Saints Row 5 has been confirmed through low subtle methods. Mainly through Tweets, however, a confirmation is a confirmation. The game has been in development for some time as of writing, and fans are excited. Although there’s plenty of reason to be hyped, there are reasons to be skeptical as well.
For myself, I am on the skeptical side regarding the next installment to a series I love, and for good reason too. The series lost its identity. During this article, I shall go through why the next Saints Row game is more than just a title. For many original fans, Saints Row 5 is a deciding factor in what the legacy shall be for the third Street saints.
Why Is Saints Row A Big Deal?
The Saints Row series went from being branded as a GTA knockoff, with similar mechanics & surroundings. This is a fair summary of the first installment, however, this format was needed as it led up to the classic second installment. Saints Row 2 was a stellar classic of the Xbox 360 & PS3 era, as it was the fun alternative to what many gamers believed was an out of character GTA IV. Although, I personally enjoyed GTA IV’s aesthetic and harsh reality turn, as it stripped back the more tongue in cheek side of Rockstar’s beloved franchise. Nevertheless, gamers wanted something else, hence a reason why Saints Row 2 is so successful.
Saints Row 5 Needs Saints Row 2’s Humour!
The game of Saints Row 2 is wackier than the first incarnation. With a plethora of more jokes and gags than ever before, the game had a major sense of humor that was natural and had great timing. Saints Row The Third also had a nice amount of jokes & gags however, it was more scripted. For example, the singing in the car gag from SR2 was an easter egg that was found outside of the campaign and just through playing the game. SR3 tries to recapture its comedy gold by also including this feature, although the delivery was all wrong. The carpool karaoke gag was scripted into a mission, or a journey to a mission location, not presented as an easter egg that the player has to discover. Thus killing the comedy gold aspect of being an unexpected discovery.
SR3 has items scattered around the location and presents finding them as a simple diversion. So rather than aimlessly wandering into a funny location, the game tells the player what & where to look. Being told to find a crate of sex dolls isn’t as funny as finding them by chance. I hope you see what I mean by the comedy factor doesn’t work as well as SR2.
In regards to Saints Row 4, the comedy is (in my view), the worst of the bunch. Each gag & joke is cheap and is merely a reference to pop culture or to Saints Row itself. Heck, even the game itself is a reference, the whole experience is mainly comparable to the Crackdown series!
Calling Saints Row 4 The Fourth Installment Was A Bad Decision.
I firmly believe that Saints Row 4 should not have been labeled as the next installment to the series. It is merely similar to the DLC packs from Saints Row 3 and marketed as the next installment. It is worth noting that I am not a superheroes fan so the inclusion of powers and gangsters in space never interested me for SR4. But my feelings aside, even if I did enjoy superpowers and sci-fi games, I would still feel the same as it’s a ridiculous route for the series to take.
Unless Saints Row 4 was actually presented to the consumers as a spin-off title rather than a direct sequel and possible conclusion altogether. If Deep Silver & Volition was to go the same route as Ubisoft with Far Cry, then many fans could forgive this title, as it would suit the game’s humor. If the game was to be presented as the protagonist’s dream from a drug-induced coma, then the wacky presentation would work even better than it did. Instead, the consumers are meant to believe that the third street saints worked their way up to fight terrorism and the president of the united states. This setup is perfect for a drug hallucination or a cheap b-movie, but instead, gamers are supposed to believe that this actually happened in this game’s universe. It’s ridiculous and a slap in the face to original Saints Row fans.
But It’s A Game, Don’t Take It Seriously!
Although there’s the argument that it’s just a game and anything can happen is loosely logical, it simply doesn’t correlate to the universe that was built up through three-game installments. A universe that mocks the one we’re living in. Where in the history of the human race is becoming a leader of a country is obtainable by stopping a nuclear bomb and crashing through the ceiling? Also, before anyone suggests that the protagonist is already president, I have this to say. After crashing through the oval office’s ceiling, straight after the game pops up saying inauguration unlocked. Therefore becoming president happens after this debacle.
The characters aren’t the same
One thing that the Saints Row franchise has been able to do in its early conceptions was to build unique characters that players create a bond with.
Johnny Gat is the ultimate badass who is ruthless and loveable. Pierce is the lieutenant who gets overseen but wants to be acknowledged by his peers. SR2 showcases Pierce in this light perfectly, making players feel sorry for him and wanting him to be acknowledged for the vital character that he is.
