Imitation, they say, is the greatest form of flattery, and the original 'Saints Row' was shameless in its pretensions by copying the 'Grand Theft Auto' blueprint.

In 2006, 'Grand Theft Auto' was at perhaps its cultural zenith, regularly occupying column inches in newspapers and lifestyle magazines as its depiction of violence supposedly inspired a generation to run around and re-enact their favourite moments from the game.

It was only natural other game developers would try to get a slice of the incredibly lucrative pie.

The success of 'Grand Theft Auto' spun a large web that enveloped everything around it, and this extended to the world of video games.

Everything from 'The Simpsons' to 'Scarface' took a stab at making their own 'Grand Theft Auto' clone, but only 'Saints Row' managed to successfully endure.

The original 'Saints Row' was released in 2006, and was a respectable debut outing that didn't set the world on fire.

The bones of a good franchise were there, but 'Saints Row' was too derivative of so many other sandbox games on the market.

A fairly by-the-numbers story about gang violence in a city wasn't anything to write home about, but 'Saints Row' was a fairly enjoyable first game in the franchise, and there were glimpses of the series' trademark demented humour.

'Saints Row' showed glimpses of what the franchise would become

The late, great Michael Clarke Duncan was among the voice cast, and even early on, there was an anarchic sense of humour in the 'Saints Row' franchise.

What helped 'Saints Row' stand apart from its contemporaries was the level of customisation, which would only grow with sequels.

It was not the most exciting start of life for the franchise, but against all odds, a miracle happened.

Two Saints Two Furious

'Grand Theft Auto 4' was released in April 2008 to critical acclaim for its realistic and gritty story, but long-term fans of the series found the darker tone at odds with the franchise that previously let players set people on fire with a flamethrower while listening to Hall and Oates.

'Grand Theft Auto 4' is certainly a good game and has its fans, but other players who expected the next 'Grand Theft Auto' game to cause cartoonish violence on an epic scale were left disappointed.

'Saints Row 2' came along in October 2008 and offered the whacky and silly sandbox carnage fans were craving.

In terms of sequels, 'Saints Row 2' is one of the most drastic and dramatic improvements over an original game in gaming history.

The brilliantly silly over-the-top violence was there for players to enjoy (who couldn't say no to performing drive-bys with a samurai sword?) and the level of character customisation was downright demented.

Most crucially, 'Saints Row 2' walked a very fine line between whacky and silly.

The masterstroke of 'Saints Row 2' was placing your character in the middle of increasingly more elaborate and silly situations while they kept a stoic straight face.

'Saints Row 2' was a brilliantly over-the-top experience

Your character could be dressed as a clown while raiding an enemy stronghold, and the game rewarded you for shooting your enemy in the crown jewels.

On the flip side of this, your character would act like a tough enforcer from a Scorsese film in cutscenes while characters from 'The Naked Gun' were running around.

The main villain is a sleazeball straight out of 'Wall Street or 'Robocop', and juxtaposing corporate greed against a game where you could dispose of your foes using defibrillator pads is wonderfully daft.

This mix of silly and serious was a tonic, and for fans who wanted a sandbox in the spirit of the older 'Grand Theft Auto' games, 'Saints Row 2' was just what the doctor ordered.

The 'Saints Row' franchise never reached the levels of 'Grand Theft Auto' in terms of critical acclaim or sales, but 'Saints Row 2' is one of the most stupidly brilliant sandbox games of all time.

'Saints Row 2' offered an absurd amount of customisation for your character, even allowing you to change the colour of your character's underwear if you were so inclined.

The PC port of 'Saints Row 2' was, and to a certain extent, still is, a broken mess which soured fans somewhat, but the game was one of the most prodigiously fun games for the PS3 or Xbox 360.

The Third Degree

2011's 'Saints Row The Third' is controversial among series fans, with some arguing it took the silliness too far.

As mentioned, 'Saints Row 2' existed somewhere in the realms of possibility, but in 'Saints Row The Third', the opening level has players hanging off a bank vault while seeing off waves of cops with rocket launchers.

'Saints Row The Third' went for the bombastic approach, which is still fun, but it lost somewhat of the magic of 'Saints Row 2'.

Having the dour and self-serious protagonist juxtaposed against a whacky cast of characters and events is what made the game special, now the player was just as crazy as everyone else.

The city of Stillwater from the first two games was something of a mash-up of Detroit and Chicago, and the run-down feel helped contribute to the gritty crime elements of the game.

