“It’s like somebody at Volition stole an eight year old’s mad scribblings and made a video game based on the contents ”
[Author’s Note: Since Reece gave me the okay, I’ll be responsible for Late to the Game from this point on. The name’s Rick, by the way. Nice to meet you all!]
PLATFORM: PS3/XBOX 360/PC
Saint’s Row starts out as the story of a simple young man with a simple dream: the dream of being able to walk around town without getting riddled full of holes. How? By bringing peace to the streets under the Third Street Saints’ banner. Of course, the streets are a mean, mean mistress, and she doesn’t take too kindly to anyone trying to tame her. It’s a high-stakes drama of crime, loyalty, betrayal, and the sacrifices you make to become the most feared mobster in the city, so naturally the story will eventually take you to space and kill people with a gun that dispenses dubstep beat.
This is the part in a movie trailer where the music track scratched to a halt and a dog cocks its head to one side while going, “Arooo?”
Saint’s Row IV definitely made a lot of gamers go “Arooo?”. Starting from its questionably insane design choices, to how little it gave a flying rainbow puke of a winged howler monkey’s pert pink bottom to things like “coherence” and “realism”, it’s like somebody at Volition stole an eight year old’s mad scribblings and made a video game based on the contents. The result is as awesome as you might expect.
The game’s story follows the Save Shaundi, and thus canon, ending of Saint’s Row The Third. The Saints are now working together with MI6 special agent Asha Odekar in order to hunt down Cyrus Temple, now an aspiring terrorist after his (presumed) dishonorable discharge from STAG following the events of The Third. Long story short, The Boss managed to thwart his plans of launching a nuclear missile to Washington D.C., earning him the adoration of an entire nation and securing his seat for presidency of the United States.
And then the aliens invaded and imprisoned the Saints in a Matrix-like simulation of Steelport.
That whooshing sound you heard is the sound of your head spinning over how quickly things escalated within the span of fifteen minutes into the game, but it’s nowhere close to how things escalated further afterwards. With the help of the Saints’ geeky tech-head Kenzie, and later a reformed Matt Miller as well, The Boss is now able to hack the “reality” of the simulation and bestow upon himself superhuman powers as a blatant “tribute” to Neo from The Matrix. While sadly you still can’t stop bullets from hitting you by extending the palm of your hand, you can however retaliate to an overzealous swarm of gang-bangers (hee!) by firing an explosive fireball that also turns nearby enemies into human explosives when they catch fire.
It only gets better from there, folks! In keeping with Saint’s Row The Third’s example of wacky antics and juvenile sense of humor, the insanity is cranked up to eleven, as Volition provided the player with some of the most creative means to reduce your fellow sim citizens into 0’s and 1’s this side of ultraviolence. Of note is the aforementioned “Dubstep Gun”, basically a laser rifle that is capable of dropping hostiles as quick as it can drop the bass by showering beams of light to the tune of a beat that would’ve made Skrillex smile and nod in approval. The icing on the cake here is that any bystander crowds that you are not aiming your explosive wubs at (no, really!) would spontaneously break out into a dance rave, and cars would start bouncing as if on hydraulics to this phat, literal killer beat you’re dispensing.
And it’s not just the little touches like these that made the Saint’s Row IV experience so damn endearing: it’s also in how stunningly effective Volition created a sandbox game that instill a sense of fun without being overbearing when it comes to the genre’s “rules”. A good example here is upon reaching a high notoriety rank. Any typical sandbox game would throw everything and the kitchen sink in order to force you to jump into the nearest, fastest sports car available and flee the scene on pain of death, whilst cursing every single blockade the AI have set up on the road that you have to ram through in order to get to safety.
That still happens in Saint’s Row IV, but now you have the choice to step out of your car, kneel down, and just jump up to fly away from the scene, presumably while laughing like a maniac as you have just rendered the authority’s carefully-laid ambushes even more useless than Aquaman on the Kalahari Desert.
While the game is far from perfect, with several bugs that have serious potentials to break your game, the sheer amount of diversity, hilarious juvenile humor, and brilliant ideas in this game makes it a must-have for fans of the sandbox genre. All in all, while it might be a given that Grand Theft Auto V is the prime candidate to win the coveted Game of the Year title for 2013, just like how the Oscars for Best Pictures are won by movies that nobody bothered to go see, everybody who has played Saint’s Row IV will know who the true winner of that title really is.
At least until “Watch Dogs” comes around and kicked their asses both.
VERDICT: Four Out Of Five Twerking Grandmas.