The Boss rises up from a forgettable lackey for the gang to become a vicious killer, but who has a light heart, when executed right. Saints Row 2 showcases the lighter side of the boss perfectly, through side quests and hidden features. Again this handling of the boss’s funny side is complementary to the diverting from the serious script to allow players to create a goofy character on the side. This does add to the comedy factor majorly. Also on a side note, with Saints Row 4 the boss allows Matt Miller (an enemy from SR3), into the gang. The boss from Saints Row 2 would have not been so forgiving and would have killed Matt for going against the Saints. Again, this softer protagonist is just lame when compared to the boss from SR2.
However, the major disappointment is regarding Shaundi. Her character was one of the most unique characters from Saints Row 2, with her look and her stoner twanged voice. The uniqueness of the character was ultimately killed off and swapped for a sober Shaundi. Even though the players didn’t experience the journey to sobriety for her, it’s a story that could have been capitalized upon. Instead, the new Shaundi is no longer unique in any way. Her tone has changed to a bland accent and her look is nothing more than a generic brunette with a busty chest. If players experience both sides of Shaundi, it’s plain to see how both interpretations either hinder or enhance the game story, fun factor, and overall experience.
Building Memorable Characters & Moments
Sticking with the subject of characters, the original two titles do a phenomenal job of building up characters and providing an emotional/climactic ending. Tanya, Lin, and Carlos are a select few characters that each built up as either the perfect ally or the perfect enemy that gamers want to see come to an end. Not only this, these characters enhance the narrative that even when the game can be goofy at times, the script, world, and main campaign is actually a serious and heart pulling title. Lin’s & Carlos’ death both are provided through a long drawn out cutscene that reflects on how crucial these two characters played in the overall story and the success of The Third Street Saints.
Carlos’ death especially clearly has a psychological effect on the protagonist, seeing just how ruthless they can be. Seeking out redemption for Carlos by any means necessary, by crippling & torturing those who had a connection to his untimely (but emotional) death.
These two characters’ deaths are executed to perfection, adding layers to titles that have been brushed aside as a ‘GTA Knockoff’. Although these highly regarded characters & deaths are something to remember, perhaps it’s wrong to expect the same experience from a game that changed its identity. But it is something that I was looking for when I first played SR3 & SR4 because it was something that defined the series as its own. Nevertheless, the deaths of the antagonists are forgettable and anti-climactic.
What Could Have Been The Ultimate Villain
Phillips Loren, a crime lord and easy to estimate as to the ultimate enemy, much like Dane Vogel. However, his death was executed too soon for a character of his stature and with lack of a build. This criminal decision is mirrored by Johnny Gat’s death, quick, too soon and anti-climactic. Both of these deaths made gamers assume that they survived and would reappear later on in the game. But they never came, leaving players to feel robbed of a fantastic experience. Hopefully, Saints Row 5 can channel in the older titles with their unique characters, perfect story building for these characters with emotional payoffs.
Maps In An Open World Title
With an open-world based game, a vital part of the whole experience is the map density & diversity. Gamers have grown fond of maps such as Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, and with good reason too. GTA SA has quite possibly the most diverse map in gaming, with the argument of Just Cause 2.
However, the issue with Just Cause 2’s map is that although it’s diverse and huge, it can feel too big to maneuver around in. Traveling from one side to another can become too long and rather dull if players aren’t causing havoc. With San Andreas, the journey from Los Santos to Las Venturas takes a perfect amount of time to feel as if the player is taking a nice journey without it feeling like too much of a drag. Not only does the map give off the illusion of being bigger than it is with its terraforming, but the difference in the culture that players encounter is also too vast.
Saints Row 2 Map
Saints Row 2 mirrors this feature perfectly, making it’s the map as good if not better than San Andreas.
GTA SA has a variety of cultures such as small-town hicks, gangsters, townsfolk, and snobs. Saints Row 2 is equal with yuppies, punks, gangsters, and trailer park hicks. Even so, SR2 extends the culture by including corporate workers, Asian towns, drug addicts, homeless and university students.
Not only this, each section of the map is even more diverse than the NPC’s that are within the game. University District, Alcatraz-like island, roman ruins, the harbor, corporate underbelly, trailer parks, and even a hidden lab. All the aforementioned locations all show up throughout the map, each with its own designated cultures. It’s easy to understand why Saints Row 2’s map is one of the most loved maps of gaming history.
