Saints Row 2 is such a good game! I’ve said it before, most Saints Row fans have said it before, but I honestly have never played a better open-world sandbox game, and I recently got Grand Theft Auto V. The city is vibrant, the tone balances gritty gang violence with tongue-in-cheek game-y action, the characters and story are solid and the gameplay is bursting with variety and unbridled freedom. Saints Row the Third does a decent job of carrying this over, I’d give it an 80% in all, and most of the big things it missed were detailed in my last article on this topic. This time around, I’m going to be a little more nitpicky. But come on, how hard would it be to not delete:
1. The flamethrower. Flamethrowers are one of the classic video game weapons, and Saints Row 2 duly included one as an available unlockable weapon for your inventory. Heck, they even added a fire extinguisher melee that could counter it. It was one of the tougher weapons to use in the game as fire spread by contact, as your targets had a tendency to run around flailing their arms and spreading the fire throughout the room, but that was its niche and it rewarded careful play. Saints Row the Third‘s iteration of the gun, the Incinerator, is a non-inventory weapon, meaning that you can carry one but it has limited ammunition, slows you down, and restricts you from doing anything else while holding it, not to mention you can only get one by pissing off the rival gangs enough that they send Incinerator-wielding Brutes to take you down. It’s certainly not as versatile as the flamethrower from SR2.
2. Improvised weapons. While we’re on weapons, I have to mention the entire arsenal of props littering Stilwater that can be picked up and wielded in a pinch. Beer bottles, rubbish bags, lamps, microwaves… hell, just have a look at that ambitious list. These are mostly useful in the early game, before you’ve managed to find any decent melees and ammo is pricey, but they’re more appreciated for the flavor of adding to the player’s ability to interact with the world. It’s not a real bar fight if you can’t grab a stool and bludgeon your assailant to death with it.
3. How Hitman worked. Hitman is a diversion where you can locate lists of people with bounties on their heads. Most have a set spawn location and occasionally an additional trigger based on their personality (for example, the Biker will only spawn if you visit his spawn area on a motorcycle). In Saints Row 2, these characters will start spawning once their bounties are added to your cell phone, meaning you frequently encountered them entirely by accident, and I preferred that because their atypical outfits added further color to the city. In Saints Row the Third, you need to go into your cell phone and activate a bounty, and only then will that target (and no others) spawn, and you can only have one bounty active at once, turning the roster into basically a series of fetch quests. It’s still fun, but the removal of its ‘random’ element is another reason SR3’s Steelport feels emptier than SR2’s Stilwater.
4. A neutral enemy gang. Speaking of Steelport feeling empty, it gets even worse once you’ve beaten the main plot. All three rival gangs have been run out of town, STAG’s been crippled, and now the only enemies you can ever fight are police officers. In Saints Row 2, the Pimps are a rival gang that don’t participate in the main story at all, meaning their faction survives the events of the game and are always available to pick fights with. This was probably so that the player wasn’t locked out of the drive-by diversion, which requires enemy gang members for targeting, but it also meant you could still orchestrate three-way cluster♥♥♥♥s between the Saints, the cops, and the Pimps.
And now, just to stop me from writing another article with increasingly-tiny nitpicks, here are four honorable mentions: the gambling mini-games, FUZZ, phone numbers, and the ability to return to a single pistol after unlocking akimbo.