Saints Row 4: Corrupted Master File

Overall I was disappointed.

I’m not sure if I would’ve been more or less disappointed, as I thought of my pre-order for SR4 as “paying up” for SR3: I had gotten it off of one of the many sales, obtaining some supposedly >100$ normal price stuff for ~25$, and I felt that I had a really great experience. At the time, SR3 was the best PVE game I had ever played (Guild Wars 1 was the best PVP), and I felt that whoever made it deserved to be paid more for it. So far such an idea has turned out fairly horribly with Assassins Creed 3 and Guild Wars 2, but perhaps Saints Row 4 would be different. It wasn’t.

It certainly wasn’t as bad as the other two. GW2 I never felt like I was doing much at all; the game gave me literally no reason to do more things, ever. AC3 I just dropped because it was such garbage. SR4 had enough highlights and sequences to keep me interested and going – but overall it felt like a letdown. When I was reviewing I thought that the fact that I did the whole game in co-op might have colored my experience poorly, as connection problems and sound lagging (i.e. if we attempted to sing along his audio would always be behind) aren’t entirely the fault of the game designers. But I started a new playthrough on my own, and found that the problems got worse not better, and the good parts did not change significantly. I could now hear them over my co-op partner talking and certainly this gives me more story, but it wasn’t enough to cover the faults.

Saints Row 4 was, almost universally, a step down from Saints Row: The Third.

While this will not be an entirely thorough post, it will cover all the main points, principles, and ideas. As such, there will be spoilers, which will be [white texted]. Spoilers will be used for both story and mechanics that have not been revealed in the trailers available at this time.

From Metacritic,

The current most active critic review:

>>>With its recycled map and wildly overpowered abilities, playing Saints Row IV feels like a lot like enabling god-like cheat codes in Saints Row The Third and going nuts. Its ridiculous story, goofy characters, self-aware humor, and amazing character editor make it all work, especially for those of us who’ve played the previous games and can appreciate its in-jokes. But its appeal is shortened by the ludicrous speed at which we can zip across it and grow tired of its lack of challenge.

The current top 3 most helpful user reviews:

>>>A LOT of people will be mad at this game. It is completely different from all of the ones before it, and it really shares little with the previous games in the series. If you didn’t like SR 3 due to the sci-fi and super hero aspects, you might hate this game… a lot. If you’re looking for something in the realistic criminal vein (ala Grand Theft Auto), you might hate this game.

The changes here are immense. It’s like being in a mish-mash of every science fiction movie out there, with lots of elements/ideas coming straight from the Matrix.

Before you buy, check out some of the YouTube gameplay videos and make sure you’re not going to hate it. If you go into this with the wrong expectations, you’re going to be very disappointed.

>>>Saints Row the third with super powers whole review nothing else needed to be said i guess i’m in the minority of people who don’t like the super powers and thinks they should of been kept as DLC not the main focus of the game, and the world is almost exactly the same only updated a little to accommodate super powers don’t get me wrong the super powers are fun but i did not want that as the whole game i might as well go play infamous which does it better and is more original

>>>The game is pretty bad. Almost half of it was just taken from Saints Row The Third. This is basically the new CoD series, release a new game with a new map, new guns, new characters, a new storyline, but still keep a lot of the content the same.

Saints Row 3.5 fails

We’ll start with what most people seem to mention.

Map Design

It does not matter that the same map has been recycled. If you want your 50$ to mean that the game devs spent time making a new map that’s perfectly fine, but it’s not relevant to the gameplay itself when the map’s last iteration was created. Yes, I recognize that this is still called “Steelport”. Yes, I can see that basically all of the buildings from SR3 are still in the exact same location. Yes, I’ll give you that the towers that appear and the fact that [your cribs are all destroyed] and the big alien ship in the sky with the dark background doesn’t count as a new map. Steelport still looks like Steelport.

The main question is, does it feel like Steelport?

