Why Saints Row 2 Poops On Saints Row IV (It's A Better Game)

I see a lot of people getting excited about the upcoming release of Saints Row IV. But did you know that you are actually wrong?

Yes, it's true! The Saints Row series peaked at 2 and has been circling the drain since. I don't know if it's out of laziness or just plain contempt for their audience, but the developers made The Third a worse game and will probably ruin IV as well.

I know some of you were introduced to the series with Saints Row The Third, so let me explain why Saints Row 2 is the high point of the series that they will never reach again, ever. Prepare to get sad.

Stilwater is a more interesting city than Steelport

Stilwater in Saints Row 2 is one of the best open worlds in a video game, and I'm just talking aesthetically here! We'll get to the other good stuff later!

There are so many distinct districts and areas of Stilwater that it's crazy. You have a college campus with skateboarding students, a huge student center, and the "Frat Row". You've got a nuclear power plant island, Chinatown, the airport, factories, some high-class downtown areas that have totally different street textures, a trailer park...pretty much every traditional “open world city” setting is here. The cool thing is that they're all visually distinct and have different NPCs walking around depending on the area. You won't see gang members strolling around in baggy jeans in the downtown area.

In comparison, Steelport is a mostly flat, all industrial city that gets more boring to explore as they close off bridges. There's no variable weather or day/night cycle. You're looking at mostly the same scenery throughout Saints Row The Third and it gets boring. As opposed to Saints Row 2, where every location is visually distinct. It feels like a real town. Steelport feels like a video game fake city, lessening the joy in exploring it.

Basically, there are no cool hidden secrets like this in Steelport.

And this is only tangentially related, but the soundtrack in Saints Row 2 is the best in the series. I actually recognized a lot of the songs, as opposed to the soundtracks in Saints Row The Third and IV which are just obscure to get indie cred. Whatever, I'll be over here killing dudes to this amazing music.

More Customization in Saints Row 2

The city of Stilwater has LOADS of clothing stores, each catering to a different style. There's a hippy store, used clothing store, campus store with college clothes, and even separate stores for jewelry and cars. There's even a mall with a few unique stores.

Steelport in Saints Row The Third has like 20 Planet Saints (that all have the same clothes), and three specialty stores that are really far out of the way. I like the clothes in Nobody Loves Me, but why is there only one in the entire city? Am I gonna drive all the way through this boring city to get clothes there? Probably not.

I suppose there's a metaphor at play here. The Saints in The Third have grown soft and complacent, so they just monopolize the city's clothing outlets because they're boring now like the game is. And it makes shopping for clothes a boring time when there's 30 of one shop EVERYWHERE, and then three other shops that are out of the way. Why not spread that out?

Anyway, there are more glaring omissions to customization in Saints Row The Third. Stuff that was already in 2 that they removed for no good reason. You can't have custom walk cycles. You can't customize how you wear your clothes. In 2, if I buy a pair of jeans I can choose to wear them sagging, the type of wear they are (regular, battered, or acid washed for example), if I want a belt on, and many other options.

In The Third, that stuff is just gone. I can't customize my own walk cycle. Why? I can't customize how I wear my clothes. Instead of buying a pair of jeans and wearing them how I choose, I have to buy Baggy Jeans 1, Belt Jeans 1, Acid Wash Jeans 1...it's such a step backwards. For no good reason.

More Stores in Saints Row 2

Back in my day, Saints Row games had hella stores. In addition to the clothing options I already went over, there were some extra stores that most open world games don't have.

I'm talking about the liquor stores, mostly. In gas stations, liquor stores, and nightclubs in Saints Row 2, you can buy alcohol and weed. Now I'll admit, there's no reason for there to be several types of stores selling the same thing. And I don't even know what the alcohol and weed does besides be less useful than food powerups. They don't add anything to the game...except charm.

You know, the thing Saints Row The Third went very far out of its way to avoid? Having charm and personality? Saints Row 2 has that.

There's also record stores so you can buy songs for your portable MP3 player. That's right, you can listen to music from the radio even when you're not in the car. Another feature pointlessly removed by Saints Row The Third. I can't wait to not hear the soundtrack in Saints Row IV because I'll be running around with my super speed! Not using a car ever, because why would you?

There are car dealerships to buy cars to store in your garage in Saints Row 2. Which is...kinda pointless because you can steal whatever car you'll need. But that shows the length the team used to go through to immerse you in the game's world.

