>For this My Thoughts I'd like to compare two oft-compared games, released in the same year on the same platforms and with many, many similarities. I'll split it into several sections too. Grand Theft Auto IV, not the fourth in the series, is the numerical sequel to the game considered revolutionary in its popularisation of the entire 3D sandbox genre. Saints Row 2, the multiformat sequel to a 2006 Xbox 360-exclusive game, is a series that attempts to do pretty much the same thing.
Both have good graphics, though they seem to take alternative directions. GTAIV's realistic graphics, Saints Row 2's cartooniness. Given GTA's fairly poor sixth-generation graphics it's a pleasant surprise that its graphics are so, so good. Although less colourful and slightly more dreary than Saints Row 2's graphics, GTAIV's to me are better.
Saints Row 2 features the city of Stilwater, upgraded but in many ways unchanged from its predecessor. It's a well-designed location with plenty of different locations. GTAIV features a renovated Liberty City, in the style of New York (with many familiar areas, including its own rendition of Times Square and the Statue of Liberty). Though GTAIV's location had to be researched thoroughly, costing millions of dollars, Stilwater's brighter atmosphere just about takes it.
An easy victory to Saints Row 2. While GTAIV's is more than adequate - a series of guns based on real life ones and the ability to throw things like coffee, hot dogs and other sidewalk debris, it's an overall step down from San Andreas' pool cues and brass knuckles. Saints Row 2 not only covers the realistic front, it also adds a fun factor to weaponry, with weapons such as defibulators, satchel charges (another item San Andreas had that IV didn't) and the "pimp slap", a big pink glove that sends its recipients flying into the air. Smashing.
And an easy victory for GTAIV. SR2 was never about the storyline - it has some nice missions and a general story to go with - but GTAIV's is movie-worthy. It features twists, turns, user choices, and a real feeling of progression. Smashing stuff.
Both games feature adequate online multiplayer minigames which are great fun to play, but SR2 also allows two people to play the entire story mode, and even wander entirely independently around the city, online together. Great stuff.
Not the game-breaking health refillers, the ones which make playing about more fun. The PS2 GTA games were particularly brilliant at this, including cheats such as the ability to drive into other cars and watch them float away before your very eyes. Yet again though, GTAIV stripped a lot of these, leaving mainly the game breakers. SR2 has a number of funny cheats, including UFO spawning, low gravity, and pedestrian weather (where random civilians are spawned and subsequently drop from high in the sky, landing with a sickening thud). You can combine these with online two-player city exploration to create a number of unofficial minigames, including a personal favourite - low gravity grenade wars (low gravity + infinite health + give grenades + infinite ammo, find a nice high roof and chuck grenades at each other until someone falls off it).
SR2 has an absolute plethora of outside-mission activities to do. These are generated from all the weapons you can toy with, the minigames, and all sorts. But GTAIV is slightly better thanks to its stunning physics engine. You can push people over things and watch them stumble/trip (even going so far as to pushing them down flights of stairs, Porrasturvat-style), into cliffs or anything of the sort. You can anger taxi drivers by slapping their car then run around toying with their angry selves, perhaps getting a few more, having them accidentally hit their angry companions and watching the ensuing fight. You can get yourself a helicopter, carefully back it into a building until its tail end falls off then try to land it as its damaged, smoking body rotates angrily in the air. You can go to the strip club and buy yourself a dance, or slightly more fun, jump onto their podiums and watch all the strippers become frightened and the guards become angry. You can log onto a computer, look up some child... naughtiness... only to be redirected to a police website and, off-computer, five stars added to your wanted level. You can get yourself a girlfriend on a dating site and take her for a booze-up, ending the date by drunkenly driving home and showing her what your interpretation of "coming in for coffee" is (hint - no sugars). Heck, you can even go and watch Ricky Gervais, voiced and motion-captured by the man himself, perform a genuinely funny stand up show!
In short, GTAIV takes it. SR2 is still cracking fun, especially when you've an online friend to play it with. But GTAIV continues its sandbox crime game dominance by providing a game which, amidst all the controversy and media stupidity, is genuinely brilliant fun. Yes, you can park up to a prostitute and watch her bang you one off in animated splendour. Yes, you can go on killing sprees. But yes, ignore all the shit around it and you're left with something that, in one word, is stunning. Oh, not to mention, but Saints Row is totally a rip off of GTA. ;)