In reality, getting the game to run smoothly is something of a dark art, even when the PC in question meets or exceeds the required specifications. Played on the average gaming rig, the frame-rate drops to single figures and is virtually unplayable, even with sliders knocked all the way down. Played on a high-end rig the result is obviously improved, though the frame-rate is still far from steady.
The same was true of the PC version of GTAIV, of course, but the technical wobbles prove more problematic for Saints Row. While the console versions improved on GTA's old combat mechanics considerably, the absence of both usable cover and lock-on aiming combines with the laggy visuals to create a situation where gun battles that take place over anything more than medium distance become maddeningly inconsistent, even with the benefit of mouse and keyboard control. Driving, too, suffers when the frame-rate stumbles, as the heightened arcade handling struggles to keep things playable during a judder moment. Adding cruise control to the cars may make it easier to pull off drive-bys, but it's all for nothing if you can't straighten the car out in the first place.
It's not even as though Saints Row 2 was some graphical watershed that warranted such stringent technical demands. It was popular on the basis that it was dafter than GTA, not that it looked better, so while Rockstar's opus can justify its steep requirements somewhat, there's little incentive here to make the technical investments required for a game that is never going to be graphically spectacular. Far better to produce a PC version that was scalable and accessible, the better to showcase the game's broad charms.
It's especially galling to be playing a console port on a machine considerably more powerful than the original platform, yet suffering noticeably worse performance. If the PS3 and Xbox 360 can cope with this level of detail in an open world, there's not really any excuse why a top-class PC shouldn't be able to do the same.
Balancing out these persistent grumbles is the fact that the game remains indecently entertaining, and comes with a solid drop-in multiplayer element. Unlike GTA, which parked its online elements separately from the main game, Saints Row 2 allows you and a friend to tackle the numerous bonus games or the story missions, competitively and co-operatively. You share the same wanted level, however, so while it's quite possible to split up and never catch sight of the other player, they can still get you in trouble. Unless, of course, a laggy connection combines with a moment of juddery frame-rate, in which case it all becomes a bit of a mess.
And that's the Saints Row 2 PC experience neatly encapsulated: a great - and often underrated - game, but one that is rendered significantly less appealing than in its original console incarnation. Cautiously recommended, then, for those with the sort of monster kit that will smooth out the technical glitches, but the majority of players might as well stick with their Xbox 360 or PS3.