April 6th, 2017. Thursday night, 10 pm. I joined the Saints Row Discord voice chat, slightly intoxicated. A few of the locals joined in. WTFMan, IrishCoffee, Woody, Owen, and Coolmcgroove. We all began to explore various highbrow philosophical topics. Merry talks of furry orgies, Syria, and of course, video games. I was having a good time yucking it up with everyone when IrishCoffee suddenly proclaimed “Hey WTFMan, you should give Flippy your 30 minute Saints Row rant”….
“30 minute saints row rant?” I questioned. Surely he must be exaggerating, I scoffed.
“OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO BOYYY, HAV I GO-”
Those were the last coherent words I can remember.
For nearly 35 minutes, WTFMan performed a non-stop, almost hypnotizing rant about Saints Row. The sounds were that of pure terror. Hyperventilating, screams, roars. The sounds were so incredibly violent that I was clutching my chair with my jaw clenched throughout the entire event. I was a fool for not recording it. It would have made for the most crazy acid trip video ever. However I immediately asked him for a copy of everything he said, and he was kind enough to provide it. Below is the transcript of what I heard. Just reading it doesn’t do it justice, but sadly the horrors I have heard can only go to the grave with me as an everlasting memory. The least I can do is provide you with a fragment of that night. Enjoy.
The WTFMan Saints Row Rant
Written by WTFMan
Ah Saints Row, what a magnificent fall from grace. Say what you want about how Sega or Activision butchered Sonic or beat Call of Duty into the ground, Volition flat out carpet bombed their own franchise, and proceeded to pour truckloads of radioactive salt all over the charred remains. Now before anyone says “well SR4 is a parody of gaming” you see that’s the problem right there. As a matter of fact, this is the same problem that’s coincidentally killing Sonic and COD right now.
Let’s go back into the beginning of the franchise. It’s the 2000’s when gaming really started to take-off as an entertainment powerhouse. It was also the era where a company by the name of Rockstar revolutionized open-world games from simple top-down titles, to fully realized 3d environments, with tons of enemies, a great story, varied weapons, and plenty of destruction. Note how I said “revolutionized” and not “created” because GTA was NOT the first open world game, not by a long-shot. Despite this during this time-frame any and every open world game that was released since has been called a “GTA Clones” simply due to the fact that they were based in an open world. In my opinion this argument has so many holes in it you could very easily mistake it for Swiss Cheese. Now what does this have to do with Saints Row? Well Saints Row had the misfortune of being an urban-based open world title with a heavy emphasis on crime. As a result, it was often looked down upon by both gamers and gaming journalist as a bargain-bin version of GTA. The “Great Value Fruit Rings” to your “Fruit Loops” respectively.
However, SR was an entirely different beast all together. For one there’s the obvious fact that the game had a somewhat in-depth customization system, which would soon become the one and only thing about the series that wasn’t heavily butchered, well at least not until SR4 and GOOH. The second big difference is that instead of having several small gangs and an army of law enforcement out in the open world with a single wanted meter for the police, SR ups the ante by not only making each enemy gang a massive criminal empire in their own right, but also giving them their own wanted meters (called notoriety meters) and making them just as much of a threat as the hordes of police officers, SWAT, and FBI units.
Last but not least there’s the fact that unlike GTA you could tackle the three enemy gangs in whatever order you see fit. After GTA 4 came out and while it was practically worshiped by the gaming press as the Second Coming of Christ, to GTA fans it was somber, yet bizarre hard turn from the action-movie insanity of the PS2 Era games. So seemingly as a response to GTA 4’s own blunders Volition stepped in with Saints Row 2, hell they even had an advertisement that openly mocked the minigames from GTA 4. When SR2 came out it was still looked at like a tic on the mighty German Shepherd that was GTA, but it received a much warmer reception from gamers. The sequel added in a massive number of things, more minigames, an expanded and ridiculously detailed city, not three but four new enemy gangs, and of course an even more detailed character customization system. Right down to being able to choose your character’s build, voice, fighting style, walk cycle, and gender. Here’s a neat little fact, SR2 is probably the only open world game where the main protagonist can be transsexual.
