Saints Row has been one of my favourite open-world adventure games of this generation. Before SR, we only had Grand Theft Auto to look to, but when the first Saints Row launched in 2006, I fell in love with it. It offered something completely new for the Xbox 360, activities, customizations, cribs and a great storyline. Sure San Andreas had this, but that was on the PS2, and no one had dared take on GTA. Saints Row wasn’t afraid to, and in the process made a great game, and eventually series. But I am unsure of Saints Row IV.
Saints Row 1 was good, but Saints Row 2 was even better for me, personally. It was extremely fun and addictive, and while some actions were crazy, it wasn’t stupid. Saints Row has always been a wacky and wild game, but I always felt connected to the world and the storyline. The emphasis on running a gang and customizing it was a great idea to build on. Saints Row was never trying to be Grand Theft Auto, it was it’s own game with it’s own ideas. I have bought every title to date, and thoroughly enjoyed each one, however with Saints Row IV just around the corner, I think my time with the Third Street Saints has, regrettable, come to a premature end.
For me, Saints Row started to go wrong, and in my opinion, lose its root with Saints Row 3. Don’t get me wrong, it was a terrific game, one which I had sunk hours into, and enjoyed nearly every minute of it. It built upon the core features of previous games, and added even more things to do. The change from Stillwater to Steelport was a neat touch, but I found myself wishing I was still in Stillwater. For starters, Steelport seemed to lack a personality and variation which made me enjoy Stillwater so much. Both cities are great to explore and there are always different areas and neat locations to discover, but it just felt rather bland to me. In Stillwater you had the prison to explore, or the power station. The airport was great, as well as the contrast between the rich, affluent areas and rough, gang rich suburbs. There was a great diversity in Stillwater. The location isn’t that much of an issue, but I felt it was a step back rather than the step forward I had initially hoped for.
While the first two games had kept it fairly realistic, by that I mean no aliens, laser guns or flying vehicles, Saints Row 3 seemed to change from being a fun, yet down to earth game to crazy, wild and over the top. It broke the experience for me. Sure it was fun taking out some S.T.A.G troopers with a laser gun, or running around dressed like a toilet smashing people’s faces in, but I got bored of it quickly and it was no longer the Saints Row I had come to love.
For that reason, I don’t think Saints Row IV is for me. While Saints Row is a great open-world sandbox game, it is becoming further and further away from it’s initial roots of gang warfare featured in SR 1 & SR2. The idea of fighting an alien invasion as the Third Street Saints is a step too far. I am the kind of player who drove around Stillwater, taking in the different areas and people, stopping at the local Freckle Bitch’s for a hamburger then heading to Impressions to buy my latest suit. I loved Saints Row for the same reason I love Grand Theft Auto, they are set in a world which is relatable. If GTA had me battling an alien invasion, or had laser rifles, or giant spacecraft, I wouldn’t buy it.
My issue is that Saints Row didn’t start out like this. It has gone in a completely different direction. I am confident there will be plenty of people looking forward to the sequel, but I am not one of them. It’s just not the kind of game I will enjoy playing anymore. Every genre or theme isn’t for everyone, and that is how I feel. It will be interesting to see how many other people share the same view, or not at all! But for me, Saints Row IV will spell the end of a once great franchise.