Saints Row 2 has regenerating health, but sometimes you don't want to just sit in a corner as your health recharges (which happens all the time in The Third). So you can go to fast food shops and buy healing items to store in your inventory. And even though every store has unique food items for no good reason because they all work the same way, and even though there's no real reason for them to offer multiple sizes of health packs because you should just buy the biggest one anyway...why take that out of the game?

It's a good idea and you just remove it. Great job.

More Side Missions In Saints Row 2

This one is a pretty big failure. Sidequests Fight Club, Crowd Control, Septic Avenger, Tow Truck, Ambulance EMT, Ho-ing, Taxi Driver, Tagging, Secret Areas, CD Collection, Drive-By, and Mugging are just gone from Saints Row The Third.

Why? Well, some could make the argument that a good deal of those aren't fun. And they'd probably be right. But find a replacement for them or tweak them to make them more fun instead of just cutting huge amounts of content.

I really enjoyed customizing your character with different fighting styles in Saints Row 2. You could pull off cool combo attacks in addition to using improvised weapons everywhere, like traffic meters and wooden barrels. And they take it all out in The Third for a worse melee system with no combos and the glitchy “finisher” button. I guarantee that the wrestling match would be more fun if they kept the old combo system.

Unlocking more rewards by completing Side Missions in Saints Row 2 was rewarding. It was admittedly annoying playing side quests just to progress the story. And even more annoying having character power-ups tied to some of the side missions, especially if the side mission wasn't fun. Why should I have to play Mayhem to make my character better? I don't like Mayhem. And Snatch is terrible.

Oops, I'm supposed to be praising Saints Row 2 here. Uh, just don't play that stuff if you don't want to! But then play them to unlock new missions and finish the game because you have to. Moving on.

THE STORY

This is the biggest reason why the Saints Row games won't be as good as 2. The story in Saints Row 2 was perfect. It's one of the few games to pull off the Playable Character being a villain. In their rise to the top, this character does some despicable things. They poison a rival with radioactive waste out of spite. They manufacture and sell hard drugs. They CONSUME hard drugs. They brutally decapitate another rival. They spray feces all over nice houses for some cash.

You do some ridiculous stuff in Saints Row 2, but there's also some story beats with true emotional impact. Like the infamous scene where Carlos is murdered, or when you kill your former boss for no good reason. The last one in particular shows how ruthless the Boss has become.

Each gang storyline has a buildup where you learn to really despise your rival, and a final confrontation where you kill them off in a satisfying way. There's buildup, and payoff. Even the sidequests have some story behind them.

In Saints Row The Third, all of the gangs are a big conglomerate that fight against you. The bosses are defeated anticlimatically because there was no buildup. When Loren dies from having a giant ball dropped on him, I honestly don't know anyone who didn't say “That was it? The big boss guy just dies like that?”

Not only that, but the over-the-top elements of Saints Row The Third disconnect the player from any emotion. I really wanted to kill Maero after he tortured Carlos to death.

I didn't feel anything toward any of the bosses in The Third because the plot jumped around so much. It felt like there were large sections of story content cut out, giving the game a disjointed feel.

And now Saints Row IV seems to go in the direction of eliminating all the drama the series once had for sheer absurdity. That's not why I liked the game in the first place. The mixture of silly stuff and characters I actually cared for made it worth playing.

So, go back and play Saints Row 2. Ignore Saints Row IV and any future games in the franchise. They've peaked, and instead of improving on what they did right so many years ago, they'll just continue to get away from it and make strange “wacky” games with less and less content than the second game. But at least the gunplay and driving feels better, right?

Sigh.

125 Comments
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Posted by rebgav

lol

Edited by joshthebear

Nope.

Edited by PerfidiousSinn

@dallas_raines: Really? I thought the general opinion on Shaundi is that she was cool in Saints Row 2 and extremely annoying when she got super aggro and unfun in The Third. I'm glad they're bringing the old one back in IV, even on a temporary basis.

Posted by Animasta

Oh yes, the one thing SR3 lacks is charm and personality. Totally!

Look, fine if you like them better, but to say that it's better is wrong... because it's all subjective dude. You don't like the sheer absurdity, but I do, and to say that doing away with it would make the game better is fallacious at best.

Also you're a troll. A high effort one, admittedly, but a troll none the less.

Posted by ripelivejam

nice antagonistic post you got there, i'm totally not questioning the validity of your claims...

given that i got saints row 2 recently i'll eventually give it a fair shake (granted that it actually runs on my pc, b'oh...)