So SR2 was a massive success for Volition. So, it was inevitable that a third game would be in the works. So what exactly went wrong? One, simple, answer. THQ. That’s what went wrong. Believe it or not Volition originally didn’t plan on basically massacring their own flagship series. As a matter of fact when you look at the concepts for Saints Row 3 you can tell that Volition planned on expanding an already bristling franchise as opposed to outright gutting it. Steelport, the now-Infamous eyesore in the SR Community looked amazing in the concept art with a skyline heavily influenced by both real and fictional cities, namely New York City and Chicago. That wasn’t the only thing though. There were supposed to two extra enemy gangs in the form of the Cowboys and Oiran, clothing layers and the ability to edit your character’s height as well as the width of their pectorals and shoulders were supposed to be in the game, Riot Officers alongside Sheriff Deputies, State Troopers, and varied headgear for the Law Enforcement enemies, both new and old weapons, a proper day and night cycle, and even a parkour system ripped straight from Infamous, Mirror’s Edge, or Crackdown.
Not only that the plot was supposed to be even darker than SR2! For example, one of the main characters, Shaundi was supposed to have survivors guilt and PTSD over the death of another returning character Johnny Gat, the Luchadores were originally going to launch what was essentially a glorified mass shooting or terrorist attack on a benefit concert being held by the Saints, STAG was supposed to be even more of an obvious parallel to the War on Drugs, the War on Terror and the rapid militarization of law enforcement, the Deckers and Luchadores would often recruit teenagers and hop them up on drugs, and the Morningstar running a god-forsaken slave ring for crying out loud!
However, we got none of that. When the game came out Steelport looked nothing like the concept, it looked like a hideous eyesore, as a matter of fact it looked like the only part of the city that was even remotely finished was the Downtown area, because every other area has buildings that are obviously place-holders. Not only that but the gameplay took a huge hit as well in some departments. While enemy AI has been improved and while I loved fighting most of the Specialist units, the game also introduced more armored vehicles and explosives that both the Boss and enemies will frequently use. Only problem with that is that with the exception of the Downtown District, most of the roads in Steelport are insanely narrow, which means that more often than not, a fight will prematurely end because some moron in a Tank ran over their comrades, or they picked up an RPG and blew both themselves and the rest of their squad to pieces. Not only that but customization has been downgraded as well, fighting styles? Gone. Clothing layers? Gone. The ability to create say a skinny, average, or fat character? Gone. On more controversial note, you no longer have the option to make a trans Boss, and most the voice actors for the Boss from SR2 were replaced, although I did enjoy the chaotic nature of Robin Atkin Downes, the deadpan portrayal from Laura Bailey, the constantly surprised Troy Baker and Kenn Michael, the stalker-crush attitude of Rebecca Sanabria, and the no-holds barred badass mindset employed by Tara Platt. However, the main source of aggravation for many SR fans was the fact that fan-favorite activities from SR2 were removed, and the fact that it’s extremely obvious that large portions of the plot were cut out. This becomes blatantly obvious due to the fact that while Luchadores and Deckers barely get any missions, throughout most of the game you’re fighting STAG or the Morningstar. Now the reason for this is due to the fact that SR3 was basically a rush job. Yes, much like Sonic 06, much like Black Ops 3, this was yet another title that quickly crapped in order to come out the gate just in time for those lucrative holiday sales! However, unlike Sonic 06 or Black Ops 3, as I stated before SR3 had far more potential. Not only that but the game was an even bigger success than SR2. Being able to stand on its own without being labeled a “GEE TEE AYE CLOWN” by journalists.
So maybe Volition will learn from their mistakes for SR4? Maybe they’ll incorporate many of the missing elements from SR3? Then, after trying to pimp out two other open world franchises; Destroy all Humans, and Red Faction respectively, THQ announced that they’ll be going bankrupt. The future looked grim for Saints Row. Would the franchise be sold to EA just to be sat on by John Riccitielo fat-ass? Would the franchise be sold to Konami just to turn the series into a horrific gambling monstrosity several years later? Well no, instead Volition was picked up a then small publisher by the name of Deep Silver. At the time, a lot of people thought the series was saved from damnation, but oh boy, were we proven oh, so wrong. Originally SR4 was supposed to be a story about how an unknown third party took the Syndicate’s cloning technology to create three new enemy gangs in a brand spanking new city. A high-tech Ancient-Egyptian themed faction led a clone of Cleopatra, a fanatical faction utilizing a mix of Cold-War and Dieselpunk aesthetics led by a clone of Joseph Stalin, and a group of insane warriors heavily inspired by both the Mongol Horde and China during the Three Kingdoms Era, led by a clone of Genghis Khan. While this concept is certainly more wacky than SR3 it was at least coherent. Villain makes three clone armies who take over a brand-new city. Eliminate clone armies and liberate said city.