Steelport from 'Saints Row The Third' is loosely based on Pittsburgh and New York, which didn't help the 'Grand Theft Auto' comparisons.

A gritty, run-down city on the East Coast of America is the most basic open-world map you can get in a game.

'Saints Row The Third' takes major diversions into the land of silly, with players able to call in drone strikes, fight off zombies, and punch soldiers while bollock naked.

The game is unable to keep a consistent tone, with the game being a story about the gang trying to re-establish itself after losing itself one minute and whacking passers-by with dildos the next.

'Saints Row The Third' went all-out in the silly stakes

'Saints Row' attempted to outflank the 'Grand Theft Auto' series by leaning into the silliness, but the strength of the games, to begin with, was the mix of comedy and drama.

For players who wanted a sandbox rampage, 'Saints Row' was able to provide what the 'Grand Theft Auto' franchise couldn't as it strived for realism.

Between 'Saints Row 2' and 'Saints Row The Third' there was a large turnover between staff, which explains the game having the same tonal control as an out-of-control firehose.

Most damningly, the customisation options were scaled back.

Players could no longer customise their sock colour, which may seem like a small complaint, but seeing as the game goes out of its way to make the player the star of the show it feels strange the game would cut back on the customisation options.

'Saints Row The Third' is a self-admitted power fantasy, but what good is a power fantasy if you can't customise every single detail of your character?

The clash of tones in 'Saints Row The Third' and inconsistency holds the game back from being a true rival to the 'Grand Theft Auto' crown, but 'Saints Row IV' is the one game in the series that can hold legitimate claim to being as good as a 'Grand Theft Auto' game.

Fantastic Four

'Saints Row IV' was released a month before 'Grand Theft Auto 5' in 2013, and was lost to history.

'Saints Row IV' can lay claim to being the last truly great game of the 7th console generation, and it doubled down on the silly tone.

The game was a love letter to the franchise, and it abandoned all pretense of realism by making the main character a superhero.

Shockingly, this worked incredibly well.

The opening level of the game sees the player disarm a nuclear bomb while the Aerosmith song from 'Armageddon' plays, and straight away, the layer is whisked away to the White House where players assume the role of the President of the United States.

Before you get too comfy, aliens arrive and start blowing up the earth and you become instilled with the power of flight, speed, and telekinesis.

No, we didn't skip over an entire game worth of content in two paragraphs, all that happens in the first half hour of 'Saints Row IV'.

By leaning into the absurdity, the game becomes an anarchic riot.

The bizarre tonal clashes from 'Saints Row The Third' are jettisoned in favour of brilliantly silly hijinks.

Playing 'Saints Row IV' is like watching Interdemonsial Cable from 'Rick and Morty', and the game always throws something weird at you.

One level is a loving homage to 'Streets of Rage', one level sees you play as a toilet, another level has you stuck in a 1950s sitcom, and it's all incredibly daft.

On the gameplay front, playing the game was like playing with the cheats turned on, and of course, you could see off enemies with a dubstep gun.

Even all these years later, we still boot up 'Saints Row IV' for a pick-me-up and to mess around.

The fun associated with 'Saints Row IV' and the freedom superpowers gives players makes for a one-of-a-kind gaming experience.

The game is as challenging as brushing your teeth, but it's what the franchise has been building up to all along - it's a power fantasy.

'Saints Row IV' had more in common with the 'Avengers' than it did 'The Sopranos'

'Saints Row IV' started life as DLC for 'Saints Row The Third', which explains why the city is shamelessly copied and pasted in from the previous game with all the shame of a student handing in an essay after the deadline.

The shameless, cheeky nature is what made 'Saints Row' stand out from the pack, which made it a shame when the franchise sat out the 8th console generation.

2015's 'Gat Out Of Hell', a DLC for 'Saints Row IV', was the last we heard from the franchise, and in a decade when gaming became self-serious and games had to have allegories in storytelling, the chaos of 'Saints Row' was sorely missed.

The reboot is due out in August, and we're curious to see how 'Saints Row' fits into a 2022 gaming landscape.

'Grand Theft Auto' is as popular as it's ever been, and some argue that the series has beaten 'Saints Row' at its own game with flying cars, miniguns, and business management aspects.

The gap is there in the market for a game that balances the silly with the serious, and here's hoping the reboot can pull it off.

Early reports of the game point to the game balancing the 'Breaking Bad' element along with the more outlandish elements which is a promising start, but the proof will be in the pudding.

If we boot up the 'Saints Row' reboot and we can't immediately go and steal a plane while dressed in a hot dog suit, we're giving it one star.

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