ive been playing SR2 since launch, i also own GTA4. Ive plunked more hours in Saints Row 2 than i ever have in GTA4 and Vice City combined.
Ive always agreed with your statement "Gta is heading for realism and im not entirely convinced thats the best direction for it".
San Andreas vs Saints Row 1 was a shining example of this. I played the crap out of and beat SR1 because it was just hilarious amounts of fun.
Though in a game like this, the regenerating health meter is actually a welcome thing. Ive recently been playing Libery City stories on my PSP, and the fact i have to ditch what im doing to run back to the hospital to pick up a floating rotating heart icon embedded in a blue coin, and run back only to have my health about the same by the time i get back to the turf war, if goddamn frustrating, and restarting the whole mission over again because some whacky pedestrian tagged me with their car by accident causing my health to fall below point zero, is nothing short of infuriating enough to turn the damn thing off while i cool down and wait for my patience meter to regenerate.
However, i sitll agree it has no place in most other genres.
Just when I thought Yahtzee was getting the hang of reviewing games I would consider, in comes Saints Row 2. A horrible attempt to combine the (still not dead? WHY NOT!?) urban fad and GTA IV. Veni, vidi, threw it away.