Y So Serious, GTA V?
I appreciate the Grand Theft Auto V series for what it is, and totally get the love and devotion people have for the games. It's good stuff. The thing is, everything's also so darkly serious. It's just so dramatic. Sometimes, you've just got to lighten up. You need to kick back, relax, and enjoy the mayhem. Which is why, when my favorite indie retail store had used copies of GTA V and Saints Row IV this weekend for the same price, I went with the Saints.
I know; I'm crazy. I get that a lot. The thing is, I've played a lot of serious games lately. These are titles that, played in succession, can really bum you out. There's been Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, Shin Megami Tensei IV, Time and Eternity (that's a real buzz kill), Killer is Dead, and Cloudberry Kingdom. You don't want to know the curses that crossed my lips as I played Cloudberry Kingdom. Adding GTA V to the top of that heap would only have continued down a dark road. I needed to Saints Row IV-it up.
Because, really, it's impossible to play Saints Row IV and not smile. At first, I was wondering if I made a mistake when I bought it, because that opening mission seemed a bit serious. The second my avatar leapt onto the nuclear missile to disarm it while Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" played in the background I knew that, yes, I was golden. As much fun as roaming around Los Santos might be, exploring virtual Steelport is better.
I know, technically speaking, nothing can beat Los Santos. There's too much to do and see, and it's a huge, vibrant community. It's incredible. Yet, even though virtual Steelport doesn't have as many activities or stores, I think I'm having more fun being a puckish rogue in Saints Row IV than I ever would as a big-time thief in GTA V.
Even the parts of Saints Row IV that would normally frustrate me are bringing me joy. For example, there are these five alien towers in virtual Steelport. An optional challenge is to platform your way up to the top of each, calling dibs on them for the Saints. The first two towers drove me a little nuts. I was still new to using my boss' super powers, so sometimes I would barely miss or overshoot a platform. Still, each frustration was worth it for the rush of plummeting off the top of one with absolutely no repercussions. Then, when I found a helicopter, it made conquering the fourth and fifth towers a breeze.
It's just so much more flavorful than GTA V is. The Grand Theft Auto games take themselves seriously, perhaps too seriously. Saints Row IV will never, ever have that problem. From my character trying to goad Kinzie, her tech-savvy contact, into singing along to Paula Abdul's "Opposites Attract" with her, to beating up giant cats with a purple tentacle, every moment is outlandishly awesome.
Besides, when I play Grand Theft Auto games, I find I always need to use the cheats (you can find the newest Grand Theft Auto V cheats here). I don't want to die, be chased by police, or ever have to worry about money. I want to play with reckless abandon and immediate access to absolutely everything, without being hampered by the main campaign. It's how it always goes for me. I can't tell you how many times I got arrested in San Andreas for trying to visit the "forbidden" areas without advancing the story. With Saints Row IV, I don't need cheats, and the campaign missions are so hilarious that I race through each one, excited to see what happens next.
That isn't to say Saints Row IV is perfect. Some extra shops and extracurricular activities would be nice. Not to mention it did freeze on me once on a tank mission, where I was tasked with causing as much monetary damage as possible with no repercussions. Still, it's a small price to pay for such mindless hilarity and, from what I've heard, GTA V has a few minor technical issues too (such as this, this, this, and possibly this).
Saints Row IV is just refreshing. I wouldn't say it's better than GTA V, but it's a perfect compliment. When you need a break from the serious dramatics of Michael, Franklin, and Trevor, join the boss, make Keith David your homie, and fight some aliens. Don't be afraid to let loose and fly an alien spaceship along with "What is Love?"