Volition has announced a reboot called Saints Row: Self Made, and during the presentation, after many questions and answers, once it had become clear that this installment will be polite and that we won't see any of the gnarly stuff known from previous installments, the chatroom full of journalists went completely silent, and the silence was emphatic. Or maybe that's just my interpretation. Everyone seemed disappointed, though I guess it was hard to expect to get another unsolicitedly iconoclastic and sardonic entry in the series almost a decade after the last installment. The creators, upon hearing subsequent questions, must have gotten the sense of the mood that had settled in, because they quickly began to convince us that the madness, humor and a bloodthirsty city was something they wouldn't really abandon.
However, they had to update and adapt the game's formula to match 21st-century standards. There was no way of continuing the storyline either – the Saints had already accomplished everything they ever wanted.
And to be clear: I can see perfectly clearly that the series was problematic and there was a whole list of downright crass elements of the series that I would bin without a second thought. Still, while watching the trailer, my main sentiment could be summarized with the following screenshot:
A week after the presentation, when the dust had settled and I re-watched the trailer, I have one conclusion: it's for the better, and I'm looking forward to February 2022.
Tell me baby what's inside
The game will be set in Santo Ileso, Mexico. We will direct a leader of a small group of friends, who decide to establish their own "firm." All of them have had enough of being exploited by other gangs and cartels, which had huge expectations and have nothing in return. They all have been duped – the creators emphasized that they want us to be able to identify with the characters. So, if, for example, you've been paying off your mortgage for 5 years and still have 25 more to go; when you do the math and realize how old you'll be once you finally pay it; if "I'm never going to financially recover from this" is your motto – the adventure in Santo Ileso may be very relatable at some levels.
Self Made is no abstract metaphor, too. Developing your character, expanding your gang, and performing shady activities is one thing, but you will also expand the city – over time, you will start to unlock empty parcels and it will be up to you to decide where you want your perfectly legal business with curious back end. These decisions will have real consequences for the world of the game. You will create everything from scratch. The more you grow, the more opportunities you will unlock. And as for the Saints, we all know that in their case, "sky is the limit" is not a true maxim. So I'm almost afraid to try to predict what's the end-game point for the city growth.
We already know that this will be the largest map in the series. Santo Ileso, divided into 9 districts, is supposed to provide a huge amount of sandbox exploration, with the storyline being only a minor part of gameplay. The entire storyline can be completed in co-op, and the developers have announced cross-gen, too. The character customization options will supposedly sweep us off our feet. I admit – I'm a little scared, but I'm also a little not scared.
The year is 2013. A small scandal erupts as Saints Row IV launches in Australia – lo and behold, the game is suspended due to the name of a weapon available in it (and its appearance) clearly alluding to sexual assault. It is a huge dildo-sword called Alien Anal Probe. In the end, the parties came to an agreement and the conflict was resolved. Previously, in 2011, without any major issues (as far as I know), the developers introduced a baseball bat into Saints Row 3 that was... a very long dildo. But I'm sure you know that and that you'd use it yourself given half a chance.
Somewhat anticipating what they were preparing in the fifth installment, I asked the developers: "Will we get any interesting weapons in this installment :wink:?" Here's what I heard in response, once the guys reclaimed control after a burst of laughter:
If that's the sort of weapons I think you're thinking of, then no. We're keeping it in the museum for the time being. That said, we always leave a number of crazy weapons, so yes – interesting weapons will certainly be part of the game.
Jokes aside. THIS weapon won't be featured in the game. We will get funny names and crazy features. But the days when such things passed off as funny, viral quirks that can generate some additional popularity are now gone. Thankfully, rape is no longer considered a suitable theme for jokes and video game promotion.
Even CD Projekt RED became aware of the market's phallic oversaturation when it turned out that the dildos scattered everywhere were not particularly amusing to anyone. Though it's sad they had to actually do it to find out.
The team at Volition is well aware of all this. They know that the world they served up in the previous installments of the series is already overdue. And while they are proud of their past accomplishments (and we mostly remember it as quality fun, after all), they wanted to create something more up-to-date, meeting current standards and sensitivity. And for those who don't like this direction, they have prepared a remaster of Saints Row: The Third.
Which is more important?
Some of you probably think that it's all political correctness neutering the game; that the main goal right now is not to offend anyone. But actually, what's wrong with the creators not offending people? Today, games are not usually created for one, closely defined social group – they aim to reach as broad an audience as possible. Today – and arguably – games are increasingly trying to stigmatize lack of empathy. They seem to be convinced that making someone uncomfortable is a sufficient argument against saying something.
So we'll get a whole new game, with better graphics, better music, more features, promising new mechanics, spectacular races, nostalgic easter eggs, and expanded character customization. With a storyline that's easier to identify with and which is not a logical, forcefully created continuation of the previous part. With the same tongue-in-cheek humor and vibe unique to Saints Row. If Volition doesn't mess this up, this could mean the series will finally mature and offer more than mindless, boorish mayhem. I, for one, can easilly do without a few controversial jokes, weaponized dildos, and sex appeal reduced to oversized breasts and genitals.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I actually enjoyed Saints Row and its uncompromising disregard for social norms. But that was a decade ago. I'm 100% sure that if I played these games today without knowing what to expect, I'd be grossed out. I can't imagine the new game be set in a similar convention. Although my nostalgic heart broke in half during the presentation, I am happy with the prospect of a new direction. I mean, what would you prefer? A reheated, hackneyed meal of questionable quality, or a completely new, well-considered product seasoned with subtle nostalgia? The choice seems simple. At least to me.
Julia Dragovic | Gamepressure.com