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.


  • demo117 - October 10, 2008 10:39 p.m.

    wow that looks......
  • drprofessor - October 10, 2008 11:08 p.m.

    it looks cool and all but those graphics blow. i mean looks at your Niko vs the real one. the likeness is there but it looks like a PS2 game model. Anyway it's not graphics that make a good game so here's hoping everything else gels.
  • GamesRadarChrisAntista - October 10, 2008 11:14 p.m.

    Miko Schmellic: Totally playable and down for shooting piss out of a moving car! Odin bless you, Saints Row 2.
  • bron1417 - October 10, 2008 11:16 p.m.

    im really excited for SR2 everybody is tryin to tell me that this is a rip-off of GTA IV and i tell them it isnt....maybe THEY should read THIS.
  • StefanGrey - October 10, 2008 11:27 p.m.

    hey Mike, Saints Row 1 had the cellphone in it before GTA4 did it. Sounds like the one in SR2 has the same use as the one from the first game.
  • moshaspartan - October 10, 2008 11:28 p.m.

    you could use the phone in the exact same way in saints row 1. aside from that, solid article, as per usual.
  • cliffB - October 11, 2008 6:33 a.m.

    ehh. reminds me of BMX XXX in many's like they truly said screw it to any subtlety
  • GamesRadarMikelReparaz - October 11, 2008 7:18 a.m.

    Funny thing is, I really, really wanted to hate Saints Row 2, and was all ready to rip it a new asshole up until the point that I actually played it. And now it's impossible for me to hate it - there's just too much stuff to do, and most of it is actually pretty fun. It's dumb as hell, yes, and its idea of inner-city life seems to have come from a suburban 12-year-old who once listened to a Snoop Dogg album. But it's not really a game you play for the scintillating narrative or meaningful themes, you know?
  • Jason.Darksavior - October 11, 2008 8:35 a.m.

    Looks like it's gonna be a great game. Graphics dont look too shabby, too! Cant wait till I get this game. Nice Article!
  • Juggernaut140 - October 11, 2008 7:42 p.m.

    None of the crap on that radio station is thrash metal. It's all mallcore garbage besides Black Dahlia Murder and Opeth
  • Juggernaut140 - October 11, 2008 7:45 p.m.

    There's no thrash metal in SR2. It's all mallcore garbage except for Opeth and a couple others.
  • Juggernaut140 - October 11, 2008 7:46 p.m.

    and sorry about the double post. I thought it wasn't posted the first time Great article btw. I agree with everything said.
  • Cogglesz - October 11, 2008 11:25 p.m.

    i'm also looking forward to this one, GTA IV is amazing but i still would say its better, the problems here for me is the driving, i love the realness of GTA IV's Cars, but i also hate how the phone goes off and you have to take roman or whoever out to a pint, Saints Row 2 Has Advantages And Disadvantages, The Same Goes For GTA IV, I will buy this when its out and play it when i want complete carnage, when i want some realism I'll play GTA, that sounds good to me
  • XxHoRmiGaBrAvAxX - October 12, 2008 10:16 a.m.

    This Game will never be like the GTA's series.I don't think there is anyone outthere that can beat GTA' series at all. GTA is pure hardcore, so Saint row lovers. Please fall back and recognize one of the best games ever made, GTA, Aight!! Rockstar inc. inspired by Scarface the movie.
  • Ninja-KiLLR - October 12, 2008 3:48 p.m.

    there were two things wrong with gta 4 one it was to realistic. ( i dont want to fly out my windshield) and second it took it self a little too searousily. vice city (the best of the series) had the perfect mixture of fun and serousness. but that is my opinion
  • sinster_sign - October 12, 2008 8:38 p.m.

    but i think that the more the game is realistic the more its better. it's really fun playin games that are realistic i've seen so many people admire the realistic graphics of gta 4,da realistic gameplay i.e flyin out frm da windshiled haha..
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Ban - October 15, 2008 4:14 a.m.

    Well now i know what oooooooother game im getting this fall
  • 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

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