What we got instead was a mess, even more things were needlessly downgraded, the story was just an idiotic cacophony of obnoxious movie references, the gameplay was a severe step-down, hell Steelport looked even worse than it did back in SR3! So once again what happened here? Well according to Volition when THQ started to buckle under their own weight and they wanted to create a quick buck to at least buy themselves some extra time, this would likely explain why they tried murder Red Faction and Destroy all Humans, well SR would by that proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for THQ. They basically had Volition scrap the original concept for SR4 and instead use a scrapped expansion for SR3 called Enter the Dominatrix, which was supposed to be a wacky off-canon spin-off title similar to what Ubisoft did with Far Cry Blood Dragon. This would explain why Steelport was used again, but even then, on Volition’s SR Website when SR4 came out the wallpaper for that website showcased a city that quite obviously was not Stilwater or Steelport, nor does it look like the futuristic version of Seoul from Agents of Mayhem. I’m going off track here, either way SR4 made mad money for Volition. For many fans this marked the end of SR as Volition somehow got the idea that something that was a massacre of their own magnum opus from corporate should become the new norm for the series.
So instead of going back to the drawing board, they continued to defecate all over said board. Gat out of Hell had the Third Street Saints a STREET GANG mind you, fighting anime demons in a literal urban Hell, while befriending two-real life serial killers, a thief, and the devil’s daughter who looks more like a character from any 2010’s superhero anime or fetish manga instead of a character from a series once about urban warfare. Now we have Agents of Mayhem, a game that might as well be an adaptation of Excel Saga. Oh and it’s not a spin-off like Red Faction but according to Volition a part of some nonsense called the “Saints Row Multiverse”.
Some have tried to justify this by saying that the series just got wackier over time, others tried to justify this by saying SR4 was a “deconstruction” or “satire” of video games as a whole. In my opinion when you make a video game series you don’t drastically change the entire plot and tone of the damn series just make it a “satire” or a “deconstruction”, nor do you constantly strip and gut features just because you want to be “wacky”, and the last thing you would do is take one well beloved feature from a game, crank it up so much to the point where it becomes annoying and obnoxious rather than endearing while completely throwing every other thing that made the series good right out the window.
This is the same thing I mentioned earlier with Call of Duty and Sonic. One of the main reasons why people kept buying Call of Duty was due to all the crazy gadgets in the story and multiplayer, and the main criticism for the series is that it needed to change. Well Activision and the three companies who make COD interpreted this as basically make the entire game focused around nothing but the high-end equipment that the characters are using. Which in turn resulted in COD’s much maligned “Future Era”. As for Sonic Sega built a solid foundation with the Adventure games, but instead of trying to improve on the formula they toss everything out the window just to be “different”, and they did it in the most cringe-worthy ways possible. Like giving Shadow an Uzi, or having Sonic fall in love with a human politician, or turning Sonic into a werewolf. For Volition, it’s like a horrible combination of both.
They took one of the main things that attracted players with SR2 and SR3, the over-the-top mayhem and amped it up to a now painful degree, and they themselves have used every excuse in the book to defend this. “Saints Row was always a parody”, “It’s a deconstruction\satire”, “the series was always about escalation”. Which segues into out next part. Volition kept trying to push the envelope for their games in all the wrong ways. First you fought gangsters, then organized mafias, then mega-corporations and the military, after that it was aliens, and now demons.
