Developer Volition believes Saints Row 2 will more than hold its own in the battle of the gangster sandbox games when it goes head to head with GTA 4 this year.

Speaking at the unveiling of the game in London, Volition's Greg Donovan, producer on Saints Row 2, added that he didn't believe Rockstar was "holding something back" with regards to cooperative play in GTA 4, a game mode he expects to be a "huge distinguishing factor" between the two titles.

He said: "The only thing I know about GTA is what I've read. From what I've read it seems like they're going in a more realistic direction. For us it's more about almost a hyper-realistic quality, over-the-top, all about these memorable moments, very compelling gameplay and frankly we wouldn't be releasing this year if we didn't think it would be competitive."

He added: "I think co-op is a huge distinguishing factor. Unless they are really holding something, I don't think they are. I think that's a big step, a plus for us. We also remember that Saints Row 1 was the first one to do competitive multi play - we're going to continue to blow that out as well."

The first Saints Row enjoyed healthy sales and positive review scores when it was released on the Xbox 360 in September 2006, despite many claiming it simply copied Grand Theft Auto 3. It was, however, the only next-gen game similar to GTA 3 available at the time.

We expect Saints Row 2 to have a much tougher time this year since it's going up against Rockstar's guaranteed monster hit.

Donovan wouldn't go into great detail about Saints Row 2's online elements, aping Rockstar's similarly secretive approach, but he did say that fans shouldn't expect "your typical deathmatch!".

He said: "We're not releasing finite details on that (online multiplayer) yet, What we are saying is that Saints Row showed us where we needed to go and we're going in that direction. Successful competitive multi play is taking elements of the single-player and applying them to the competitive multiplayer. For us that means elements like activities and missions, ambient systems, so that's kind of the direction we're going. It isn't your typical deathmatch, put it that way!"

You can see how the two games are shaping up by checking out our recent GTA 4 hands-on preview and our brand-spanking new Saints Row 2 first-look. Bling.