Nothing anchors you to Steelport at all, and it really feels like a simulation. Largely this is due to superpowers. It’s true that in the beginning they don’t do too much; they provide you the utility of jumping over fences and running a couple of blocks but anything beyond that requires waiting for recharge – there are no available mechanisms to you to travel long distances without a car and jumping up skyscrapers is initially a hassle [it takes 40 walljumps to scale an average skyscraper on lvl 1 jump]. You’d think that this means you start off initially feeling like you’re in SR3 Steelport except with a change to the color palette, but you’d be wrong. The simple mechanism that you can [spawn cars anywhere] completely removes the function of [Rim Jobs]. If you were without a car in SR3 you’d have to call in vehicle delivery, which only works every once in a while, or be willing to run/walk over to the nearest Crib or Rim Jobs – i.e., stuff that’s part of the map. Sure, you still have to go to Rim Jobs to upgrade your car, still have to visit clothing shops to get new clothes and etc. But these never really served as anchors in the first place. The largest purpose they served was as notoriety wipers, [which no longer works].

Why doesn’t it? In SR4 the justification for taking over the city is [disrupting the simulation] with this also being the basis for superpowers, but takeovers don’t do anything for you beside give you money. Money’s nice and all, but if I control a part of the simulation via viruses or whatever, [why aren’t hacked shops safe spots?]. The game devs made a decision to erase this functionality, which is fine, but they also erased [cribs] and what you end up with is a disconnect with the whole map except for the 2 dimensional [doors of light] at wherever they’re placed.

And cement blocks. And fences. Sometimes streetlights.

Once you’ve gotten a decent amount of upgrades to your sprint and jump, those are the only things which ground you to Steelport. You can [run up the sides of skyscrapers] or just avoid them entirely by just jumping and gliding. You really can just jump over entire buildings. No “object” can ever stop your running around. After a while you get to [run on water] so that doesn’t matter either. The fact that it’s these little things that stop your movement and not things which would normally make sense (why does a cement block stop me but a tank does not?) further detaches you from the map. If not for these small items which screw you up when running or falling from jumping (there are no planes or helicopter blades to fall into), the entire gamespace might as well be blank with random turns you have to take every now and again.

The map really does feel fake, so it’s fairly accurate to call it Fake Steeport. One of the metacritic users says the map was updated to accomodate superpowers; I did not observe this occurring in any way outside of [collecting data clusters] and [chasing golden orbs]. Which I guess is vaguely true; the former gives a third dimension whereas in SR3 you were almost all the time either in a car or on foot, making Steelport 2D. Ironically, 2D Steelport was a lot more enjoyable and relatable than 3D steelport. Going 3D in SR3 was a special occasion; sure in both games they’d put collectibles on top of water towers but having to go back to your crib to grab your VTOL or jetcycle and then handling it accurately was involving. The jumps and sprints in SR4 just make going up or down as easy as going any of the four normal directions.

The game constantly reminds you of this since you’re in Fake Steelport for perhaps 90% of its total gameplay time.

Balance and CDR

In SR3 my favorite weapon was the UAV drone controls. Find a gang operation, about-face, round a corner, pull out my briefcase and if I aimed well, the whole thing would finish after one or two missileswithout tipping off anyone. The superpower Death From Above, depending on how high you’re coming from, gives about the same amount of AOE 1HKO damage, but the feel is completely different. Of course one is being superman and the other one is being sneaky by using something that seems normal and harmless, and certainly the notoriety mechanic helps SR3 a lot, but there’s another thing to it. (We’ll come back to Notoriety in a bit.)

UAV has ammo, and DFA does not.

Imagine if in SR3 you could only carry two clips of ammo, same with all the AI. Your approach to the game would change fundamentally. For me, my favorite weapon was the pistol and I never used anything else unless it was taking out gang operations or if the story forced me to use a certain weapon or gave me flamethrower/minigun. It didn’t matter what the situation was. It was very simple to get 1HKOs on everyone via headshots. It wouldn’t be so simple if I could only reload my pistols twice. Rather than spend ~90% of my money on upgrading only my pistol and the associated bonuses in the phone menu, I’d have to upgrade all my weapons. Alternatively, I’d have to call homies in for assistance basically every fight. Or, only start fights if I knew I could guarantee I could run away to a safe spot, crib, or Friendly Fire.

