Image copyright Deep Silver 2013
Well, if it isn’t that time of the week again. I dig through my ridiculous back-catalogue of games – most of which I haven’t played in months – and ponder the question, “which of these do I think I could butcher in my upcoming game review?” That sounds a little pessimistic, and it could be because I’ve watched approximately two and a half hours of Zero Punctuation on YouTube today, or, and this is the one I’m leaning more towards, I’m setting up a nice segue to this week’s game. It’s a lot of nonsense wrapped up in an open-world sandbox, complete with over-the-top antics, and a general concept of knowing that it isn’t a game that takes itself too seriously. Ladies and gentlenerds, I present to you; Saints Row IV.
First off, let me just say that I have sipped from Deep Silver‘s Kool-Aide and I enjoyed their products immensely.
I purchased Saints Row 2 and cheated my way through it because, at the time, I thought it was too difficult and I never really gave myself the chance.
Then, when Saints Row the Third arrived on the scene, I played it endlessly, taking videos of some of the funniest cutscenes I’d ever seen in a game.
The games had started life out as an unsuccessful, and, quite frankly, rather dull Grand Theft Auto clone, that is, in that the two are both open-world sandbox action games where crime does pay, you take a rogue from city slacker to essential kingpin of their respective city’s underworld crime syndicate, feature [opinion incoming] varying degrees of okay to great songs to choose from, and offer varying levels of customisation.
And for Saints Row 1, that just wasn’t okay, because the world already had a Grand Theft Auto game; it’s called Grand Theft Auto.
Still, the team at Deep Silver had an okay idea on their hands, which just needed a little refinement.
Saints Row 2 laid down some ground-work in making the series more about over the top stupidity in as many action-packed scenes as possible, something that GTA forgets to do to a point where it’s as serious as a visit to the dentist, twice as expensive, and half as rewarding.
Saints Row the Third arguably is the series strongest outing, as the setting, mayhem, mischieve, weapons, characters, narrative, and customisation options far surpassed what came before it.
In fact, Saints Row the Third was so good that Saints Row IV is, for all intents and purposes, a carbon copy of the game.
The location, characters, weapons, clothing, and cars are all the same, both in style and substance.
In fact, the only differences are the fact that Steelport, the fictional location of the Third and IV, is now overrun by an invading alien race, some of their vehicles and weapons have entered the character’s world, and you’re no longer merely the leader of the Third Street Saints, he (or she, as Saints Row is about the best game for equality among the sexes, which I’ll discuss in a short while), is now the President of the United States of America.
Alien invasions and Presidential tomfoolery aside, Saints Row IV is practically the same game as the previous, only slightly worse for wears.
As I play through IV again, utilising the super-powers that being in an alien-controlled, Matrix-like simulation has granted you, you quickly remember that these are the same superpowers you had for one mission in Saints Row the Third!
Which then makes you realise that this is less an original game and more a few developers realising that the best thing they had sparingly in the prequel would be great all the time now.
To burst your bubbles, it isn’t.
Why would you bother going around in a car or bike or tank or jet-plane when you can run like the Flash, fly like Superman, and use Goddamn psychic powers?! You wouldn’t!
Apart from the fact that, in practically all of the missions, you can’t even use these powers, in what clearly is a weird case of developer guilt in giving you God-like abilities at the start of a game.
“Wouldn’t want to make this too easy for you now, would we?” says Deep Silver.
This all sounds like a lot of criticism and not much praise, but that doesn’t mean I dislike the game. Far from it. I love the game.
Not nearly as much as it’s prequel, but still.
Any game wherein I can use the power of Dubstep to defeat a swarm of alien hostiles, or do a running flying Powerbomb onto an unsuspecting civilian whilst dressed as a toilet and hold a giant purple sex-toy as a melee weapon is alright in my book.
I just wish that it felt more like a sequel than it actually does.
Sure, I love the voice acting – especially the Cockney for the Boss’ voice, which is, by the way, the only voice you should choose – and all of the comedy is self-aware and self-aggrandizing to a point where some of the jokes hurt you, but it still feels like Saints Row the Third.
The way women are depicted is, dare I say it in a game where you can actually teabag somebody whilst naked, forward-thinking. Not only can you choose how your female protagonist looks, you can opt to change sex half-way through the game, and engage in same-sex relations should you wish. Plus, you don’t get treated any differently for being a female character.
Likewise, male characters can wear ‘feminine’ clothing and not be ridiculed.
In a world where this sort of equality has only really reached culturally acceptable levels within the past few years, Saints Row had been doing it for close to a decade now.
Not bad for a game that started life out as a half-finished expansion.
Image copyright Deep Silver 2013
Nerd Rating – 6/10 – I genuinely love the Saints Row series, and the Third is one of my favourite games of the past 10 years. So, the sequel had all my hopes and expectations riding high on it, and initially, I was pleased with the product. However, as I sped around Steelport like the Flash whilst dressed as a sex-doll, I realised that this is just an expansion of the previous game. It does all the things it should do, but never with enough originality to make me think “wow, that was inventive” because I’d already witnessed it all a couple of years previously. Though I am a huge fan of fun, and this game delivers it in bucket loads. Plus, it’s had more DLC than you could shake a tree at, including a couple of expansion packs – wait, wouldn’t that make them expansions, for an expansion?
If you like this, try; Sleeping Dogs, Watch_Dogs, Just Cause 3