The life of a gangster in the twenty-first century is not an easy one. Gone are the days of spats, gentleman's agreements and speakeasies. These days any self-respecting gangster has to worry about bitches and hos, cred and bling, guns and whether or not to get that MBA.
Not that I speak from first-hand experience, you understand. There is very little call for middle-class, thirty-something white men in modern-day gangs. Added to which there are very few opportunities to become a gangsta in the middle of the Brecon Beacons.
Whether or not you agree with gang culture, there is no denying that it's big business. The success of gangsta rap stars has been massive, so much so that some of them have their own clothing lines and fragrances.
In the gaming arena, Grand Theft Auto is the undisputed kingpin of gangsta land, as well as being one of the most successful franchises in gaming history. From its first top-down outing in 1997, the GTA games have introduced us to a whole range of larcenous activities, and courted much controversy along the way.
For a long time, GTA remained virtually unchallenged in the murder simulator arena. Until 2006, that is, when new boy Saints Row hit the Xbox 360 and tried to wrest the kingpin crown from the incumbent. Unfortunately for THQ, the game never really overcame inevitable comparisons with GTA, despite garnering reasonable reviews.
So, two years on, and close on the heels of the latest GTA incarnation, we have a sequel, the ingeniously-titled Saints Row 2, and we've taken a look to see whether it manages to come out from the shadow created by its bigger rival.
We pick up the story some time after the close of the original game. As the game opens, we find your character in a hospital prison ward, left in a coma after being caught in the yacht explosion at the close of the first Saints Row game. You wake up, feeling greatly refreshed after your nap, and decide to escape prison. You are, after all, a gangster.
Ably assisted by a fellow inmate, you manage to escape your island prison – which turns out to be a lot easier than you'd imagine – only to find that your old gang, the Third Street Saints, has been scattered to the four winds. Undeterred, your character decides to reform the Saints, and starts off by staging an audacious rescue of former Saint, Jonny Gat, right from the courthouse where he's about to be sentenced to death for multiple counts of murder.
That done, and with a few more lieutenants recruited to your gang, you proceed to reclaim the city of Stillwater back from the three rival gangs who have taken over the city since the fall of the Saints.
Turns out that being a gangsta ain’t easy, but is necessary.