In SR3 I would always check how many missiles I had left and fill up when it was getting empty, like a gas tank. It wasn’t something I hee’d and haw’d about, just something I did because well who cares it’s part of the game.

In SR4 I’d run out of ammo seemingly randomly and use something else, and going to the gun store was a chore. When all my most powerful damage dealers are cooldown-based, why should I have to go to a stupid store to refill my guns? One would expect that lower damage means lower cooldown, which is true if you decide to use the alien guns, but I didn’t. Should I be penalized for preferring the visual and audio aesthetics of a 45 over a pew-pew? I’m not sure if normal guns were able to hold more ammo than before, or if enemies are more bullet-spongy – I’m fairly sure both are true – but the overwhelming power of Blast, DFA, and [Stomp] make the cooldown vs ammo problem much more pronounced.

Perhaps I played SR4 wrong? This is what I’m starting to think, when I move from co-op normal to hardcore solo. Health doesn’t regenerate in combat, and due to the nature of cover (i.e. lack of it) and the amount of enemies that spawn and how they act, you are forced to charge into combat – and not in the ME2 Vanguard sense. When instead of attempting to import my SR3 headshot-everything style I just superpowered everything and fisted everyone to death, suddenly the game got significantly easier and I didn’t die halfway through a wave. Punching people has a cooldown of 1 second or so total, and it 1HKO’s basically everyone regardless of where you hit them – something nothing else can do as fast until you upgrade the damage and special function on the semi-auto shotgun. Which has an external cooldown.

The damage output change from Co-Op to Solo probably changed a lot more than it sounds. I stuck with the shotgun and the disintegrator. My partner used the Dubstep gun the whole game. I thought it ruined the progression, but attempting it on my own now, there was nothing to ruin. Ice blast everyone and then break them, over and over again, then chase a golden ball so the aliens don’t chase me everywhere? I could be super “pro” and go back to using only pistols, sure. It’d certainly extend gameplay time by perhaps 33%.

But it’d feel like shit.

Without replaying the whole game again I know that even if I played with just alien weapons and superpowers and fisting, it’d also be shit. Nevermind the aesthetics, I can make the guns visually the same as the ones I like and play the same audio files. Games where there are no or insignificant external cooldowns always play like garbage, because they are designed around brawling. (Or perhaps riot is the more accurate word, because even brawlers get tired.) Already from traditional FPS’s games like SR3 have very insignificant cooldowns; a game like Counter Strike has reload time as such a significant cooldown time that during firefights you would be dumb to reload rather than switch guns. SR3′s cooldown is notoriety and on the larger scale the total ammo you’re holding; you don’t really have to worry about finding cover or switching weapons when you have to reload.

In SR4 if you go the full cooldown-based weapon route you never have a (real) cooldown. Ever. Indeed, you’re forced into no cooldowns or you die from no health. There’s not even a cooldown on cooldowns, for at least in SR3 you had to travel the distance/time to the closest safespot or wait for your notoriety clear on your phone. In SR4, a golden orb is guaranteed to always be available when you are on notoriety, and the distance/time to that orb is inconsequential.

The tradition of holding fewer rockets or whatever than assault rifle cartridges makes sense from a game design perspective: in the older FPS days they were made valuable due to scarcity, in these newer third-person shooters they are made valuable due to the fact that using them makes your remaining arsenal significantly weaker with each use, or alternatively, limit your mobility. There are no limits in SR4 except when you the player have to rest. Yes, you have to wait for your superpowers to come up, but that’s like playing a mage in WoW, GW2, or some standard MMO where you’re just doing a rotation of spells and your mana is inconsequential – or in the case of GW2, your mana is nonexistent. There used to be a time when mana recharged very slowly, or not at all. They were for special abilities. Now more and more games are just going the simple-no-external cooldown route, like SR4.

You are really playing God.

And playing God isn’t fun: when you can do anything, you don’t want to do anything.

Mission Design

This one has been missing from the reviews I’ve looked through, and I think it might be the most important.

