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Saints Row 55: Technicolor Yawn Parody Out of Hell

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There’s more DLC coming. With angel wings. And Shakespeare. And hilariously wacky weapons.

Just be glad this one isn’t being released as Saints Row 5 like the last one was.

Saints Row 3 was amazing because it took a GTA clone and asked what would happen if GTA were actually fun and if it had a story that kicked it up to 11.

Saints Row 4 dropped the fun part and swapped out constant parodies for the story. You were constantly figuring out which powers to swap while trying to figure out what game was being parodied now.

Since then it’s been a stream of DLC that no one can keep track of.

Gat Out of Hell throws in a new city still in technicolor darkness and with more superpowers. Like flying. You could fly in SR4, but now you’ll have wings. Also lots of arch references. It’ll be the perfect Comedy Central videogame.

And that’s all Saints Row is now. It’s Family Guy. It’s a Comedy Central show. It’s a bunch of references to things you might have heard of stuck between minigames.

Saints Row 3 walked a line. It was ridiculously over the top, but it had its own story. It wasn’t just a bunch of loosely linked Family Guy parodies of other things. It took the characters seriously in its own twisted way. Its action scenes mattered because of that.

The new Saints Row model is to amp up the jokes, more costumes, more weapons, more minigames, less story and less gameplay fun. Don’t release new games. Just release more over the top DLCs for a game that already sold well and hope everyone keeps on being excited at the latest Awesome Show DLC. It’s like Serious Sam without being fun to play.

It’s back to the manure cannon but with a knowing wink and a topical reference to another game you might have played. You know, an actual game.

Saints Row 4 Game Review

Saints Row 4 is an unusual beast. It’s an AAA game about gaming. It’s a top of the line meta game that goes meta on the meta with lines like “This is just like playing a game. Wink.” With the wink pronounced out loud.

SR4 begins with a Call of Duty parody and is based around a Mass Effect parody. And there are send ups of everything from Metal Gear “that lightbulb had a family” to the whole Saints Row series. Adding to that there’s a built in text adventure game, a mission that turns you into a character in a side-scroller beat-em-up and a whole bunch of jumping and racing games that are 3D versions of the games you might play on the phone to pass the time.

All that makes Saints Row 4 a lot cleverer than the GTA series thinks it is with its latest take on Organized Crime = The American Dream. An idea that was stale a few years after the Godfather and imitation mob movies finished beating into the ground. But that doesn’t mean that SR4 is good.

Saints Row 3 was a polished machine full of gags, missions that transformed into something more hilariously insane and a territory to explore. Saints Row 4 dumps you into the same city with a few small things switched around and alien gear everywhere. It also overlays the old drive and shoot gameplay with a whole bunch of superpowers so that the cars don’t matter.

SR4 feels like the DLC that it started life as. Its missions feel less polished and while a few match the brilliant insanity of SR3, there are so many filler missions that its own DLC, Enter the Dominatrix, jokes about them.

With everything from lightsabers to terminators to Roddy Piper showing up in the game, Saints Row 4 is trying hard to distract you with shiny things. Superpowers, moddable guns that can be turned into the weapons from Firefly, Star Trek and multiple other franchises. Jumping games, racing games, lots of unlockables. But what it’s trying to distract you from is the lack of gameplay.

Integrating superpowers into a drive and shoot game doesn’t go well either. The superpowers are neat, but the system for deploying and choosing them is awkward. The alien enemies are diverse, but few of them have superpowers. The Wardens who do are the worst thing about the game cutting the player off at a top notoriety level and forcing an annoying battle that ends with a notoriety reset.

That makes the whole superpowers thing feel like a played mod that wasn’t well thought out instead of the center of the game.

Once you’re dumped into the simulation, most of the game consists of going into the other simulations where the other characters are trapped to rescue them. And then fulfilling their loyalty missions. Some of these are surprisingly well written and well acted. SR4 does more with its ridiculous characters and goes deeper than Grand Theft Auto 4 ever did. Others are just filler.

SR4 balances out serious backstory and ridiculous gags. It wraps up its own narrative. But it feels unfinished. There aren’t enough missions and the ending is abrupt and awkward. And too many of the missions feel like pointless fetch quests to stretch out the time.

Saints Row 4 has plenty of great moments, but not enough of them and the closer you get to the ending, the more unfinished it feels until you’re looking at a credits sequence composed of concept art for what the Saints are doing in the real ending.

GTA5. It’s Big, But Is It Fun?

We can all agree that when it comes to making huge open gameworlds no one beats Rockstar. And I’m a fan of the sandbox, but like Bethesda’s Oblivion, Fallout 3 and Skyrim, the open world is impressive, but the gameplay is terrible.

The GTA 5 trailer reeks of huge open worldism but also of the same rigidly structured missions as GTA 4 and the same forced interactions with game characters that are playing your friends and family. And those are not good things.

It would be better if Rockstar had taken some inspiration from games like Saints Row 3 or Driver San Fransisco which put player experience first and were and still are really fun to play.

San Andreas was Rockstar’s most open 3D GTA game. It was a world where you could actually have fun. Since then other franchises have focused on fun gameplay in an open world, while Rockstar has tried making its games into movies and commenting on politics.

GTA 5’s version of LA will be neat, no doubt, but once the novelty of the open world and its goofy characters wears off, you’re going to be stuck in cars that are no fun to drive and missions that are no fun to play while Rockstar’s Scottish developers beat you over the head with what they think is insightful commentary on the American Dream.

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