Grand Theft Auto IV and Saints Row 2

Last summer I spent a pretty huge number of hours playing the heck out of Grand Theft Auto IV (GTA4). I had played and loved the very first Grand Theft Auto game, but never got into GTA3, GTA: Vice City, or GTA: San Andreas. These were initially Playstation 2 (PS2) games and I didn’t have a PS2 at the time. By the time these games made it to the Xbox, the graphics and control seemed outdated to me, so I just never got into them. The first open world sandbox game I really got into was Crackdown, and I loved Crackdown. I anxiously await the announcement of Crackdown 2.

GTA4 was an incredibly fun game. It had a long, interesting story. The location (a slightly smaller version) of New York, er, Liberty City was very well realized. The characters were well crafted and the game had a good sense of humor. The gameplay had a few minor flaws, notably the lack in in-mission checkpoints, but you could really immerse yourself in the world. Sure, you played a criminal, but I didn’t (usually) go out of my way to be a thug to the citizens of Liberty City. The story-driven nature of the game along with the feeling of actually living in the city gave the game a sense of realism. I am looking forward to playing the upcoming downloadable content The Lost and the Damned.

There is no disguising that the Saints Row series are GTA-knockoff games.  They came in early in the Xbox360 life to fill the void that existed because GTA4 had a long development cycle. I didn’t play Saints Row (SR1), but everybody I know that played it really enjoyed it. At the time, I think the general consensus was that it wasn’t as good a game as the  GTA games, but it had nice graphics and was a lot of fun. Since I hadn’t played SR1, I wasn’t initially going to get Saints Row 2 (SR2). A friend admitted it wasn’t GTA4 but said it was a really solid game, so I went ahead and put it on my “Christmas Wish List” and behold, it appeared under my Christmas Tree (12 inches tall and glass, on the dining room table), thanks to my generous sister.

I am now about 5 or 6 hours into SR2 and have played enough to form impressions. Even from the very start, I could tell they weren’t trying to directly compete with GTA4. The game is far less realistic, far more “create havoc and mayhem” than GTA4. It often seems to subscribe to the blow sh*t up ethic of Mercenaries 2. SR2 is far less story driven, but there is a story. To play the story elements you are required to do lots and lots of crazy activities of questionable morals. I’ve seen people say SR2 is video game junk food compared to GTA4’s fine meal; both are great for different reasons and desirable at different times. This analogy seems “close enough”. 

Either way, I plan to play and finish SR2 – I am having a lot of fun with it.

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