Why Saints Row 2 is the antidote to GTA IV

Above: We apologize for the intolerable levels of man-ass in this image

It’s also worth noting that, like every other activity in the game, you can do this naked:

Although Saints Row 2 takes most things in a radically different direction than GTA IV, there is one little thing it could be accused of copying, albeit wrongly: giving players a cell phone to dial numbers, punch in cheats or call up “Homies” to come watch your back.

The difference is that Saints Row 2’s cell phone (whichactually debuted in the first Saints Row)is barely integrated into the gameplay at all; you won’t use it to fool your targets into revealing themselves in public, for example, and none of your imaginary friends will ever use it to invite you out for a drink. Again, whether that’s good or bad depends on how much Niko’s ever-buzzing phone irritated you in GTA IV.

One of the saddest things we saw during the run-up to GTA IV was all the misinformed saps who thought that “multiplayer” meant they could plug in a second controller and play through the story with a friend. And while you can’t do that in Saints Row 2, exactly, you can play through the entire story online with a buddy, and that’s always a plus. Especially because they’ll be much better company than these guys:

Above: You can dress up your gang cronies as ninjas, but it won’t give them any more personality

Over the course of GTA IV’s rags-to-slightly better rags story, players earned hundreds of thousands of dollars, almost all of which were spent on guns, body armor and ammunition for Niko. You could buy clothing and food, too, but in general the money didn’t do much aside from enabling you to pay for dates and survive a little longer in a firefight. You couldn't even spend money on property, like you did in earlier games; instead, it was all handed to you, for free,as part of the story.

Above: Well this is nice, in a muted, tasteful sort of way

In contrast, there’s no shortage of things to spend money on in Saints Row 2. Instead of simply moving between a series of small apartments, you can buy 11 “cribs” scattered throughout the city, and then spend more money to upgrade them with new décor, better furniture and gigantic televisions.

Above: Given the option, though, we’ll take the one with the giant TV and the strippers

High-performance cars are also for sale if you know where to look, and dropping more cash will turn them into garish purple monstrosities with spinning rims and spikes that shoot out from the wheels. Also, while GTA tried to keep playing dress-up to a minimum, Saints Row 2 enables you to buy layers of ridiculous clothing, jewelry and tattoos and mix them together however you like.

Grand Theft Auto IV caught some flak over its watchable in-game TVs, which were a nice touch but featured shows that weren’t quite up to the series’ high standards. SR2 doesn’t even bother with trying to create its own channels, and the TVs in your apartments are useful only for two things: re-watching cutscenes (which is kind of fun, because any changes you’ve made to your character since the events happened will show up in the cinema) and playing a videogame called Zombie Uprising.

Above: Yeah, this is about all there is to it. But what more do you want, really?

Zombie Uprising plays like a crude imitation of Dead Rising, in that your task is to fend off endless waves of zombies using your fists and whatever else is scattered around. It’s usually only fun for five minutes at a stretch, but the amount of detail that went into making the shambling, bloated zombies almost makes us sad that they didn’t suddenly surface to menace the city in the final act of the game’s story. Also, they’re really fun to carve up with a chainsaw.

What? “Eclectic music picked out by people with excellent taste?” What the hell does that mean? All we know is that among Saints Row 2’s thrash-metal and hip-hop radio stations is one that plays “The Final Countdown” and “Take on Me” seemingly every five minutes. And if you can’t enjoy that on some level, then we have nothing more to discuss.

Oct 10, 2008

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Mikel Reparaz
After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.