Edited by Dallas_Raines

The attempts at humor and drama in SR2 were usually pretty groan inducing.(Old Shaundi in particular, was incredibly annoying) It always felt like they were trying and failing miserably to be Houser-esque. They nailed the gameplay, but the writing was never there.

Edited by PerfidiousSinn

@animasta: Disagreeing with you about a video game is definitely not a troll.

Posted by papercut

I am a huge fan of Saints Row 2 and it's probably my favorite in the series. It was in my opinion the perfect balance of wacky shit and self seriousness in the story to really grab you. That being said, I think that Saints Row The Third was a ton of fun on a different, pure comedy level. It's like the difference in tone between movies like Terminator and T2 or Alien and Aliens or hell, even the Fast and Furious series on some level. Even though I preferred the balance they struck in 2, I can still appreciate what they have done in The Third and what it looks like they are doing for 4.

And thats another key, you can't really say 2 was better than 4 before it has even come out. Give it a chance duder.

Edited by FancySoapsMan

The story in Saints Row 2 was so fucking stupid, and not in a good way.

Posted by PerfidiousSinn

nice antagonistic post you got there, i'm totally not questioning the validity of your claims...

You really should though.

Posted by Animasta

@animasta: Disagreeing with you about a video game is definitely not a troll.

rofl.

There's a difference between:

I think SR2 is better than SR3, and here's why...

If you liked SR3 better than SR2, you are wrong and here's why...

and the fact that you didn't even address the other stuff in my post proves it. You're looking to rile up people with your choices in tone.

Posted by TheManWithNoPlan

What's it like living in the future? Cause I'm so fucking jealous you got to play Saints Row 4 already.

Edited by PerfidiousSinn

@animasta: I think Saints Row 2 has its merits and I am genuinely disappointed at the cut content & tone shift in The Third. But The Third is a fine game and I'm looking forward to IV. I just know it'll never be the same again.

That help?

Posted by PerfidiousSinn

What's it like living in the future? Cause I'm so fucking jealous you got to play Saints Row 4 already.

Eh, it's okay.

Posted by Animasta

@animasta: I think Saints Row 2 has its merits and I am genuinely disappointed at the cut content & tone shift in The Third. But The Third is a fine game and I'm looking forward to IV. I just know it'll never be the same again.

That help?

fine, here's my counterpoint;

san andreas already did what you wanted better (a grounded story with an absurdist bent, especially with the area 69 stuff, Torino, etc.). Also it played better... and as unoptimized as SA was, SR2 was so much worse.

now good night!

Posted by BeachThunder

Yeah, well, Saints Row V > Saints Row IV and Saints Row 2 put together! I know this because I live even further into the future than you do!

Edited by Tru3_Blu3

I agree with everything you said. I liked SR2, but didn't like SR3 one bit. I found it fucking boring from beginning to the end, despite the wackiness which I thought would allow the developer freedom to do more things, only to instead use dildo jokes and diminish any heart and wit the last two had.

Was not worth the $30 I put into it, season pass and all.

Posted by Yummylee

Saints Row 2 is one of my top ten games of the whole generation, and I too think it's vastly superior to SRTT.

But comon wtf. wtf, man. what are you doing. what. Like, seriously.

Posted by PerfidiousSinn

@yummylee: I was reading some of the comments people post on Saints Row's Facebook and getting sad. Some people would actually write this blog and not be joking.

Edited by McGhee

I bought SR3 for the PS3 and got SR2 for free. After finishing SR3 and loving it so much, I jumped into SR2. After playing it a short while, all I could ask myself was, "WTF is this janky shit?"

Posted by TruthTellah

Why Final Fantasy II Projectile Vomits On Final Fantasy XV (It's a More Betterer Game)

Posted by PerfidiousSinn

@beachthunder: Do they call it 5AINT5 ROW V? Because that would be dope.

@mcghee: Yeah, it's REALLY hard to go back to 2. All of the basic gameplay functions in The Third just feel better. Like the shooting and driving in particular.

Edited by Yummylee

@perfidioussinn: Oh, so this is satire? You don't actually like SR2? Or at least prefer the direction it's taken with SRTT.

Well... anywhoo, the lesson learned is to never read Facebook comments. Hell, that should be common sense at this point! Right next to youtube comments, gamespot comments, IGN comments *rambles on*

Posted by BeachThunder
Posted by PerfidiousSinn

@yummylee: I like Saints Row 2 and I'm disappointed in how much content they cut out of The Third for no reason. But I like playing The Third more. Shootin' dudes and driving just feels better, and since you spend most of the game shooting dudes and driving...

