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Why Saints Row 2 is the antidote to GTA IV

Saints Row 2 is not a better game than Grand Theft Auto IV. Let’s just get that out of the way now. Its action isn’t too deep, its story is kind of stupid and it’s nowhere near as immersive as the game that its detractors will accuse it of copying. The reality, though, is that Saints Row 2 isn’t trying to be GTA IV at all. In fact, it seems specifically designed for people who hate GTA IV.

Instead of trying to compete with GTA IV’s sophisticated take on the car-crime genre, Saints Row 2 concentrates on packing in as much moronic fun as possible, and on some level we have to respect that. It’s like a magnified throwback to the “old” GTA – the silly, over-the-top orgies of violence that defined the PS2 generation – and every time GTA IV takes something in a “mature” direction, Saints Row 2 takes it the opposite way. Here, then, are a few interesting differences you might notice when the game hits.



More than anything else, GTA IV was defined by its main character, surly-but-sympathetic Balkan mercenary Niko Bellic. He instantly became an icon, although more than a few critics alleged that his rapid shift from pacifist to mass murderer was too inconsistent.

Saints Row 2 doesn’t have that problem, because its star is a nameless ratbag sociopath who never pretends to be good or merciful. In fact, he/she has no visible goals other than to take over all criminal operations in the city of Stilwater, and to do horrible things to anyone who gets in the way. He/she never really develops as a character in any way – except maybe to become angrier and meaner – and his/her supporting cast never feel like much more than unusually entertaining cardboard cutouts.


Above: See, even her/his friends agree

The upshot of the protagonist not having much of an identifiable personality is that you’ll have free rein to customize your sociopath however you see fit, adjusting everything from gender and voice to nostril size and underbite. True, he/she will still act like the same nihilistic asshole no matter what you do, but if you really miss having Niko around, you can just make him – or any other GTA character, for that matter.


Above: The original Niko, and our rough Saints Row 2 replica - all in all, it’s not a terrible likeness

That goes double if you liked Niko, but had a problem with that whole “dignity” thing. See, Saints Row 2 lets you customize a lot more than just the shape of your character’s face:


Above: Yeah just slather it on with a trowel why don’t you


Above: Ha ha, who represents a revolution in character-driven storytelling now, smart guy?

Of course, if copying the likenesses of characters from those ooooooother games doesn’t appeal, you can create all sorts of horrifically unappealing characters. Like this guy, for example: 


Above: Probably we should have warned you that you can walk around wearing nothing but a mosaic blur

Did we mention that you can play as a woman? That’s pretty rare for car-crime games, and it hasn’t been done in a GTA since the first game 10 years ago.

Oh, and before anyone starts mumbling about the horrible game that only enables you to create conventionally attractive women, please bear in mind that you also have the option of playing as an obese grandmother with acromegaly and a thick mustache.


Above: Yes, that’s a woman

The interesting thing about your character’s near-total lack of personality is that – while it never felt “right” to go on bloody, mass-murdering rampages as Niko – opening fire on a crowd of civilians feels perfectly in character. We miss having a strong personality to identify with, but having an avatar who’s nothing more or less than a nihilistic asshole is oddly freeing. Especially when going around shooting people in the face carries few, if any consequences. Which leads us neatly to our next point.

36 comments

  • dylpickle92 - December 9, 2008 4:59 a.m.

    great article. sure, the graphics arn't as good in saints row then gta4, but i think saints row would be better. gta4, the missions just get so repeditive, right? and the fact that saints row 1 ad 2 are sequal, i think that maes it a whole lot better
  • Jason.Darksavior - October 18, 2008 8:49 a.m.

    This game is so addictive and fun! Love all the activities and diversions.
  • Marioninja1 - October 15, 2008 3:40 p.m.

    No annoying as piss friends, Take on me and Final Countdown, No (proffesional) Liberty City cops stopping my fun...I NEED THIS GAME!
  • Jaydubbbbb - October 14, 2008 11:02 p.m.

    The reason why the graphics arent as good as GTA IV is because SR2 is more focused on the shit you can do, thats why you cant ever really get bored of it, because theres so much random retarded shit to do. You dont need to be immature to play this game, you just have to have a good sense of humor. And for the cellhpone in GTA IV, you never have to accept going out with your buddies to the bar, you can complete the whole story without Lil Jacob ever having any respect for you.
  • wysiwyg - October 13, 2008 9:07 a.m.

