I was about ten minutes into the Saints Row 2 demo on the Penny Arcade show floor last week when it hit me: The game didn't feel like a GTA rip-off.
It was still free-roaming and featured detailed 3D avatars. It still had plenty of running and gunning. But the vibe, the feel of the game didn't have the same GTA-ness to it that, to many, marked the first Saints Row a Grand Theft Auto clone.
I actually mentioned this to the Saints Row folks on hand and they agreed with me. Even the marketing for the game has been geared toward differentiating the free-roaming shooter from GTA.
But it's hard to put your finger on exactly how the games are different when playing Saints Row 2. It sort of feels that GTA and Saints Row were both heading down the same road and at some point GTA veered off in one direction and Saints Row headed off in another.
The chunk of demo I played through had me playing around with a skinny bald chick escaping from a prison. (I'll avoid the obvious Britney jokes.) The controls for shooting felt fairly tight and melee combat was a joy. I could also, I discovered, run up on a hapless victim, using them as a shield before dispensing them.
The game was packed full of humor both of the developers making and my own. For instance, after one particularly fierce battle with a guard I back-hand bitched slapped him to the ground, killing him.
I'm not quite sure yet how well Saints Row 2 is going to hold up once I have the full title in my hand, but I do know with absolute certainty that more games need fatal bitch slaps.