I’ve been replaying Saints Row 3, this time on Hardcore. This involved dying a lot, but it’s still easier than SR2 was on Normal. Except for, of all things, the carjackings. Even the earliest jackings throw three stars of notoriety at you; at early levels that’s too much heat for the player, and I died; and at high levels it’s too much heat for the car, which explodes. I finished all the missions, but I may leave a bunch of cars unstolen.
SR2 has its avid fans, and I certainly appreciated the bigger and more varied city. But SR3 is definitely more fun. Plus, I think they went in the right direction, from showing off badassery to developing character. In SR2 the emphasis was on showing how tough everyone is, with the implication that you the player are tougher, since you beat them all up. But, eh, badassses are ultimately kind of boring. The writer just thinks of mean things for them to do, and then maybe to humanize them a little bit, gives them a weird hobby.
In SR3, the emphasis is on making the characters colorful. No one in SR2 is as weird as Kinzie and Zimos. Pierce gets a personality. The villains are more over the top. By SR4 we can look at the Saints crew with genuine affection, something it’s hard to do with (say) the cast of Skyrim or Fallout New Vegas.