SR3′s strength to me was its storytelling – not necessarily the story itself, but how it told the story. In the end all PVE games are is an RPG with an automatic Dungeon Master, i.e. the pre-written story delivered via certain methods. More and more videogames are getting lazier and simply making their games interactive movies or corridors-with-cutscenes; Saints Row 3 shone in being none of those things. True, in a sense it’s still a corridor, as the mission sections are “linear” and you still have to go to a dot on the map to start the mission. But in the end for a story to exist you must limit the player somehow – otherwise it just becomes Garry’s Mod, and no one thinks it’s a game because the designer of the game is you, and you aren’t going to be told a story if you have all the power. As much as “open-world” games like to tout freedom, a pure sandbox is literally playing with yourself. (In traditional RPG it would never be clear if the map was linear or a maze or open, because the map was designed around you in real-time. For videogames such a method does not exist, so devs have to settle with a pre-made map.)

How you tell a story in an “open world” type game is dependent on how you make the player progress.

From the Saints Row wiki page, “Missions in Saints Row IV“:

During development on Saints Row IVVolition, Inc. targeted mission structure as a key area for improvement. Speaking to Polygon, they explained that players’ use of the cellphone to retrieve missions in Saints Row: The Third felt disconnected from the game’s narrative.

Design Director Scott Phillips said that Saints Row IV‘s missions have been changed to “more of a quest log structure” and that the missions “are more organized”. Phillips believes that it’s “just a better structure to pull people through the game”.[1]

The plot is divided into Quests. Each Quest may have multiple objectives. Objectives may include Missions, Activities, Diversions, Challenges or simply using a store. Missions and Activities have standard completion screens which show the title, while Objectives and Quest completion messages appear on-screen.

SR3 had all its missions in the phone menu all laid out in the same “folder”, if you will. It was fairly easy to figure out which missions were DLCs and which ones were not DLCs, but that was all there was to it: Main Game, and DLC. In SR4 the missions in the phone menu now have two folders: Primary Quests, and Side Quests. However, now all the missions are actually either primary or secondary. In SR3 (outside of the DLCs) there was no need for a separation between primary and side missions because there was no such thing as a side mission.

This is the SR3 mission structure, taken from the wiki:

There is currently no equivalent for SR4.

I don’t think it’ll be made. They say it’s more “organized” but it feels more like this:

In SR3, all the minor activities from guardian angel to tiger escort were introduced to you in a mission you had to do before progressing with the story. “Introduced”, as in the map does not spawn the start points for these activities until you have finished those missions. During these intro missions one of your homies would come with you and give a little background or in-game justification to why you’re doing what you’re doing. Zimos needs his ho’s for money so he can help fund your operations, Angel needs you to do really crazy shit because that prepares your mind for the true fight, Pierce does random things to help you get set up and screw with local gangs, Kinzie… I forget her reasons, but I can safely assume she has her own because everyone else does too.

In SR4, with a couple of exceptions, there is no such introduction. In the very beginning of the game Kinzie leads you through why collecting data clusters are important and why store takeover is important, but that seems to be about it. To make it worse, outside the introduction of those two activities, intros are done entirely through cutscenes. Not even cutscenes with the character or player character in them, they’re detached videos, with some stupid zin logo appearing and then some border around the video the whole time, with the camera snapping here and there to show various things.

Sure the “what the fuck am I doing” part is important, but it’s not entirely important. The mechanics in both games are fairly simple. It’s not entirely important what Pierce says when introducing Rim Jobs; it’s not like he teaches me how to read the customization and upgrade menus, I can figure that out myself. The important thing is that he is there and therefore his justifications feel like it’s part of the story. I am told, regardless of how stupid the reason may be, why I am doing it. Like the “trafficking” missions: I have to escort people around to sell lunchboxes? That’s stupid, but hilarious! And I get how it’d raise influence in the area, even if the whole premise is just for fun to begin with.

Many of the missions in SR4 I neither knew what I was doing nor why I was doing it. Even if I didn’t see Pierce’s character model, which I didn’t since I was in the car most of the time and I didn’t look in the rear view camera, it was important that he explained in bits and talked the whole way. It is not the same if it’s presented all up front and then comments here and there about how well you’re doing connecting a rift to a simulation or whatever.

The worst part is that all activities are available from the very beginning of the game.