As a result of this Volition eventually wrote themselves into a corner so hard they had to pull a soft reboot for the whole series. Yet they still managed to screw it all up by still trying to force that “wacky satire” shit down everyone’s throat. Listen, just imagine if there was a sequel to Crank 2, and it was a zombie flick. Just imagine if there was a sequel to Hobo with a Shotgun, and it was an alien invasion story. Just imagine if there was a sequel to the Panzer Cop series and it was a dumb 80’s-esque Michael Bay travesty. Alternatively, just imagine if State of Emergency, Manhunt, Bully, and Red Dead Redemption were called GTA San Andreas, GTA Vice City, GTA 4, and GTA 5. Fans of those franchises would throw a fit. You know what Sega did after the horrid reception of Sonic 06 and the lukewarm response to Unleashed? They went back to drawing board, actually looked at the criticism for their products and won back the fans with Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations. You know what Ubisoft did when they almost killed Assassin’s Creed? They went back and delayed the next entry in the series so they can work on it and improve it.
Meanwhile Volition seems like they just outright ignore any sort of criticism that their games get outside of that fucking dumbass “GTA Clone” shit!
Why do I say this? Well think about it! When fans asked for SR to go back to it’s roots, they made SR4, GOOH, and AOM instead, when fans complained about Steelport being an eyesore? Volition made the city even worse in Saints Row 4. When fans asked to have clothing layers back, you know what Volition did? Remove a massive amount of clothing from SR4, and restrict your characters outfit for most of the game! Fans asked for better enemy AI? Volition instead made the problem even worse by simply having the enemies spam nothing but explosive weapons and tanks instead. Yet, when some random person on the internet called the series a GTA clone, Volition took everything that made the series good behind a shed, pulled out a silenced pistol, shot it in the head, burned the body, and threw the ashes in a roadside ditch, all the while in a hilarious fit of irony Rockstar won back both old fans and SR fans with GTA 5, which is basically SR2 just without the character customization and barely any emphasis on gangs.
AOM provides an opportunity for Volition, they have either two choices at this point. They can make AOM an unrelated spin-off like what they did with Red Faction, so that way they can go back to the series roots, or they can continue trying to cram this idiotic, movie referencing, superhero garbage down everyone’s throats, and if the lower sales of GOOH, coupled with rather loud crickets for AOM is indication, if Volition is smart they would choose the former, but at this point, it’s highly unlikely.
I also want to talk about SR Mods. Seriously fuck that website and Volition with a cactus. So here’s the story for that lovely little gem of nothingness. Shortly after CDProjekt botched the PC port for SR2 to kingdom come a man by the name of IdolNinja decided to try and fix the problem on his own, and by fix, I mean just taking a slew of fixes and mods by other users and pawning it off as his own in a compilation known as Gentlemen of Stilwater. The mod itself became a smash-hit in the SR fandom for not only fixing a lobotomized port-job but also adding in new weapons and customization options. Eventually a large PC community for SR started to take shape, and soon SR Mods became a dedicated SR forum to upload mods and discuss the franchise as a whole. Then SR4 dropped like a canister of lethal mustard gas onto the website. One of the major marketing tools Volition used to promote their trash was the fact that they were going to release a set of in-depth modding tools for SR2, SR3, and SR4 to go alongside the game’s release. Only one problem. The completely fucking lied! Truth is there was no SDK. Either that or these fuckheads decided to keep the damn dev-tools to themselves! Oh, and guess what? SR4 soon became infamous on the forum for having a ridiculous amount of memory restrictions in order for the game to properly work on consoles! So most of the people who modded SR2 and SR3 didn’t even bother with SR4 especially since Volition bombarded the damn game with a flood of DLC and updates. Oh and don’t even get me started on the updates! More often than not these cursed chunks of data would break the damn game. The game you just paid 60 FUCKING DOLLARS FOR! Going back on topic, Volition also decided to hire IdolNinja as the new community manager, and as community manager he didn’t really do much. The main issue with Saints Row Mods mainly stems from IdolNinja and his partner, Minimaul. You see for