(Warning: This article features discussion and screenshots of games such as Saint’s Row IV, whose humor some may find offensive.)
I love to talk about video games. I love to discuss them almost as much as I love to play them. It’s both a hobby and a passion, and it’s been a big part of my life for about as long as I can remember. But sometimes, I just want to play video games and have some mind-numbing fun.
Only one game I played in all of 2014 made me say out loud “Oh my god, this is so much fun.” This is NOT to say that every other game I played that year was terrible, but something made the difference. That game was Saint’s Row IV. Saint’s Row IV is neither my favorite game (Fallout New Vegas is my favorite) nor was it even close to my most played game of 2014 (also probably Fallout New Vegas). Despite this, SR4 was some of the most fun I’ve had playing a video game. The only other Saint’s Row game I have played is the third one, which I never actually finished. That didn’t bother me though, because I felt like I could just mess around and not have to worry about trivial stuff.
Saint’s Row IV is a game that doesn’t take itself seriously at all, and I love it. It starts off strong, with a mission poking fun at the linearity, simplicity, and thinly veiled jingoism of many modern military shooters. Unlike gritty and grim games such as Spec Ops: The Line (Incredible game but NOT fun) this mission in SR4 takes all the tropes and cliches of games such as Call of Duty or Battlefield and laughs at it. You end the mission by disarming a nuke to the tune of Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing. Then you unlock the Presidency and elect actor Keith David as your Vice-President. Then aliens show up and put you prisoner in a Matrix-like program. Then you get super powers.
All of this literally happens in the first half hour of the game, assuming you didn’t spend any time using the game’s character editor. My character was a green-skinned, thin man that had the voice of Nolan North pitched down about 25%. He wore nothing but a skimpy two piece swimsuit and designer boots, and had tribal tattoos despite never being a part of any tribe anywhere. It is nonstop absurdity and satire, and I love every second of it. It’s one of the best openings to a game I can remember, because it not only gets you playing immediately, but it also introduces the tone of Saints Row without pulling any punches.
I remember first hearing about the Saint’s Row series as nothing more than a Grand Theft Auto clone, riding on GTA’s fame without bringing anything new to the table. I have to disagree. They’re both fun games, but they’re also thematically different. Saint’s Row is a copy of Grand Theft Auto in the same way that Austin Powers is a copy of James Bond.
Saint’s Row IV is just my personal example of a fun game. It also gets bonus points because it has co-op, which I doted over in my previous post. I love it’s humor and presentation, which truthfully isn’t for everybody. Other people may find the First Person Shooters made fun of by Saint’s Row to be what they enjoy. Others may find the crude physics of Besiege or Kerbal Space Program to be a source of their entertainment.
I flipped my car in that screenshot of Besiege and I’m still not sure how. I had fun doing it though, and sometimes that’s the most important thing in a game for me. I will talk about narrative in games like Papers, Please (incredible game, but soul crushing and not very fun) until my tongue falls out, but sometimes I just want to sit back and unwind by being the Superhero President fighting aliens in a Matrix-esque computer simulation while listening to the mixtape I made from the game’s radio stations.