From a mechanics perspective there’s no harm to this; from a story perspective this throws everything down the drain. Being gamers of a more modern generation my co-op partner and I felt that the main missions would come too quickly and that we’d run out of money fairly quickly without doing side things, so we went around hacking stores and doing things… and then we’d decide to do a primary or side mission and find out, oh well that’s weird, we already figured that out by ourselves. Or, oh, so that’s the reason why this activity exists, that seems rather contrived. To be sure I don’t think it would’ve felt significantly less contrived had we done the intro missions before the activities themselves due to the reasons described above, but this was a design decision. Why the fuck are we allowed to do the activities before their related intro missions?

This is generally a problem that only affects DLCs; I specifically avoided all DLC material in my first playthrough of SR3 and I am glad I did because many missions would’ve lost their Crowning Moment of Awesome if I had screwed around with it beforehand. I know of at least one: the first in-story encounter the player character is supposed to have with a VTOL. I knew I had one because it always showed up at the heliport, but I never touched it and I never gave it a thought. When I first picked hijacked it at the STAG base, it was the most amazing moment I’d ever had in a videogame. My character and I said the same thing at the same time: “THIS IS SO FUCKING COOL!”. It’s not as if I hadn’t seen a VTOL, lasers, or missiles before. The handling wasn’t unique, the look was fairly similar to a couple of things I had seen before. Such timings cannot be made if you detach the activities.

In a game like Saints Row you have to have those timings. What else do you have? There are games out there that are sillier, sexier, have better gunplay, have better puzzles, have better handling in vehicles, you name it. Your overall product has to be better, and what is that overall product? The story. Immersion.

I have a feeling that the introduction of the new phone menu was a decision made very early on. It is possible to have SR4′s phone menu for SR3; the lightly colored bubbles you see in the above picture could be put into the “side missions” and then the vivid ones into the “main missions”. In other words, sometimes you’d have side missions, sometimes you’d have main missions. This information may or may not be useful as presented to the player; I like not knowing whether or not it’s something big coming up but I don’t think it matters significantly.

What ended up happening however was that structure ended up influencing their overall design and so you have these side missions with no connection to the main game. The vast majority of the activities are either poorly explained or not explained at all, with little sound bytes before or after the end of each activity that end up degrading the characters of Saints Row overall. “Perspective… that’s a good segue into climbing a tower, right?” No. No it really isn’t. I don’t know who you are Keith David, but these and other similar lines made the game feel like a joke.

There’s a difference between telling a joke and being a joke.

Story

The story was garbage.

This is not a judgement about the premise, but the directions the story chooses to take. SR3 was silly and funny: a gang and its boss, the head of a MNC, gets sent back to nothing and wants to get back to their former glory. This includes taking over a city, among other things. SR4 has something to do with being the POTUS, aliens invading, and a matrix-simulation somehow. I have no objection to any of these. Makes sense from the franchise standpoint: we got you to be the head or the face of an MNC from a street gang (i.e. a gang in control of only a street), now let’s make you leader of the most powerful nation on the planet.

[The entire game has absolutely nothing to do with being POTUS. The first couple of missions have you save the world from a nuke or something of that idea, then you become POTUS, and then immediately aliens invade. You get trapped inside a simulation, escape, and then upon escaping, Earth gets destroyed.]

[Let’s assume this is fine; there have been examples of stories which advertise one thing then completely change to be something else while still being a great story in the end. So you head back into the simulation, confident that wreaking havoc in there with Kinzie’s help can get your homies back and then get back at Zinyak. Okay. Then what? It is explicitly said that the story is about revenge, but then at the end it flips twice. From awesome, to serious, to silly. You have your homies break into Zinyak’s chamber, then you rip him out by his spinal cord, then… random Jane Austen? What was the point again? What is the story about? Suppose that I was to tell someone what SR4 was about, what the story was. “POTUS fighting aliens in the Matrix” is a premise, not a story.]

