Podzilla 1985

Monday, August 19, 2013

Saints Row IV Releases TONIGHT! We look back at our history with the 3rd Street Saints.

As you may or may not be aware, but damn sure better find out, Saints Row IV releases tonight on a multitude of systems. None of those systems belong to Nintendo. That one, small, infuriating tidbit aside, it's as good a reason as any to celebrate. The Saints Row series has evolved from a GTA style knockoff to it's own franchise and fans everywhere are lining up to find out what will happen in what many speculate will be the final adventure for our heroes.


Well, they're sort of heroes. Sure, they're gang members and they've killed thousands of people. Yes, depending on the game, they've dipped into villain territory with their complete disregard for human life. But these are the Saints that we're talking about, people! It might not be an RPG or make any sense at all sometimes, but the Saints Row series has given us countless memorable characters, unforgettable moments, and a real connection to the Saints crew.

My own journey into Stilwater began before Blogzilla 1985 was even a twinkle in my beady little eyes. I had just gotten my first XBox 360 and the first must have game on my list was none other than....Rumble Roses XX. Yeah, I don't know what I was thinking there.

Oh wait, I remember! I like wrestling and I like boobs. Damn, that was an easy one to figure out. Why did they never make a sequel to that game, anyway? It had a decent wrestling engine, great graphics, and scantily clad women. The next game in the series would have been Rumble Roses XXX! This stuff writes itself, people!

I digress.

One way or the other I got my hands on the demo for the first Saints Row game, and if I remember correctly it was from the official XBox magazine. I was working at Steve & Barry's at the time but had a good relationship with the Gamestop guys, so I think they probably hooked me up. At first glance I think we all kind of dismissed it as a GTA clone, and it would be very easy to make that mistake. They're both open world games, they're both centered around gangs and taking over a city, and they both open the kind of free world roaming and destruction that this age of gamer craves like the starving dog they are.

We were all unaware of just how awesome and game changing that first title would be.

No longer were you stuck playing as Jimmy Random Criminal, created and portrayed by some schmuck working in an office at Rockstar. The freedom to create your own character from scratch was thrilling and breathed some new life into a still shaky genre. I remember my roommate creating the fattest black guy of all time, and we laughed our asses off as he waddled through the streets in his quest for glory. One trip to a plastic surgeon turned the comical fat man into a strong jawed well dressed businessman, and we quickly realized that you could do much more with the character creator than make jokes.

The first game had a solid plot and some great characters. After all, it's the one that introduced us all to the greatest character in video game history - Johnny Gat. Daniel Dae Kim voiced the psychopathic Gat, which surprised a lot of people who didn't even know Kim could speak English. I don't know why they would assume such things, except, you know, 'Murica. Kim took the role of what could have been just another killer in a video game and injected him with so much personality that he became the only character to spread across all four games, despite his untimely demise at the beginning of Saints Row 3. Some might wonder how you bring a guy back from the dead like that, but to them I point out that all of the Saints games have given the ability to bring back at least one deceased homie, and also that Saints Row 4 is about fighting aliens in a virtual reality program.

You can take your logic and shove it up your ass!

 Along with Kim came some heavy hitters in the entertainment industry for the first game. Rockstar set the bar pretty high with their voice acting cast that included everyone from Ray Liotta to Phillip Michael Thomas. THQ and Volition answered the challenge with Kim, Michael Rappaport, Keith David, Michael Clarke Duncan, Clancy Brown, Mila Kunis, David Carradine, Joquim de Almeida, TC Carson, and the eternally beautiful Tia Carrere. It was a stellar cast, and they helped turn what was in serious danger of being another wannabe into a fantastic experience that would lay the ground work for a series that would come to rival the Grand Theft Auto franchise.

But, the creators of the series weren't happy with being a rival to GTA. They wanted something to call their own, and the second adventure starring the 3rd Street Saints would cement their place in the video game world.

Five years later...

It begins with a hectic escape from prison for the main character, who was thought to have met an untimely end thanks to an exploding boat at conclusion of the first game. After freeing yourself and saving Johnny Gat from a hilarious court proceeding that established Gat as THE man in the series, you go about reestablishing the gang and taking back whats yours. A major chunk of the first games all star cast didn't return for the sequel, but in their place we did got awesome perfomarnces by newcomers Eliza Dushku, Neil Patrick Harris, Jaime Pressly, Jay Mohr, and Michael Dorn.

It also included Tera Patrick, which happens to be one of my favorite...actresses.

Yeah.

The core of the game remained the same. You were still shooting everyone in sight and doing missions against various gangs for control of Stilwater, but the real star of the game were the side missions. From spraying septic waste onto buildings to ruin their value to protecting celebrities from obsessed fans or pretending to be cops for a reality TV show, there was always something fun and insane to do. The character creator was even better this go around, allowing you to play as a female in an unprecedented move for the time.

It also introduced co-op, which allowed two players to take on the streets together and offered them everything the single player did. It was a far cry from GTA IV's multiplayer, which was a great experience despite lacking the options of its single player campaign.

To me, Saints Row 2 is the height of the series. I have better memories of that game than anything else in the past twenty years. From throwing people off of rooftops with my roommate to customizing my motorcycle, Saints Row 2 was everything I envisioned an open world game could be. It was one of the first sequels I could remember that not only was I not disappointed in, but I actually loved much more than the original.

If Saints Row 2 established the series as a fresh alternative to Grand Theft Auto, the third part of the series took it in directions that both alienated fans and made the series legendary.

The Third took everything from 2 and turned it to eleven. The missions were crazier, the guns were more off the wall, the characters were downright insane, and everything that made the series a serious crime drama was quickly knocked out of the park by a giant purple dildo. You would quickly forget the games roots as a thug life simulator as soon as you're free falling while shooting down assassins moments before you crash through the windshield of a giant jet, only to grab a new parachute and repeat the process.

This game is downright batshit crazy. New additions to the cast included Sasha Grey (what IS the obsession with porn stars, anyway?) and Hulk Hogan, and really the only thing you could ever hate about this game is a severe lack of Johnny Gat. I love Saints Row The Third, although I feel like it came up short compared to the masterpiece of Saints Row 2.

I've seen the reviews for IV and am fully aware that it started as a DLC pack for 3. I'm fully prepared to be disappointed in a lack of new ideas or game mechanics, because I've grown so close to the Saints over the past 10 years that I just want to have more fun with them.

And there's a lot to be excited about when that clock strikes midnight. Keith David is back as 'Keith David,' as is Benjamin King and Johnny Gat. There are aliens, Star Wars outfits, Blade Runner pistols, giant mechs, Kinzie, super powers, and a host of other features that make me salivate.

I can't wait to kick ass with the Saints one last time, if it is the last time. I'll shed a tear when the credits roll on this insane trip with the 3rd Street Saints. I've come a long way since the beginning, when I was just a fresh faced nobody that got caught up in a street war that didn't concern me.

In a few hours, I'll be an alien ass kicking super gangster with That Gun in one hand and that nerdy hottie Kinzie in the other.

Are you ready to get canonized for the last time?


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