How many attempts did it take before you successfully finished the Three Leaf Clover bank job in GTA IV? Or the Snowstorm mission, for that matter? We’re going to go ahead and guess “a lot,” because you probably died dozens of times during the incredibly intense firefights that erupted in those missions.
For better or worse, you won’t ever have that problem in Saints Row 2. While Niko could die relatively easily, SR2’s gang-leading protagonist is harder to kill than Rasputin, soaking up bullets like a sponge and regenerating health after just a few seconds of not being shot.
Above: In addition to being super-tough, you can pick up lots of stuff in the environment – like this newspaper rack - and use it as a weapon. We suspect someone on the dev team read our wish list.
On top of that, your enemies are dumb. Really dumb. Oh sure, some of them will try to take cover, but most will just stand still, far away from any cover, taking potshots at you while you drill them fill of holes. And even when they do use rudimentary tactics, it doesn’t really matter, because you can usually kill them all just by charging straight through their bullets and unloading at close range. Is it challenging? Hell no. But it’s never frustrating, either.
Above: Go ahead and hide, asshole. It won’t do you any good
That GTA’s missions were tough was only part of the reason Niko kept dying on us all the time – the other part mostly had to do with the fact that he couldn’t seem to reliably stick to cover. Saints Row 2 addresses that problem by completely omitting any feature that enables you to stick to cover. After all, who needs to duck and hide when you’re a tank?
However, if you’re in a tight spot and running low on health, you have the option of mobile cover, which is a nice way of saying “human shields.” While you’re certainly able to crouch behind cover to get out of harm’s way, sometimes it’s easier to just grab an enemy – which takes zero effort for all but the most powerful opponents – and let them soak up the bullets for you. Or, better yet, convince all your enemies to stop shooting for a little while.
While that’s useful and all, the best part of taking a hostage is disposing of them. If you’re unimaginative, you can do it by shooting them in the face…
Or by simply letting go of the button and throwing them, which is endlessly entertaining. Especially near windows and railings:
This gets even better if you wander into a neighborhood controlled by a rival gang and just start tossing everyone you can get your hands on. Pretty soon, enemy gang-bangers will show up en masse and, well, let’s just say we could do this all day.
Now, the obvious question to ask at this point is, “where are the cops while you’re throwing around innocent citizens?” Well, probably they showed up and tried to shoot us, but were killed so quickly by our tagalong gang members that we barely even noticed them.
Above: Yeah! Suck it, meter maid!
Think for a second about GTA IV’s Liberty City Police Dept., and what a holy terror they were. Individually easy to kill, sure, but squad tactics and sharpshooting skills meant Niko could only hold out so long before they took him down. Stilwater’s cops, meanwhile, seemingly only show up when they feel like it, and if they do, it’s easy to mow down dozens of them before things get too crowded and you stand a real chance of being hurt.
Above: Can you imagine this happening to one of Liberty City’s finest?
Even when the cops get aggressive, ditching them is usually as easy as just tearing ass in the opposite direction until your wanted meter gradually shrinks down to nothing and they forget why they were following you. It’s as if putting them in the game at all was an unhappy obligation for the developers. Whether that’s a good or bad thing depends on how much you enjoy being shot at by competent peace officers.
For most players, driving in GTA IV is either something they instantly love, or instantly hate. The cars have a weight to them that takes some getting used to, but once you do, their handling feels realistic, almost comfortable. Very few cars in Saints Row 2 have that kind of gravity, and the faster ones feel like zippy, featherweight toys that can execute high-speed 90-degree turns with zero effort. Of course, that also means that they’re a lot easier to control than GTA IV’s monsters, which have a tendency to slide out of control if you’re not judicious with the handbrake when turning corners.
While the cars’ handling is a love-it-or-hate-it thing, there’s one thing SR2 has all over GTA IV, and that’s the ability to actually keep the cars you steal. In GTA IV, of course, you could park your favorite cars by the curb of your apartment, and they’d stay there until you tried to drive them, wrecked them and/or invariably lost them during a mission.
Saints Row 2 understands the deep emotional attachment people have with their unfeeling hunks of steel, and so it enables you to customize them at any of the game’s body shops, and keep them forever just by driving it back to one of your many garages. And when we say “forever,” we mean forever – you can take them out, abandon them, drive them off a cliff or even blow them up with a rocket, and when you go back to your garage, an identical replacement will be waiting for you.
Above: You can customize and keep ANY stolen car, big rigs and monster trucks excluded