[Save the world from a nuke > POTUS > captured by aliens > planet is destroyed > rescue friends > defeat big bad > take over his empire > go back in time > random Jane Austen]

This is not an impossible story if it’s one of those stories based around the characters and not the plot. I am unsure if this story was actually enjoyable by fans who have been through all the Saints Row games, but having come from only SR3 it felt severely lacking. In addition to the distracting and overall-degrading mini-comments during side missions described earlier, you can also talk to your homies [on the ship] and it’s quite clearly a parody of Mass Effect by [having there be only two conversation topics and both of them being single-route single-stop]. Unfortunately for SR4, ME2 (ME3 was garbage, I don’t remember much of it) was good enough at its shitty job to make me attached to the characters that I liked that it carried the game enough through to the end. In attempting to poke fun at something else SR4 seemed to forget it had to justify its own premise and story progression.

ME2 had an easier job because it had an easier storyline; this precludes it from being a masterpiece but the fact that it was complete made it enjoyable. If SR4 was aiming to be character-based, there was not enough to justify it. When do we learn about the characters? In cutscenes, [on the ship], the little blurbs inbetween side missions, and in [audiologs]. All of them except the last one are severely lacking, and the last one is overrun by the other three by sheer volume. I learned a lot about Shaundi and she went from standard poster girl: angst edition to someone with depth (I have not played SR2). Her [romance option] was also very nice, as was [Johnny Gat’s]. But every other character I couldn’t be bothered with except Kinzie, and Kinzie’s [romance option] lowered her in my eyes by a lot. Kinky, sure. But I learned a lot more and cared a lot more about the character when I saw her sitting under a table at a restaurant and Pierce picking up a rando dildo-bat. Certainly one of Kinzie’s [audiologs] was the most powerful, but again, in the overall distribution it was weak. It would have been better if I could not have contacted or seen any of the homies at all outside of the audiologs and real cutscenes.

Just like the side mission / main mission distinction, the characters too now lack a continuity. You’ll talk to them on the ship and they’ll be happy-go-lucky or something of the sort, then the next cutscene everything is completely serious. Three cutscenes: [earth being destroyed, talk before rescuing johnny gat, ripping zinyak’s head off] have a COMPLETELY different feel from the rest of the game put together. [Every homie having their own simulation]: fine. This has been done before; each character has their own time in the limelight. But there is no overarching theme that ties it together, no permanent changes to the world. Not that you’d really care about it anyways. In SR3 it was actually a fair hassle to deal with the zombies after their respective mission completed. Now, you can just jump over everything. They probably could’ve done something I’m sure, like change the color pallete of controlled districts to normal day/night cycle or something. But they didn’t. The only permanent changes are new homies added to [the ship]. Which is [boring as fuck anyways because you literally do nothing there. There’s the little computer that you can do text adventures on, and talk with homies about nothing, and that’s it.] Too much parody, too little ground to base it on.

Was SR4 supposed to be a comedy, or a tragedy?

If the former, see above. It is certainly possible to do both. SR3 was comedy nested inside tragedy: there’s all this funny stuff that you do to get to the real stuff, which is serious, from [Johnny Gat supposedly dying] to [either Shaundi dying because you wanted revenge, i.e. abandoning your friends and then taking over a city and declaring independence from the rest of the country on the basis of newly acquired military power, or rescuing Shaundi, and echoing Johnny Gat’s words: trading your dicks in for pussies, selling yourself out for more money, more drugs, more fame, more sex, and for what?]. Excellently executed. If SR4 was supposed to be mostly comedy, it would be attempting to nest tragedy inside comedy, which it failed at. There’s not enough basis on character to justify it.

If it was supposed to be mostly tragedy, whoever wrote/directed SR4 needs to be taught a lesson in how to write tragedy properly. I can’t be convinced it’s the same guy who wrote/directed SR3.

