Despite a substantial improvement in the graphical prowess of modern consoles and PCs, games have ironically become drab and lifeless affairs. One would be hard-pressed to pinpoint the exact point in time where someone decreed that all games must adopt the boring brown palette of first person shooters, with endless corridors of generic henchmen half-heartedly gunning you down while a “gritty” backstory drenched in humorless machismo unfold before your very eyes.
Finding humor in games is very much akin to finding new oil reserves in this day and age. Aside from a handful of games, many modern games are unabashedly wrapped in the same old tedium of saving the world from terrorists, malevolent aliens, zombies or rival gangs. Cliche such as death of a comrade, betrayal of a trusted friend and endless posturing of the villainous overlords played out in scripted set pieces without a hint of irony ad nauseam.
As far as I can see, there are only a handful of games that seem to adopt a funnier approach in their story evolution. With its tongue-in-cheek narratives, the Portal games come to mind. The Stanley Parable and Jazzpunk are reputedly games with many comedic elements, although I must admit, at the point of writing this article, I have yet to get around to playing them.
If there is one game that is anti-thesis to all the gloom and doom in the gaming industry, it would be the Saints Row series. Initially a Grand Theft Auto clone, the Saints Row series has pretty much developed its own over-the-top identity from the third game onwards. Featuring such endearing minigames such as Insurance Fraud, where the player has to throw himself/herself at oncoming traffic in ragdoll motions to make good their insurance monies, the game will shit zaniness over your bewildered face.
If you are in any way disappointed in the direction Saints Row the Third has taken the franchise, you might be disheartened to know that Saints Row IV has taken the series to a decidedly more deranged place. But then, that would just be you. And you will probably be playing a somber game like GTA V.
Saints Row 4 is set in a matrix-like simulation after the Zin conquerors destroyed the Earth and placed all its inhabitants in the aforementioned simulation. As the president of the United States, it is up to the player to rescue his/her crew and put an end to the Zin’s reign. Simple enough premise, but tons of fun. Since the game is set up in a simulation, players can master new powers such as telekinesis and super speed. My personal favourite is Death From Above, where players descend from the sky and create a massive nuclear blast that wipes out all enemies in range.
However, nothing quite beats the arsenal of weapons that are lovingly crafted by the developers of the game. This is where the titular dubstep gun comes into play. Yeah, it is just as you imagine. The gun fires beams of lights accompanied by dubstep music, instantly putting all victims in a dubstep-induced frenzy, until you know, they die. There are other inane weapons such as the abduction gun, where a beam of light descends from the sky and abducts everyone and everything in its path and a bounce rifle that fires energy beams which bounce from enemy to enemy.
Taking a leaf from and (perhaps the piss out of) the romantic pursuits in Bioware games, the President of the United States can romance anyone from his crew and satiate his libido with a single click of a button instead of navigating the intricate conversation trees of the Mass Effect games, which reward you with a boring, unconvincing and monogamous relationship.
Seriously though, Saints Row 4 is one game that even non-gamers can enjoy. If the inane over-the-top action does not win you over, then perhaps escaping in a spacecraft through your enemy’s base to the soundtrack of Haddaway’s one hit “What is Love?” will.