Saints Row IV: Stupid Like a Fox


Saints Row: IV is cunningly ridiculous. Here’s why.

Saints Row IV has been circled on the calendar for months for many a gamer. There’s no question that it has been a highly anticipated AAA release.  But for whatever reason, I just…didn’t care. A couple of months ago, that started to change. It might not be today, and it might not be six months from now, but Saints Row IV has officially made it onto my “to-play” list. Personally, I’m amazed.

I’ve never played a Saints Row game. Perhaps unfairly, I lumped the Saints Row series in with the group of games that appeals to the energy drink swilling dudebro crowd. People with Xbox Live gamertags like  “xx_Swisher4LyfeBro_xx” and the like. Add to that the fact that the gang aspect of the series seemed boring to me, and I saw no reason to pay $60 for a game I likely would never finish.

brohio

In a savvy marketing move, THQ (or whatever intern or janitor was in charge at the time) made Saints Row: The Third available for free for PlayStation Plus members this year. I still didn’t bite. Sure, it was free. But that seven gigs of space was better filled with other fare. In my mind, anyway. I’d be willing to bet that I’m in the minority of PS+ users on this particular issue.

And then…the anal probe.

cartman-anal-probe

What’s this? Saints Row IV isn’t just another gang war game? There are aliens? It is so over the top that it can’t get a rating in certain territories? You’re the PRESIDENT?!?! Maybe I had judged the series too harshly. I started to pay attention.

I appreciate a funny, over-the-top self-deprecating game as much as the next guy. I thought Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon was genius. I can’t wait to tear into the Borderlands 2: Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep DLC.  Sure, the games are hyper-violent. And sure, they’re “dumb.”  But when presented correctly, they work.  Because let’s face it, games that mock video game tropes by embracing them have been around for years, to great success.

blood-dragon

The developers and publisher of Saints Row IV have done an excellent job of making sure that gamers like me—meaning gamers who to this point had no interest in the Saints Row franchise—are aware that Saints Row IV is…different. And that is commendable.

So many publishers simply churn out the next yearly iteration of a game with nominal changes to gameplay and tone. Why mess with a good thing, right? People will continue to buy Halo and Call of Duty and Madden just because…well, that’s what you do every year. Why change the formula? You don’t need “New Coke” when the vast majority still loves drinking “Coke Classic” by the gallon.

new-coke

Volition, Inc. and Deep Silver have taken a risk with Saints Row IV. There is a large chunk of the gamer community that abhors change. And it certainly seems like Saints Row IV represents an abrupt turn in content, if not in tone and gameplay. And that, I think, is what is encouraging. The developers of Saints Row IV aren’t trying to put socks on a hog. They aren’t trying to be something they’re clearly not.

They wanted to make a fun, over-the-top escapist adventure.  Why fight other gangs, why fight cops, why fight the government…when you can fight ALIENS!? Genius comes in many flavors.

Saints Row IV has, perhaps, one of the dumbest most unbelievable premises for a game I’ve ever encountered. And because of that, I just might buy it. So kudos to Volition, Inc., and kudos to Deep Silver. As developers, publishers and marketers you’ve succeeded in making me pay attention to something I otherwise would have written off as not worth my time or money. In today’s crowded gaming landscape, that in and of itself is an achievement.

Buy your copy of Saints Row IV from Amazon.com now!

Saints Row 4 PS3         Saints Row IV PC             Saints Row 4 Xbox 360

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There are 3 comments

  1. ceekyuucee

    In the cutscenes for Saints Row 2, the villain discusses gentrification and racial profiling. Offhand, like bad people do in real life. I don’t want to wank on about how it was a very thought provoking game, but I kind of liked that the bad guy was a real bad guy. Well, besides you and your crew and the other crews. But they do a good job in that one of showing the nuance. It was a gang game, but it was also a game that alluded to city life in a way that people who aren’t on the chopping block of life get.

    Maybe it is something dudebros like to play, I dunno. SR2 was for me, an involuntarily closeted transwoman, absolute freedom to be what I wanted (within the confines of a homicidal gang boss) in a wrapper that was sometimes silly, sometimes serious, but still grounded in the real world. Low level escapism is nice when you’re trying to escape from a fantasy you put on for others, into the real world.

    I will always highly recommend SR2 as a game. I haven’t played one, however, so I can’t speak to it.

    (Also, in regards to Halo, the multiplayer might be the same thing slightly switched up in what can be fun ways, the storylines are almost always solid and always hit the right notes. I’ll be impressed if 343 can beat Halo: Reach, since it’s my favorite game of all time. It’s a heavy and beautiful game)

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    1. Zack Matzo (@perch15)

      Very interesting comment, and it just goes to show that pre-judging a game isn’t always the best move. I hear you on the value of escapism. That’s one of the major reasons we play games, right?

      Re: Halo — I almost took it out of the article. I love the Halo series as well. It is basically the only reason I’ve kept my 360. And will probably be what gets me to buy a XB1. I love the story. But I avoid the multiplayer like the plague.

      Like

      1. ceekyuucee

        Definitely.

        Halo MP can be fun if you group with people you know. It’s so hectic and unlike everything else I play that it can be a good palate cleanser after spending a few months playing Skyrim or something equally singularity-level absorbing. Though I’ll have to deal with motion sickness for a few days switching back to the first person.

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