    Read the article and all the points he makes just suggest one thing to me, avoid this game like the plague!
  • GamesRadarMikelReparaz - October 13, 2008 8:08 a.m.

    @Ninja-KiLLR: If you hated flying out of your windshield in GTA IV, you will probably hate it just as much in SR2.
  • StupidFaceXD - October 12, 2008 9:20 p.m.

    I loved GTA4, but it was TOO realistic. And you died too easily. But I love GTA and SR. Great article Mike. Keep 'em coming!
  • GodKlown - October 12, 2008 5:22 p.m.

    I've been a fan of GTA since it started, but I came around to SR when it premired on the 360. I really enjoyed the openness to the violence, as well as the customization in the game, not only to the vehicle but also to the character. Buying new clothing or jewelery in SR actually MEANT something, unlike in GTA where it is either just a style change or mission-related. I've even read that the crib will be able to finally be customized, which is something you never saw in GTA. SR2 sounds like it will be at least as fun as the first, if not adding something with the new vehicle options. I don't play these games for the realistic quality, but for the fun of it! What ever happened to playing games for that factor?
  • SOLIDSNAKE1983 - October 11, 2008 9:23 p.m.

    Looking forward to this after the snooze fest that was GTA IV........Didn't play the first SR, but hopefully this will be a throwback to the San Andreas type of game with jet packs, parachutes and OTT weaponary!!!
  • chrisat928 - October 11, 2008 5:02 a.m.

    It's TOO immature. It's like it was targeted directly at 13 year olds. Oh, and GTA already did the raging sociopath in Vice City. Tommy Vercetti was what you described, but STILL had character and a personality.
  • Tochy - October 11, 2008 3:58 a.m.

    i agree with Defguru7777 this game is only going to be fun for like 10 minutes.
  • TheWebSwinger - October 11, 2008 1:47 a.m.

    Damn. GR likes GTAIV so much they're sucking its dick WHILE they suck another game's dick.
  • Defguru7777 - October 11, 2008 1:22 a.m.

    Wow, this game is going to be fun for all of five minutes.
  • TrIp13G - October 10, 2008 11:28 p.m.

    I ended up with 800,000+ dollars by the time I was done with GTA IV. THE FIRST TIME I FINISHED IT. I'm glad that SR2 is keeping the series' tradition of letting you blow your cash on fast cars and crazy outfits.
  • Crossleft501 - October 10, 2008 10:25 p.m.

    hahaha great article as always Mike
  • Biohazard82493 - October 16, 2008 2 a.m.

    i like a lot both games but gta IV is too realistic and i hate things like "Niko lets play some bowling" i mean come on but whatever long live metal!!
  • mozaralio - October 16, 2008 1:31 a.m.

    Im sorry to say that I think SR2 is way better than GTA IV some others have said that the only people who would enjoy this game is 10-13 year old children well im 15 turning 16 soon and I love SR1 I havent played SR2 yet but im hoping it will be just as good or better also if you need further proof my cousin is 22 and has beat SR1 4 times and still enjoys playing it GTA IV was good up until alot of the missions to me got repetative and or way to long for what they accomplish no offense to you GTA finatics out there but if I got to choose between the two Id go with SR2 and to the stupid kid who said GR loves both games so much theyre sucking both there dicks go f*ck urself. All in all once again great article
  • Ban - October 15, 2008 4:14 a.m.

    Well now i know what oooooooother game im getting this fall
  • GamesRadarMikelReparaz - October 14, 2008 1:15 a.m.

    @uilanman: I believe it was Normal. And I didn't say it happened quickly - only that escaping is as easy as driving in the opposite direction until Notoriety wears off.
  • uilanman - October 13, 2008 7:17 p.m.

    What skill level did you play on Mikel? The hardest option makes things increasingly more difficult, like enemies have a lot more health, cops and gang notoriety take MUCH longer to go away - I ask because you made it sound like it was so easy to just get away from a 3-4 star rating just by driving the opposite direction. That would take a *long* time to wear off, it's not as simple as that... I will say that it's not insanely hard to deal with the police, but you'll find yourself dead a lot more often on the hardest skill setting vs the easier ones, for sure.

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