don't explore any new locations. There's no return to the labs in the underground Ultor Pyramid facility. In fact, there aren't even any epic battles to fight. While we weren't expecting a full gang campaign, we were looking forward to missions with a bit of depth and a final battle that rivaled the ending sequences against any of the gang bosses or the fight against Dane Vogel. Instead, we were treated to three short missions that took around 45 minutes to complete.
The first mission has you tasked with running around town, picking up six dead bodies. The second has you chasing a truck across town, while the final mission has you defending a Saints hideout from attacking Ultor forces. Unfortunately, even this mission fails to impress due to the manner in which the supposedly elite Masako troops attack. They all come in on choppers, which are easily downed with a rocket launcher, or in heavily armored troop carriers known as Bears. Of course, then they get out of their vehicles to attack. Laying waste to the entirety of incoming forces is no more difficult than getting into one of the many abandoned Bears and taking out the Masako with their own equipment. Yes, they'll shoot back at you, but they won't bother to pull you from the driver's seat so you're almost invulnerable. At one point, we sat and watched, laughing, as one of the troops attempted to attack the Bear with a stun gun.
Thinking that there had to be more, we were looking forward to the final showdown with anticipation. Instead of a fight, however, the anti-climatic battle consisted of nothing more than six Ultor choppers circling overhead. Given their propensity to pause and hover, it was a cinch to take out two on every pass. Yes, they would fire the occasional missile, but that was about it. Attack choppers in the main game were much more aggressive than this.
Had the story presentation been a bit more impressive, it might have made up for some of the mission shortcomings, but just like the missions themselves, both the story and the cinema scenes felt like they were rushed. Whereas the full game featured fully scripted cinema sequences with plenty of action and story development, those in Ultor Exposed are nothing more than two characters standing in the same room speaking to one another. There is little in the way of movement or expression, making the cinema scenes look more like a junior animator's first attempt at blocking out a sequence rather than a fully realized scene. We know Volition can do so much better than this.
The new vehicles include a custom roadster for Patrick called the Temptress, which is an incredibly responsive sports car, and the EDF Scout, which is an armored ATV with a rocket launcher attached to the roof. The EDF Scout is taken directly from Red Faction: Guerrilla. You'll also get an attack chopper, an aircraft and two speedy little cars. All six of the new vehicles will automatically appear in your garages, so there's no need to search them out.
For the customization fans out there, Volition has also included a number of new hairstyles, five new shirts and five new outfits, including that of an EDF soldier and an alien. It's a nice touch, but it's not enough to justify the cost of the package.
Volition included four new multiplayer maps (two for Strong Arm and two for Gangsta Brawl) as well as a co-op "metagame," which keeps score during co-op missions so you can objectively see who did the most damage during a mission. For the online, these additions alone could have made the pack worthwhile if not for one massive oversight on Volition's part — once you install the DLC, you can only play against others who also have the DLC.
It doesn't matter if you're trying to play content that only exists in the base game or if you're trying to load a save from before you got the DLC; the game simply will not allow two copies to connect if one has the DLC and the other does not. You can work around the issue by deleting the DLC, but if you then want to play on a new map or with another friend who has the DLC, you'll have to re-download it once again. It's odd that the developers didn't think to put in some sort of option to temporarily disable the DLC content if you want to play with someone who just has the core game. After all, it's not like the online community for Saints Row 2 is as massive as the one for Halo 3. All this does is fragment the community even further. It's a move that's either a colossal oversight or a poor attempt by a marketing executive to encourage players to convince their friends to also buy the DLC. Either way, we don't like it because it makes it all that more annoying to jump into a game with friends.
Ultimately, Saints Row 2: Ultor Exposed is only going to appeal to the hardest of the hardcore Saints Row 2 players, and even then, many of them are likely to be disappointed with the content. Unlike GTA 4's The Lost and the Damned expansion, Ultor Exposed doesn't really offer anything new and ends up being more forgettable than memorable, especially at the asking price of $10. This is one expansion that is most certainly not worth the cost. Here's hoping that the next installment offers something that's a bit more substantial.