Jake Dubusker `15
With the release of Saints Row IV four months ago, officially concluding the series, it’s a good time to look back on the series as a whole. The series is widely known by many as a Grand Theft Auto clone but more insane, and this description is not entirely mistaken. The first two games of the series can be accurately described as sandbox crime simulators very similar to GTA. Fans of the series will say that it improved upon GTA’s formula, but as the two series competed, Saints Row shone brightly with its outright descent into total madness, as well as competing with GTA IV, which for many was disappointing due to the game’s occasional dip into gritty realism, as well as Roman interrupting your fun all too often.
Saints Row 2started showing more quirky and fun game mechanics, a notable one being a routine mission to drive a septic truck and spray raw sewage onto houses in a given area to earn respect, and the ability to customize your character with disturbingly high detail, but overall the game comes off as sane yet unrealistic fun. Saints Row: The Third’s opening missions involve jumping out of an enemy gang’s airplane only for enemies to jump out in pursuit of you. Craziness shows further with the Professor Genki game-show minigames, involving navigating a death-trap maze while shooting signs for bonuses and taking down enemies dressed as animal mascots, all to the hilarious narration of the game-show hosts. All to earn gang respect, of course.
To finish it off, Saints Row IV reaches the pinnacle of insanity and parody-based mindless fun, and gameplay is quite different. Fans of Crackdown or Prototype may find the superpowers and gameplay familiar. Years after the events of the previous game, the Third Street Saints gang helps overthrow a terrorist organization and earns the respect of all of America. Your character becomes the President and immediately starts running everything into the ground, but suddenly aliens invade, capture you, and lock you in a virtual situation of Steelport (the city from Saints Row: The Third), and you work with your surviving crew to hack the situation to escape and overthrow the alien overlord Zinyak. It’s largely a parody, within the first half-hour the game makes references to modern shooters, The Matrix, Armageddon, and Space Invaders through the medium of explosions alone. I won’t spoil too much for those who plan to play the game and haven’t yet, but there’s a particular story mission in which you possess a giant stone statue of a man wielding a body-length ladle, and you enter melee combat with an equal size mascot of a can of the Saints Flow energy drink.
Overall, the game started with a common, popular premise and proceeded to break every cliché and rule of common sense, going in its own nonsensical direction. In a game industry where the default protagonist state of mind is “angry,” and characters talk like they were grooming their dog one day and accidentally inhaled the brush, it’s a great treat for a game to remember we’re supposed to be having fun. Saints Row IV is an example for all video games on how to conclude a series, a satiric and off-the-walls roast of itself and all games before it.