One thing that is really leagues above the first game are the Stranger missions and encounters. I didn’t complete another play-through of the first game (got about half way through Mexico) but I noticed that a lot of Stranger missions in that game viewed those characters in an unsympathetic light. Often they’re pitiable characters or ones we’re supposed to look down upon. Almost all of those stories often end in something horrible befalling them. It’s all very cynical and nihilistic.
I’ve seen arguments being made that “of course it’s going to go wrong, you’re a guy with a gun solving problems with a gun or doing the barest minimum to help.” While that is a valid point, the game doesn’t offer you any choice in the matter. Once you do the thing, that’s it. You can’t offer any more help. It loses it’s point when you’re not given the choice to help further then the game turns around and finger-waggles you for not doing more to help.
But in this game, you can. All the strangers, for the most part, are often written and reacted better to (assuming you’re not being a prick). They’re all written in a sort of more sympathetic light and you can offer to do more to help them than giving them a health tonic and riding off.