Still, so many people on forums are always like "Saints Row sucks now, I miss when it was about gangsters and had more stuff to do". And I don't fully agree with that. Just a little.

Edited by TruthTellah

@yummylee: Youtube and gaming site comments have nothing on news site comments. They are by far the worst comments I have ever come across. Sometimes I venture down into that pit on a story, and I immediately fear for the future of mankind. Because it isn't just people saying awful, awful things about inconsequential topics. It's people saying horrendous, appalling things about stuff that actually matters.

Posted by konig_kei

I sorta agree with you but saints row 3 was still a good game, i did feel overall that saints row 2 was better. The guns were better, clothes were better and characters were better. That's sorta all i cared for saints row, it's what distinguished it from the other open world games, I didn't really care for all the "crazy" shenanigans i just wanted customisation and shit to shoot. But hey, this is from a guy that 100% every saints row game and is super psyched for saints row 4. strap it on.

Posted by PerfidiousSinn

@konig_kei: Could not imagine getting 100% on Saints Row 2. Those Tow Truck missions made me want to throw the game in the trash.

Posted by JayDee

are u really playing a video game for clothes? forreal?

Posted by Yummylee

@perfidioussinn: Sure, there's no denying that SRTT controls better. SR2 is a game where you still had to press X/A to accelerate after all, which is tough to go back to. But, whether facetious or not on your part, all of your points raised about SR2 (Stilwater having so much more life than Steelport in particular, as well as the story) hold true and it's what makes SR2 a much more enjoyable game for me.

It reminds me of many discussions surrounding the folks who prefer the original Mass Effect to Mass Effect 2, considering Mass Effect 2 certainly plays better than its predecessor, but it has so many other qualities to gloss over its inferiorities regarding the raw gameplay.

@yummylee: Youtube and gaming site comments have nothing on news site comments. They are by far the worst comments I have ever come across. Sometimes I venture down into that pit on a story, and I immediately fear for the future of mankind. Because it isn't just people saying awful, awful things about inconsequential topics. It's people saying horrendous, appalling things about stuff that actually matters.

Yeah, I can certainly see why that'd be even worse. It certainly makes stuff like dumb console fanboyism comments, or stupid shit centred around a review score, pale in comparison when you've got the same stupid shit that's being directed at something that, like you said, actually matters.

Guess that's just my slightly longwinded way of saying ''I agree'' :P

Posted by JakeMoore1106

I agree with you here! Saints row and Saints Row 2 have been the best Saints Row games out there! The storyline was so good even the online was good (Don't know why they got rid of gangs but they must have there reasons) But Saints Row 3 was dreadful! One of the worst games I've played and i got a feeling Saints Row 4 is going to be the same. Sorry but that's what i think.

Edited by MEATBALL

Saints Row 2 is not a game I enjoyed in the slightest (I hated it), basically, whereas I really enjoyed Saints Row 3. Saints Row 4 looks amazing, I can guarantee I'll enjoy it infinitely more than Saints Row 2.

Notice how I didn't act like my opinion was gospel? Funny that. You may very well prefer Saints Row 2 to what has come after, but making claims that the series "has been circling the drain since" is ridiculous internet bullshit.

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Posted by PerfidiousSinn

@yummylee: Spot on with the Mass Effect analogy. I really dislike playing ME1 just because it's so clunky in the combat, but they totally wiped the RPG elements and inventory stuff in the next games. I see the disappointment from the fans there clear as day.

I have friends who are getting into SR2 for the first time and really disliking how archaic the gameplay systems are. But Stilwater is such a better city and they're missing why it's so funny that Keith David plays himself in SRIV >_<

Edited by TruthTellah

@yummylee said:

@truthtellah said:

@yummylee: Youtube and gaming site comments have nothing on news site comments. They are by far the worst comments I have ever come across. Sometimes I venture down into that pit on a story, and I immediately fear for the future of mankind. Because it isn't just people saying awful, awful things about inconsequential topics. It's people saying horrendous, appalling things about stuff that actually matters.

Yeah, I can certainly see why that'd be even worse. It certainly makes stuff like dumb console fanboyism comments, or stupid shit centred around a review score, pale in comparison when you've got the same stupid shit that's being directed at something that, like you said, actually matters.

Guess that's just my slightly longwinded way of saying ''I agree'' :P

I'm fine with long-winded. ha.

I can honestly say that I've been able to get something out of almost every online forum or comments section I've interacting with. That includes the worst sections of gaming or 4chan.