some bizarre reason, IdolNinja hates, and I mean HATES SR1. So much so that he actually bans people who try to port over content from SR1 into SR2. In other words, no cop replacements or new jackets for you buddy. I am actually surprised he didn’t ban one user in particular since she made a mod that ported over weather effects from SR1 into SR2. Another issue is with copyright. Now one of the main perks about modding is that there are virtually no limits other than technology and the game’s engine when it comes to content. Want to make a mod based off of Ultimate Destruction in GTA 4? Sure! Wanna add in some random anime themed outfits like school uniforms or mechs into the world of Fallout? Go right ahead! Add in Macho Man Randy Savage as a special boss in Skyrim? GOD SPEED YOU MAGNIFICENT BASTARD. Now try doing anything like that in SR. Not only is it impossible due to Volition’s refusal to release the full modding sdk, but even if you somehow get past that, you also have to get past IdolNinja and Minimaul, who will likely takedown the mod because it contains copyrighted material. Yep, these two guys are indeed following the Ways of Wojicki. This also extends to audio too. If you try to port over songs from say SR2 into SR3 more likely than not IdolNinja will burn down the links and smack you down with the banhammer. This almost fanatical adherence to copyright combined with the almost childish refusal to release the proper SDK and the hateboner that IdolFucker has for SR1 has KILLED the modding community and any interest one might have for buying any of the SR games on PC. Now before I go on I would like to mention they did eventually release the SDK. But only for the weapons and player clothes. THAT IS THE STUPIDEST FUCKING DECISION I HAVE EVER FUCKING SEEN IN MY ENTIRE LIFE AS AN SR FAN OUTSIDE OF SR4’S EXISTENCE! You can port over every single gun and article of clothing from SR2 and SR3 and it still won’t change the fact that SR4 is still an overpriced, busted-ass pile of code with a tiny, bland-ass city, no enemy variety, less clothing options, repetitive side=quests, and a dogshit story that as I stated before has plot holes you can drive a fucking aircraft carrier through. But anyways aside from the first two portions of the SDK the also released a workshop for SR4… that came out this year. The first half of the SDK was released back in 2015. Oh, and on top of that Volition also announced a modding contest for SR4, and guess what? Only two people actually entered the contest. Only two. FUCKING TWO!? THE PARAPPA THE RAPPA CONTEST CHRIS CHAN ENTERED HAD MORE FUCKING PEOPLE THAN THIS! HOLY SHIT! YOU KNOW VOLITION IS FUCKING UP WHEN ANYTHING RELATED TO CHRIS CHAN HAS DONE A BETTER JOB! Even then most of the mods for SR outside of compilations are barebones at best. Almost all of them are some variation of weapons skins, AI edits, or new\slash edited clothing items. Wow. Now let’s compare SR to several other games that have some form of mod support. GTA: Has mods that add in maps from 3, Vice City, San Andreas, and 4, radical changes to the vanilla map itself, refinements to the police AI and a much heavier emphasis on gangs for GTA 5, mods that turn the game into Ultimate Destruction, what a good Ironman game would look like, or even Akira, and let’s not forget the hilarious model swaps. Just Cause: New outfits, weapons, and tactics for the Reapers, Roaches, Ular Boys, Panaun Military, Medici Defense Force, and Rebels, major gameplay overhauls in the case of JC2 and a multiplayer mod that so much traction Avalanche and Square Enix made it into an official mode for JC2. Most of these mods can also be ported over to the PS3 and possibly the 360 versions. Half-Life: THREE NEW DAMN GAMES THAT YOU CAN ACTUALLY BUY THAT ARE REALLY DAMN GOOD! Do I need to say more? Well other than that we have new weapons, scrapped enemies from the concept art, scrapped levels, and some pretty radical changes to the gameplay such as slow-mo, the Gravity Gun being traded in for telekinesis, or small boxes that have to chance to spawn a single Headcrab when destroyed. Last but not least the twin jewels of Bethesda. Fallout and Elder Scrolls. New worlds, new weapons, new quests with professionally voiced dialogue, edits to the vanilla storyline that patches up any plotholes that might have been left in, new outfits, and brand new enemies. Saints Row? Some generic t-shirts and a few retextures. Wow that really makes me want to purchase SR4 on pc over the other games I mentioned. (sarcasm). Overall Saints Row as a franchise is dead, and Volition, SR Mods, THQ, Deep Silver, the Gaming Media, and hipster twats from Tumblr who herald the game as this mighty deconstruction are all to blame
[this is where it ended]