At first I had my hopes up. I really did. It is entirely possible the fact that superpowers makes the game feel like a simulation was designed to happen. [There are instances of this showing through. In Genki’s new game show Mind Over Murder, the announcers/casters would be their normal selves, all boisterous, talking about how it’s the return of Genkibowl 7′s champion, the Leader of the Saints, the President of the United States… and then talk about how Earth is gone, and then one of them misses his wife. It is possible that POTUS was supposed to be used, somehow, to illustrate that even the most powerful man on the planet cannot resist the Zin Empire or their simulation or whatever. Alternatively, even with superpowers in a simulation, in the end it’s just a simulation and that means nothing. You can have your delusions, you can believe what you want and do what you want, I don’t care, you’re a human, have fun being crushed and tormented.] But that didn’t happen. [The fact that the game lacked any sort of resting place also made the potential of SR4 being a tragedy very likely. In SR3 you could always go back to a crib to rest: no one could do anything to you there, and everything was dressed out to your colors and looking nicely. In SR4 the in-game justification is that Zinyak wants to crush you so he crushes your buildings, and in general the feel of the game matches: in the beginning you actually can’t rest anywhere because Kinzie’s Inner Sanctum is gone and there is no gateway to the ship, and even when you get to the ship it’s spartan-style and you’re constantly reminded that you’re in a ship in space inside an enemy ship without a supply line. I wanted to believe so much that I thought about how my homies were getting fed, and found the kitchen and counted out what I could find. The refrigerator was closed, so I looked around at what was out, and all I could see were two cardboard boxes of fruit, lots of beer, and lots and lots of unlabelled drink cans. Earth is gone, so not only is there no more fresh food, there’s also no more canned food. And no water. One of the announcements when you first escape over the intercomm talks about treating abductees with care because they carry any number of diseases. So it seemed like, well shit, we gotta fight, and once we fight, if we lose then we lose, but if we win we’re still fucked because there’s an entire alien empire out there.]

[It’s still possible to have a tragic end even after taking Zinyak’s throne and having every Zin serve you. When the servant/butler guys shows up and asks what you want to do, ask for something simple. Or treat the world as something simple, like asking for some water or some rest. The first question that was asked was definitely a correct one; “can you actually rebuild earth”. The reaction to time travel was, if it was supposed to be drama, not correct. Get excited about it later. What you need now is either a solution to how you’re going to recreate the human race, or how you’re going to eat after you run out of the two boxes of fruits and vegetables.]

There’s also just characters just plain not making sense at all. The most glaring of plotholes is [Zinyak himself. Supposedly he’s been abducting humans since forever because he’s interested in human culture, and this fits in with his whole cultured theme and the announcement that the best and brightest would “find salvation in the Zin empire”. If he’s been abducting them since forever, why does the game open, or basically open, with him blasting down an opening into the White House? First of all, why at that point in time? Second, why destroy when you can teleport and just take them anyways? And then the big one, why destroy Earth? Again this could have potentially been avoided. There was enough in SR3 to carry over; Zinyak could have explained at some point that due to his evil genius mind he had predicted that there’s an insignificant amount of people who will show up in the future to create better culture than Shakespeare or Jane Austen or whoever, and just happened to pick that day to show up because fleet logistics worked out that way. SR3 was about selling out; if Zinyak talked a lot about selling out then destroying Earth could’ve had some circumstantial justification. Perhaps these are in the text adventures; I haven’t read them all. If they are, then Volition made an extremely poor decision to put such important information in a side collectible.]

Nothing in SR4 holds it together. Not a sense of purpose, not the characters, not the story. In SR3 I could see how people criticized it as the 12 year old’s GTA: you had dildo bats and the man-cannon and other very very silly things that you could play around with; only grown-ups can take HEY NICO DO YOU WANT TO GO BOWLING? I could accept that criticism and let it fly, because SR3 had a place for me as well. To me the silly parts were just very good decorations – it’s what SR2 defenders say against GTA, it’s what I say against SR2 attackers.

SR4 doesn’t really have serious in it. It has good writing, to be sure. Some parts are still genuinely funny, others are still genuinely depressing. When the writing had its space to do what it wanted, then it was the same quality as SR3. However, it didn’t get that space often, and seemingly in fix-mode rather than create-mode they got the characters to say a bunch of little things here and there in the side and loyalty missions to attempt to make up for what was mission in the new and lower-quality main missions.

It didn’t work. Its direction feels so contrived it probably wouldve been better to have no direction at all. Saints Row 4 really might as well be a game mode to Garry’s Mod: “Funny Superpowers Time”. Many technical improvements were made, but all of them were overshadowed by the lack of design.

SR4 in its totality was not a worthy successor to SR3.

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