Of course, it would be wrong to make such a bold claim without venturing to justify it, even if those who would disagree should be strung up for going against the absolute truth. To back me up, I have ten solid facts that prove my righteousness and adequately display that Saints Row, a series that started out as a poor attempt to emulate Rockstar's controversial franchise, has now surpassed it.
1. In-Mission Checkpoints:
One thing that has always bugged me about Grand Theft Auto is that if you fail a mission or are killed/busted, you have to do the entire thing again, including the boring drive to wherever the meat of the mission is. Saints Row 2 makes this a thing of the past with in-mission checkpoints that help remove some aspects of a stage that would bore you to death upon repeated attempts.
That's not to say that the checkpoints are always well-implemented or sensible, but at least you don't have to drive from the mission's activation all the way to where the action is every time you die.
2. Cars are actually fun to drive:
Why on Earth Rockstar decided to strive for "realism" is something I'll never fathom. This desire that developers have to be "realistic" all the time is helping to kill the fun factor of a lot of games nowadays, and one of the worst examples was Rockstar's decision to remove the arcade feel of their vehicles.
Saints Row 2 makes no such "innovation," and as a result, its cars don't handle like blobs of spunk on a rubber sheet covered in soapy water. The controls are decidedly old-fashioned, and the cars grip the road without swerving uncontrollably for players who don't want to act like they're driving a real car. Seriously, I'd learn to drive in real life if I wanted that experience.
I want cars that can go really really fast yet are still able to turn corners with very little penalty. I want to be able to crash without flying out of the windscreen every time -- something which got old, boring and time consuming after the first few times it happened in GTA IV. I want something that is not realistic. I got what I wanted from the cars in Saints Row 2.
3. Weapons are far more varied and awesome:
As part of its strive for realism, GTA IV cut out several elements that had made the previous games so much fun. Chief among these cuts were the numerous and outragous weapons that had graced the the GTAs of old. No more chainsaws. No more flamethrowers. Just very grounded, very real, very tiresome guns.
Enter Saints Row 2, a game that embraces the chainsaw and is more than happy to give flamethrowers the love that Rockstar denied them. Not only that, it throws in a few more fantastic firearms into the mix as well. Fancy a pimp cane that doubles as a gun? How about a foam hand that performs insta-kill bitchslaps and sends enemies flying into the air? All this and more can be found in Stilwater, not so much in Liberty City.
SR2's arsenal is varied, fun and in several instances, hilarious. Exactly what a gamer should want from his weaponry.
4. You can be a cockney bastard:
We're going to look at Saints Row's customization in a few moments, but one custom option deserves its own section -- the terrible, Dick Van Dyke-quality English voiceover that you can choose to give your character. It's so deliciously bad that it becomes awesome, and I can't think of Saints Row 2 now without inwardly grinning at its inclusion. Niko Bellic is a great main character and everything, but he's no cockney bastard.
5. Real customization:
Yes, GTA IV lets you pick out some clothes for Niko to wear, but that doesn't even come close to the level of personalization that is available in Saints Row 2. With the option to shape your character however you wish, you'll be able to pick an aforementioned voice, the way you walk, how you compliment or taunt other people and what color your hair is. With enough tweaking (almost too much tweaking) you can create anything you like.
Then there are the hundreds and hundreds of clothing options available to you, embarrassing Niko's rather drab selection of suits and brown shirts. You can choose to make your character look stylish or stupid, with anything from sharp suits to hot dog costumes. You can even opt to go nude, with an amusing pixelation effect to keep things "tasteful."
We're not done there, either. You can choose to pimp out your car, you can select what your bodyguards look like and you can change the way your home looks. While GTA IV feels like Rockstar's game, Saints Row 2 feels like your game. It's an important distinction and, in this case, works in SR2's favor.
6. Lots more to do:
Grand Theft Auto IV had some really good missions and a great story, but beyond that there was never really anything compelling. The dating and friendship minigame was interesting, but it eventually got boring having to deal with Roman calling you every half hour to invite you to go bowling. Other distractions, such as darts or TV, did very little to keep one coming back for more.
Once again, Saints Row 2 trumps GTA IV, with a wide variety of minigames and distractions on offer, some of them pretty damn robust in their own right. You can play in-game videogames, for example, including an awesome zombie-killing game. You can buy various businesses to earn extra income. The activities have also returned from the first game, with old favorites like Insurance Fraud, where you jump into oncoming traffic for money, being joined by such family-friendly jaunts as wearing a flame-retardant suit, setting yourself alight, and then driving a dirtbike around the city to ignite as much as possible.
Now that is gameplay.
7. Superior multiplayer:
The multiplayer in GTA IV wasn't really all that fantastic. It had its moments and the races could certainly be fun, but the deathmatches were bad and the game "lobby" is about as intuitive as heart surgery.
SR2's multiplayer, on the other hand, is far more fun. The simple deathmatches are where the game truly shines, and they are so much more interesting than the comparatively quiet and bland matches of GTA IV. The weapon variety and superior vehicles come into play here, providing an environment far more suited to online play.
The co-op is also an excellent addition, with a fantastic drop-in/drop-out usability that means you never know who might pop into your version of Stilwater.
But the most glorious part of the SR2 multiplayer is that it's not controlled by Niko Bellic's stupid little cellphone. It's actually done properly and isn't a complete inconvenience. Victory!
8. It looks better:
Wait, what? I know what you're thinking -- Saints Row 2's graphics really aren't very hot compared to most console titles out there, and it's certainly not graphically superior to GTA IV.
True, but that doesn't mean that Saints Row 2 can't look better.
Sure, SR2 isn't powered by Euphoria, and it doesn't have believable facial animation or much level of detail to its aesthetics, but unlike Liberty City, Stilwater has more than three colors in it. SR2 is bright and striking, and what its characters lack in detail are made up for with memorable design. SR2 looks better than GTA IV because it doesn't look like everything else.
9. It's much funnier:
GTA IV had its funny moments, but SR2 had me laughing out loud with only ten minutes of gameplay. From the inventively sadistic cutscenes to the immature jokes, Saints Row 2 is a funny game, if you lower your IQ enough to have fun. It's definitely stupid, but it doesn't really matter when you're watching a man getting tattooed with ink that's been secretly mixed with toxic waste.
And again, I present Mr. Cockney Bastard.
10. It's not ashamed of its own stupidity:
GTA IV seemed almost blatant in its efforts to get away from the Grand Theft Autos of old, and it is to be commended for trying something like that. However, you can't really compare to something that is almost delicious in its stupidity, and refuses to apologize for it.
Saints Row 2 honestly doesn't care whether or not you think it's puerile. One gets the impression that the team at Volition all sat around a table, wrote ideas on a piece of paper and then used every single idea they had, no matter how vulgar. SR2 knows that when you buy a sandbox game, you want to do stupid things stupidly while being stupid, and it is more than happy to oblige. It doesn't fight your attempts to cause mayhem, or your bloody rampages, and practically delights when you drive on the wrong side of the road.
Ultimately, Saints Row 2 does what some videogames seem not to be doing lately -- it remembers it's a videogame and acts accordingly. It's not trying to pull on your heartstrings and it's not trying to force anything on you. It literally gives you a sandbox and tells you to have fun. Grand Theft Auto IV is, I reiterate, great. But it's not nearly as fun as SR2.
And that's why Saints Row 2 is better than Grand Theft Auto IV.
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