[INSERT BAD PUN HERE]
Saints Row 4 is a breath of fresh of air for modern AAA tittles. While recent games like The Last of Us and Bioshock Infinite seek classification as experiences, SR4 shrugs their goals and succeeds as a video game without excuse. While Grand Theft Auto, Assassin’s Creed, and other open world games seek only to refresh their core concepts, Saints Row ascertained a full blown revolution.
No other franchise in recent memory has (literally and figuratively) brandished such balls.
Taken individually, the various gameplay elements themselves don’t strike new ground on the landscape at large. But put together they’re a coherent blend that maximizes variety, composed with a bravado unmatched in god-power sandbox games. Even better, all of the super powers and weapons are in perfect lockstep with the absurd tone of the game.
Owing to its genesis as a DLC pack, Saints Row 4 does indeed feature the same Steelport encountered in The Third. Naysayers will cry foul for recycling content, but for fans of the series it’s a legitimate selling point. Most games allow revisits to familiar terrain with infinite ammo, invincibility, etc. SR4 gives you full blown super powers – can you imagine an Assassins Creed with teleportation or an XCOM team featuring the X-Men?
It’s worth adding that Saints Row 4 retains its title as the purveyor of choice and variety in player customization. The sheer magnitude of different clothing, accessory, body type, taunt, even dance options makes it difficult to appreciate the variety shotgun blasted at the player.
Saints Row isn’t unique in that it parody’s pop culture icons and famous franchises. There are other titles that turn fellow video games into farce as well.
But whereas other, less imaginative games settle on satirizing characters or aping tropes, Saints Row 4 actually takes jabs at game mechanics themselves. An opening sequence has the Boss pulling off a Call of Duty-esque slow motion shootout. The romance dialogue options openly mocks Shepard’s quaint, restrained seductions – “Hey Kinzie, wanna fuck?” Even a Splinter Cell caricature is thrown in for good measure.
Then there’s the Dubstep Gun, surely the most visionary weapon of this generation. It literally sprays dubstep wubs forward in a cone, forcing its victims into ridiculous dance moves. Fucking brilliant, and just so dumb.
It deserves special mention because it’s a concrete metaphor for the game at large – it’s preposterous in both theory and practice, not really effective in terms of gameplay, and confidently dumb without being lame or annoying. Similarly, Saints Row 4 strides forward with a rare, indifferent bluster, content in the knowledge that its selling points look frivolous on paper. It’s a fitting end to a series that will, in all likelihood, not continue past this fourth iteration.