Saint’s Row 4: The most sincere dumb game ever made

Saint’s Row 4: The most sincere dumb game ever made

Saint’s Row finally (FINALLY) unlocked on Friday for those of us in Europe. I beat it by Sunday. It’s awesome. If you enjoyed the wanton crazy of Saint’s Row the Third, this is more and bigger.

Since I’ve spent a lot of time talking about writing in games, and also comedy writing (in multiple mediums), I thought I would chime in about the Third Street Saints.

Saint’s Row 4 gets the Ghostbusters Test

A couple of weeks ago I said Ghostbusters was a successful movie because:

1. It creates a world you want to be a part of

2. The comedy serves the world, not the other way around

I think Saint’s Row 4 easily address point one, since your character acquires insane amounts of power and does whatever they want with style and lots of partying. And it helps that the super fun, likable supporting characters all have a very desirable friendship dynamic with your player character. They like you, they complain and joke around. It’s a family that you feel welcome in.

Now, that said, Saint’s Row IV appears to break the second rule in a big way. It takes place in a hyperbolic world full of insane plot twists. Your character, after all, becomes president, and installs stripper poles and poker tables in the White House…

Note the beers. This is the mildest thing happening in the White House.

Also beer and smokes are allowed in the West Wing.

But, I say the humor in the game is in service of the world.

The Saint’s Row world is so wildly crazytown, that it’s easy to miss that the humor works ONLY because the world is internally consistent.

Look at the basic plot of Saint’s Row 2-4: A street gang goes to war with an international corporation and WINS, so they run a multi-billion dollar company. So of course they all become multi-millionaire celebrities, with their own clothing lines and energy drink. Naturally they do battle with a global crime syndicate and the military, and the logical next step is that the Boss becomes President of the United States.

And who is a believable enemy if you run the U.S.A.?

Aliens, naturally.

It’s aliens.

 

How do you like the humor in Saint’s Row 4, but don’t like the humor in Borderlands 2?

This is a question of taste partly, and I talk about that in the Borderlands humor post.

Also, Borderlands 2’s humor (arguably) does not pass the Ghostbusters test. While it is great fun to play Borderlands 2, the world does not present any wish fulfillment for me. I don’t want to live in a terrible trash planet full of psychopaths. And, while the world does appear to have internal consistency, the humor frequently doesn’t share the voice of the character. Did you just have that fancy safari adventurer guy say ‘bonerfarts?’ Am I really supposed to believe that that guy would speak like a caucasian-wannabe-gangster-preteen, and still espouse fancy gentleman rhetoric the rest of the time?

Nahhhh.

There is one other thing I hadn’t thought of before…

I am officially adding a third point to the Ghostbusters test, thanks to the Saints.

Saint’s Row IV is incredibly sincere.

The people making Saint’s Row clearly love the characters and the players. The best example that isn’t a spoiler are the ‘sing along with Pierce’ missions, where your only job (more or less) is to enjoy character interaction. It’s dumb and fun. There’s tons of stuff like this in Saint’s Row – stuff that is there specifically because it’s funny or fun.

With that in mind, the new third part of the Ghostbusters test is that the thing is sincere, not cynical.

So what’s the takeaway from this?

When you’re making stuff, what you get right will always trump what you get wrong. And with comedy entertainment, the most important thing to get right is fun. Not funny.

But seriously, it needs to be funny too.

And for the love of all that is holy, mean what you say. Really really mean it.