Saints Row IV: Where and Why it Lost Me
The first Saints Row game was acceptable, it was a fine little distraction near the launch of the Xbox 360 and had some fun elements, the problem was these elements were things that we had seen before be it in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. It worked and that’s all that can really be said about it. It did introduce some new elements like heavy character customisation and ‘activities’ but it all seemed rather “safe”, Volition saw their source material and dove head first into the slipstream behind it sticking to the same path.
Two years later Saints Row 2 came out and I loved it. The game featured full co-op integration, something that I have always enjoyed as long as the game doesn’t forsake story for it. But then the story of Saints Row 2 was awful, the game with its character customisation was there to make you feel like you or your avatar was part of the action.
For some reason I was accepting of things like being forced to kill 100 gang members or blow up buildings, but the cut scenes forced you to be a douche. For example there’s one scene where you meet a rival gang leader and he offers you (if I recall correctly) 60% and then 80% of all of his take from the city’s drug trade. Rather than going “wow 80% for no work at all, HUZZAH!” your character decides to horrendously mutilate the gang banger. All this lead to a disassociation with my avatar, I would play missions my way, I would dress how I wanted and then I would kill how I pleased, but then during cut-scenes I would develop a split personality and go mental.
The great thing about Saints Row 2, which they carried into Saints Row: The Third, is that the games were crazy. They had you doing insane activities like car surfing naked, driving around spraying people with poop from a sanitation truck naked or even sky diving naked, bouncing off the floor and then going on crazy rampages. All of these were escapism but reigned into a vague aspect of reality, the games had that GTA feel of doing things you couldn’t do in real life because you’re normal well adjusted person who is scared of prison.
When Saints Row: The Third rolled up in it’s low slung car that bounced with its diamond rims we all thought at first “A dildo baseball bat?”. The game took crazy to a whole new level, it had it all, the insane activities of the second game, the insane customisation and all new weapons like the dildo bat and airstrikes. The crazy train had pulled up to the station and I hopped on with a reserved seat. The game featured moral choices that were essentially “something bad will happen either way, but why not get something out of it?”. But all good things must come to an end.
Grand Theft Auto was getting sillier and sillier with each iteration until GTA IV pulled up and decided to go from the bright colours of San Andreas to the grittier urban metropolis of Liberty City. The game still had wacky characters but it also had realistic physics, mostly, and legitimate weapons and no jet packs. All in all it had grown up, it would put its finger up at convention when it had its back turned sometimes but it was still a game you could take home to your parents, if you didn’t mind them being murdered with a baseball bat.
Word broke in 2012 of an expansion DLC release coming for Saints Row: The Third, it would give you, as the saviour of Steel Port, superpowers. I was curious to say the least, but being non canon DLC I thought it may be worth a try. Then shit went south for Volition, the developers of the series, THQ, the publishers, screwed up. The screw up mainly came in the form of releasing the Udraw but also through the cheap quality games they were releasing from IPs that had real potential. Saints Row was dead, hooray for Koch Media we cried when THQs assessets were sold off at Auction and they rocked up with the money. Weeks later it was announced that Volition wanted to turn the DLC into a fully fledged sequel.
I was fine with this, they had my respect and money, but then word started to leak, the game would see you as a president “….ok” of America “….riiiight…” and you fight aliens “….oh f….”. The following video is has 10 minutes of gameplay from the new Saints Row IV.
The problem I have is that this is just too crazy, it has, with the best intentions in the world, jumped the shark.
The issue is that Saints Row took over when GTA got serious, it was the Poochie that worked out. Each series went its separate way and forged a path into the area it felt best made it individual. With Saints Row taking the low road Volition seemed to have felt like the only natural direction is to dive even deeper into the mental soup and start fishing around for the pills. As the video shows you start the game as the president of America and then aliens attack, so you shoot them and then hop in your White House Turret to blow the mothership down, then through some no doubt insane chain of events you end up in a virtual world where the game goes all Martrix and allows you to get super powers and do stupid stuff because it’s virtual, or something.
This isn’t Saints Row to me, the reason I loved the series up until now is that it was grounded in reality, it was us, as the gamers, doing crazy stunts or murdering people because we are good humans, we need to vent and let off steam sometimes, we are the lucky ones who have that little light in our heads that say “Don’t be a dick”. Saints Row was the safe place where we could ignore the crazy light and just run wild. Now it has just given us too much freedom, we need to be restricted in certain areas to know our limits. Sure the fact that a lot of that video was made up with Quick Time Events and a turret sequence don’t help.
I am still going to purchase Saints Row IV, the fear is that the game is so far removed from reality that it gets too up its own arse. The Matrix world it creates is like a cross between Crackdown and [PROTOTYPE], both great games, but again, great because they knew where to draw the line. Saints Row IV was recently banned in Australia because it has drug use and anal raping by aliens, fine whatever, they should consider banning it because it has turned into the Timmy Mallet of the gaming world, someone who knew being crazy paid the bills but crossed the line into just being unsettling.
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