But I only regret ever looking at news site comments. And it's not US news sites specifically. It's just about any news agency around. Heck, I interacted with a Chinese news site once, and the first response I got was someone calling me the n-word. I mean, you hear the worst things imaginable, often spoken sincerely. A lot of the sites rely on up-voting systems, as well, leading to the frothy foam of hatefulness to usually get prominence. I remember really enjoying an Al-Jazeera article a while back, and I mistakenly scrolled down to find that the top up-voted and replied comment was someone talking about the need for a violent end to all Jews. And some of the replies were like, "Amen!" or "You know, you make some really nice points for why they should be eradicated." And I'm just beside myself on how people can type and/or say things so awful on serious things.

Edited by RawText

Admittedly I kinda miss when Saints Row was all about, y'know, gangs instead of being this insane comic book story with completely awesome yet completely ridiculous things going on.

Saint's Row 2 was grounded. It was crazy to a degree, with things going on that were definitely exaggerated. But hot damn, the fact that it was grounded actually gave some credence to the story. As the OP said, you came to hate the opposition and then got a satisfying conclusion at the end of each arc. But hot damn. Hot damn the things your character does or accepted were -evil as fuck-.

Also, the fucking Brotherhood (red guys?) storyline was brutal. Even if the gameplay is janky as fuck, hot damn was Marco a satisfying opponent who could give the Boss a run for his money -- something no other opponent really did in that game. Everyone else was just a nuisance who occasionally got in some shots. But that storyline was just an uncompromising slug-fest. I would play a game that was like that.

I'm not saying SR2 was better than SR3. SR3 is a hilarious game that I just laugh my way through. Nor am I saying SR2 was this orgasmic piece of writing genius. I guess I just sort of miss the crime-fiction that was SR2. Don't care much for customization, I just pick what makes sense for my character to wear and stick with it for the game. Side-quests were just... side-quests, meh.

Still excited for SR4, and will be picking it up. I just miss old Shaundi and Pierce. They were cool, though Pierce's changes in 3 made a lot more sense than Shaundi's. He just seemed like he was built for the 'classy' gangster style. Kinda wish there was less Gat. (I'm sorry, he's just not my favorite one. I didn't care much for his death.)

Posted by PerfidiousSinn

@meatball said:

You may very well prefer Saints Row 2 to what has come after, but making claims that the series "has been circling the drain since" is ridiculous internet bullshit.

Fully agree here. Shame on me.

Posted by gogosox82

I tend to agree but at the end of the day SR2 is a chore to play through while SR3 is fun to play through and I think that makes it better but just slightly.

Posted by MrJorOwe

Cool man when did you get to play SR IV to base this opinion on? Really sweet that you get to play preview copies of games. I'll look out for your threads and opinions in the future!

Posted by Deranged

Interesting opinion on the matter mate. Can't say I agree with you but I won't say you're wrong because that's your opinion. See what I did there?

Oh and personally, I thought Saints Row 2 was decent but didn't truly come into it's own until the third game. Controls were atrocious in the second game.

Edited by mandude

I thought Saint's Row 2 was shite.

Edited by Ramone

Where the fuck have all these SR2 loving motherfuckers come from? I liked that game a whole lot but SR3 is on another fucking level entirely.

Posted by Rick_Fingers

Saint's Row 2 was a mediocre take on San Andreas

Saint's Row 3 was unique, had a legitimate sense of humour instead of "hurr weed and shit" and was farcical and crazy in a way most games can never successfully pull off.

I'd trade a thousand meaningless customisation options and shitty side missions for a good game.

See, I can be completely dismissive as well!

Posted by MildMolasses

@mrjorowe said:

Cool man when did you get to play SR IV to base this opinion on? Really sweet that you get to play preview copies of games. I'll look out for your threads and opinions in the future!

Wait until you see my blog on why Assassin's Creed is better than Assassin's Creed 4, empirically.

Posted by JasonR86

Lol.

You must have an early copy of SR4 to come to such a conclusion.

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Posted by mikey87144

Just pre-ordered Saints Row IV after reading this.

Posted by MEATBALL

@meatball said:

You may very well prefer Saints Row 2 to what has come after, but making claims that the series "has been circling the drain since" is ridiculous internet bullshit.

Fully agree here. Shame on me.

Respect.

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Posted by Quarters

1. Saints Row IV isn't out yet. You can't definitively make this statement.

2. I played the SR games in order. I like SR3 better than SR2. Oh, opinions, you kooky cat.

Edited by CitizenCoffeeCake

Yea I have played and beaten them in order as well and.. I like 3 better. More side missions? Not a selling point for me.

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