Volition has never been afraid to poke a little fun at Rockstar Games, given the rivalry between Saints Row and the GTA series.
Within the 3D Era of GTA titles, Rockstar has fired shots left and right at its direct competitors, especially those with the GTA clone label. The likes of Driver and True Crime have been made to look worse for wear. Interestingly, Rockstar rarely mentions its most successful challenger: the Saints Row series.
Eventually, GTA became so big, it no longer had to. Saints Row is still an underdog by comparison, although bigger companies are less-than-likely to acknowledge competition, the same cannot be said for smaller ones. Volition never holds back when it launches a joke at Rockstar's expense.
5 times Saints Row took a jab at GTA
#5 - CJ’s overly complicated casino heist
Saints Row 2 features an early mission called Saints Seven, a casino heist named after Ocean's Eleven. One of the characters, Pierce, suggests using brains over brawn. His overly complex plan was immediately rejected by the player and Johnny Gat, who prefers to just walk in and shoot everything.
GTA players will note that Pierce's convoluted scheme is almost exactly the same as the San Andreas one from Breaking the Bank at Caligula's. Both plans involved sleeping with one of the casino workers, turning off a power generator, and sneaking into the building undetected.
Saints Row even playfully mentions its version as more fun. Sure enough, the mission took a loud approach with guns blazing and shooting everything in sight. It was certainly a simple way to take care of a situation.
#4 - Saints Row 2 commercial
2008 saw the release of GTA 4 and Saints Row 2. Although the former took a more realistic approach to storylines and gameplay, the latter started to find its footing as over-the-top action. One of its trailers reflected these changes in perspective.
A Saints Row 2 trailer (entitled Would You Rather...) takes a shot at the mundane activities of GTA 4, which include bowling and watching television. It even uses the GTA font for the subtitles. The trailer shows unfavorable comparisons with Saints Row 2, a game that includes driving a septic tank to spray pedestrians.
GTA 4 is a more down-to-earth change in scenery for Rockstar, especially compared to San Andreas. Meanwhile, Volition wanted a gameplay experience that stood in direct contrast to GTA 4. Saints Row 2 was ridiculous but fun.
#3 - GTAV vs GATV
There were high expectations for the release of the hotly anticipated GTA 5 (given it made a billion dollars within a few days). Taking advantage of the situation, Volition decided to release the free DLC for Saints Row 4 on the same exact day: September 17th, 2013.
The DLC episode was entitled GAT V, named after the character Johnny Gat. This also spread confusion over the initials since GAT V sounds very similar to GTA V. Volition made the DLC pack free on Steam, which was a direct shot at Rockstar not releasing GTA 5 on PC at the time of release.
#2 - Our GTA’s GTA
While the Saints Row series undoubtedly started off as a GTA knock-off in the first installment, the next few games went in a completely new direction. With Saints Row 3, it finally carved itself a particular niche. The series was a craze-fueled open world with ridiculous side activities and nonsensical storylines.
During the release of Saints Row 3, Hyper magazine came up with a catchphrase entitled "Our GTA's GTA." It promoted Saints Row as redefining the open-world genre. Volition would make use of the quote during its advertisements for the game itself. It's a small reference, but it's still worth noting.
#1 - NOW, who is copying who…
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. For the longest time, Saints Row detractors painted the series with a broad stroke of a brush. It was considered a GTA clone, which is an unfair assumption even Ned Luke made (Michael's voice actor in GTA 5).
However, GTA Online seemingly returned the favor with a new hybrid vehicle. The Oppressor MKII is an infamously hated vehicle in GTA Online. It's a small target that's difficult to hit, with powerful weaponry and the ability to fly. It's very difficult to avoid as the player doesn't know what to do.
What's notable is that the design and shape of the vehicle closely resembles the Specter from Saints Row 3. By comparison, the original Oppressor looked more like a motorbike. The official Twitter page for Saints Row took note with a slight jab, stating the GTA series were now the ones copying them after all these years.
Note: This article reflects the writer's personal views.