Saints Row 3 & 4 Map
Coming from a hugely diverse map filled with culture and opportunity it was a huge letdown to play within the third installment. The third game takes place in Steelport, an industrial location that is merely cut and pasted buildings with a few spots to look at. Although these featured spots are nothing compared to the previous installments. For example, compare the secret lab from SR2 with the small squared army base, it just falls flat. Even more of a disappointment is the map in Saints Row 4, as it’s the same as number three. Of course, we can’t miss out that SR4 takes away some buildings and has a mothership looming over the map.
Although the game flips between different smaller maps such as Pleasantville & Old Stilwater, the open-world map is pure laziness and unacceptable. However, it’s worth noting that the pacing of both Saints Row 2 & Saints Row 4 fits the pacing. With Saints Row 2 being a much slower paced title, gamers have more of an opportunity to investigate and explore. With number four, the player runs around at super-speed, eliminating the opportunity to stop and explore. Especially since the environment is mostly a blur, although since it’s the same map from number three, there’s no need to venture away and to look around.
What happened to Dex?!
Although many recent fans of the series, those who never played Saints Row one or two don’t care about the character of Dex. However, there is a narrative with him that has been teased and ignored for too long. Within the SR2 DLC pack, Corporate Warfare, it has been teased that Dex may not be the antagonist that many would naturally assume. The point of this is that there are so many questions regarding Dex that have remained unanswered & ignored.
Of course, Dex does have a hand in the shock ending to the first game, and classic players of the franchise want answers as well as a climactic finish. Very much like when the protagonist confronts Julius, it was emotional and a perfect end to the story with the former leader of the third street saints. Words can’t describe why and how impactful the secret mission regarding Julius was and why it only escalated just how serious the game can be.
In Saints Row three & four, Dex was not mentioned at all. Naturally, gamers would assume that the plot would at least hint at Dex’s inclusion but again to no prevail. I can understand if the third game was to distract the player from the narrative of Dex and focus on something different. But it just left old school fans questioning Dex even more.
The perfect end to the third installment would have been the protagonist getting a phone call from a saint member who is back in Stilwater saying that they know where Dex is. This would have been an ultimate cliffhanger that would organically form into the next installment. However, as we all know by now, the devs went in a different direction.
It’s just sad and disappointing to not have that storybook ending on Dex and I would love to see Dex be heavily involved with Saints Row 5. Also, his ‘inclusion’ in Gat out of hell isn’t a worthy end to Dex. It’s lazy and again, unacceptable.
What would my Saints Row 5 look like?
The problem with Saints Row 4 was that obviously, it lacks the grit and perfect humor of Saints Row 2. As well as losing focus on its identity as a whole with the sudden genre change. However, I fully believe that it was rushed due to GTA 5 releasing in the same year. It’s logical to assume that players would forget (and rightfully so) about SR4 once the latest GTA would release. So it seems that the publishers wanted a Saints Row product available to buy before GTA 5. Hence why the Saints Row fanbase was graced with a product that was rushed and nothing more than a title filled with references.
For my Saints Row 5, I’d like to completely scrap Saints Row 4 and even the third installment as well from existence. So no Kinzie, Matt, Oleg, Josh Birk, Benjamin King, Keith David or Zimos at all. Heck, even briefly nod to SR4 as a mere movie that was produced for the in-game universe or even a dream of the boss. I’d like to have the title set in Stillwater for the second half but start off in another city. Of course, the Saints can travel between both cities for exploration purposes.
The story is simple., where the boss learns of Dex’s whereabouts and instantly sets off to assassinate him. Dex is crowned as Ultor’s new CEO and the crew’s plan goes horribly wrong as he (as well as the other saints are arrested). We then skip a few years where the boss leaves prison and starts his road to redemption against Dex. Of course, in both Stillwater and the other city, they’re both overrun by rival gangs and the Ultor Corporation. A very simple premise for the fifth installment but one that works as it channels in the original appeal and closes the series beautifully.
Even though the series has taken an unfortunate turn, I still love the franchise. However, despite my love for the Saints, major changes need to be taken. Like the aforementioned pitched idea for Saints Row 5. Will Volition be able to produce a Saints Row title that will live up to original fans’ hopes? Perhaps so, since it’s been in development for a while. Fans are excited and keeping a close eye on what happens to the Third Street Saints. If the story continues on from the fourth incarnation or excludes Dex, for me it’ll be a disappointment. But the only thing that fans can do now is waiting, and I plan on waiting patiently.
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