Why drive when you can fly? From the moment I become faster than a speeding bullet and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound (or several bounds, depending on the height), any sort of conventional transportation is obsolete. In spite of this, certain missions in Saints Row IV insisted on plopping my superhuman avatar behind the wheel.
I could understand the idea of using a car or motorcycle to blend in with the crowd. After all, much of Saints Row IV takes place in a Orwellian computer simulation where an alien overlord exerts his will on the digital populace. It would make sense for the savior of mankind to don a pair of spectacles and drive according to the speed limit in order to hide from the oppressive gaze of the villainous Zinyak.
Except, this is Saints Row IV; the game that features disarming a nuclear missile while soaring above Washington DC to the familiar tune of Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” in the first 15 minutes of play. There is no need for Clark Kent in a world where Superman is an unrepentant-yet-lovable asshole who wants all of humanity to know he rocks balls.
The disempowered junctures of SRIV are not limited to mere driving missions; there are gang brawls, on-foot chases, and even a battle with a kaiju-sized can of energy drink. All of these moments share the common excuse of “you don’t get your powers now because the simulation prohibits it.” Most of the fourth Saints Row game takes place in a Matrix-esque computer world, and the malicious architect of this digital prison/playground often asserts his dominance by revoking your hacks and taking away your super powers.
This plot detail creates an odd sort of commentary on the world outside of the video game. Just as the protagonist is subject to the whims of an alien overlord, so the player must follow the rules laid out by the developers of Saints Row. When Zinyak decrees the hero doesn’t get super speed or telekinesis, it’s really Volition Inc. who decided that the player needed a different sort of challenge.
Unfortunately, it is this sort of disempowerment that turns Saints Row IV from a bombastically fun game into just another sandbox title in the vein of Grand Theft Auto. Instead of feeling challenged or relishing a change of pace from my overclocked protagonist, these missions felt like doing chores to earn the chance to play as a sociopathic superhero once more. It’s a good thing that these moments are few and (mostly) far-between in Saints Row IV. I prefer my video games with great power instead of great responsibility.