Saints Row has an uncertain future

Originally published at: Saints Row has an uncertain future | Boing Boing

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This is sad news for me. I know that the games are morally reprehensible; but I’ve had some good fun. I like the way that everything is gamified; just driving across town in the most risky manner possible earns points. The ability to select the sex, race and build of your avatar was a good touch, too.


I didn’t envy the latest Saints Row dev team, as the series has always tried so hard to one-up itself that it had not just jumped the shark but invented new sharks to jump over. After SR4, there was (literally and figuratively) nowhere to go but backwards, which was always going to leave some people disgruntled with the latest game. The tech problems didn’t help, but it was always going to be something of a tough sell.

It’s run up against the fatal issue that it takes an absolutely insane number of sales to pay for the development of a AAA game, much less make enough profit to cover the games that are flops and make any kind of profit. Which publishers like to do, in order to stay in business…

But deliberately so, having developed a level of self-awareness that the GTA series lacks (and having given up on tonally inappropriate hard-core gangster narratives that still plague GTA). The series realized it was a hyper-violent cartoon after SR2.

They really perfected the formula with SR3, which was a bit of a problem moving forwards, because then what do you do with the series (once you’ve jumped all possible sharks)? Change the setting slightly (but keep the same gameplay)?

The character creation and customization has always been a stand-out feature for the series. That they turned the character creator into its own app speaks volumes…


Saints Row jumped the shark? Saints Row jumped the shark from the very beginning. After the first game tried so hard to be GTA that it ended up just being “off-brand GTA” the subsequent titles took an approach of “fuck it, let’s be funny GTA and crank up the absurdity as high as we can”. The studio decided to just become the shark.

The Saints Row reboot had a rough launch but it wasn’t Cyberpunk 2077 bad or anything. They fixed most of the bugs pretty quickly. Yeah, I had some problems like crashes and broken stuff but I didn’t hit any game-breaking bugs that prevented me from getting 100% completion or getting all achievements.

The story was a little rote, c’mon, it’s Saints Row, it’s meant to be a silly murder sandbox. So what if the story wasn’t complicated? The motivations of the heroes and villains were clear and understandable and the story made sense. It wasn’t so bloated or far up it’s own ass that it falls apart under any sort analysis which is more than you can say for a lot of video games and movies these days.

I’ve long found the SR series to be a great antidote to the Serious Crime Simulator genre. Saints Row fully embraces its absurdity and wears it on its sleeve. It also un-judgingly lets you create whatever kind of character you want, doesn’t shy away from representation but also doesn’t make a big deal about it.

So many games do representation in the most stilted or awkward way. They will have a non-heteronormative character and make sure you’re super aware of it, and then more often than not make sure they have some sort of tragic arc as a result. It’s never “this man had a husband”, it’s “this broken man had a horrible existence until he finally met the perfect man whom he would marry and then his husband tragically died horribly in a space compactor mishap”. It’s never, “this character is a transgender” (or better yet simply not bringing it up at all because it’s not really important to the story in most cases), it’s ”this person is transgender and we’re going to tell you over and over again that they are transgender so we can make sure you know that we’re cool with trans folks”. In the new SR there’s an openly pansexual character. He has no qualms in talking about his many former lovers, but his sexuality is never really a big deal. There’s no tragic story arc or anything special about his sexuality beyond, “this guy likes who he likes, and he likes a lot of people.”

Anyway, I’m not surprised if there’s not another SR game after this. SR4 blew up planet Earth in the opening minutes, and the expansion had one of the main characters literally going to hell to fight Satan. Where do you really go from there? Then the studio and publisher went belly up and I never expected another one to come out.

The new SR going back to basics wasn’t a bad thing, but I don’t know that it was able to really find its audience and as absurd as it was, it didn’t compare to the levels of absurdity in SR3 which I would argue was the series’ peak. I’m glad they gave it another go and I’ll be sad if they don’t do any more but not surprised.


Well…while it’s not a JRPG, I would play a Saints Row game where you storm heaven and kill God


… and the game is SUPER ETHICAL!!!


And also…

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Who doesn’t love Professor Genki?

Can Saints Row ever really jump the shark, because it has a blunderbuss that fires chum, summoning a shark to eat people…


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