So after beating GTA IV for the 2nd time and starting up on Saints Row again for the Xbox 360 – it struck me that if the strengths of both games could be combined into 1 title – it would be an unstoppable monster in the ‘sandbox’ genre of games.
First, GTA –
Physics, graphics, missions, sound effects, weapons control.
Second, Saints Row –
Missions, mini-games, character development and customization, vehicle customization, environement.
As far as I’m concerned, GTA IV excelled when it came to improving upon the immersion factor which covers physics, graphics, sound effects, and the weapons control. Each of those factors is the best in the genre. Sure the cover-fire system can be flaky at times, but we’re not talking Gears of War, we’re talking Grand Theft Auto. It’s great. Also, while some of the mission structure can be stale and redundant – it has a greater and more developed story-line than any previous GTA title except for San Andreas.
Now where I find Saints Row superior is the fluidity of the gaming. It’s still a game! The developers at THQ haven’t forgotten that we’re here to play a game, and they put in gobs of features that can only increase the level of FUN. Mini-games like mayhem, where you must wreak destruction to succeeed, or insurance fraud where you must toss the player into the path of oncoming traffic for financial benefit, even snatch where you must kidnap hookers and hijack where you must damage an enemy vehicle and then steal it in order to win – offer excellent distractions from the in game play while providing resources in the form of cash and respect that allow the game to continue.
Also, character and vehicle customization stand out in Saints Row. Maybe I want to drive the black muscle car with the hood scoop all day, in GTA you’ll have to hunt one down if you’re lucky, and store it outside one of your safe houses. Saints Row? Save it on your garage, customize it at any of the shops in the city, and pick up where you left off. Sure, you might end up with dozens of different vehicles to choose from – but that’s half the fun – making your own custom rides and showing them off around town. As for character customization – we can all agree that Rockstar made a modest effort at providing a few different clothing choices, but it lacked the depth of Saints Row where you can customize every bit of clothing, as well as your appearance – on the fly. While the physical appearance may have detracted from the eastern European plot-line of GTA4 – you don’t give us Manhattan as a playground and only 3 clothing stores!
That leaves me to my greatest complaint about GTA4, and in my opinion its greatest failing. It’s based on New York. Sure, there is plenty of eye candy, but in my peronal opinion basing a game on a real environment limits the scope of the game to that environment. I can only drive down broadway at full speed through a line of parked cars so many times before I ask – is this it? I hope the next title or chapter in the game involves some real innovation, I could care less if I’m driving through a 3D rendered Brooklyn. I don’t want to go there in reality, why waste my time there in a game?
From the previews I’ve seen on Saints Row 2 – it looks to be another outstanding addition to one of my favorite gaming genres. That said, Saints Row upped the bar, even GTA 4 gave it a nudge – but I’m expecting MORE from both games. I want more FUN, more CUSTOMIZATION, and more reasons to keep playing besides the story.