Developers: Volition Inc
Publishers: Deep Silver
Plot: A future version of Shaundi breaks into the simulation to ask for the Saints help. She lives in a world devoid of Christmas and you must team up with Santa to take it back.
Last Christmas blog post. I promise.
Another DLC! Saints Row IV have been firing this out at a rapid pace, determined to give your copy of the game a long shelf life. I admire games that do this, as it really does make a game a good investment and worth every penny you spend on it. So what is the story of this one? As Jane Austen tells us through Victorian narration, the Saints are celebrating Christmas, except for the Boss who doesn’t believe in Santa, when a future version of Shaundi breaks through the time vortex and asks for the Saints help. There is no such thing as Christmas in her world and the evil Claws is going to slaughter everyone on the Nice list. Only a cynical Boss can help Santa and Shaundi take back Christmas and bring joy to the world on the 25th December.
While the last DLC felt like a mix and match of plot threads that didn’t really work out, this DLC is far more structured and planned. You are given three levels where you chase down Claws with various new allies. While it is hard to define a Saints game as organised, because it is still the trend of jumping from one side of the map to the other shooting gingerbread men, it feels much more calculated. For that reason, it gets one up on Enter the Dominatrix. It is also the perfect Christmas game. Sure, it is filled with cheesy ‘roll-your-eyes’ moments, like the player firing present to the nice kids and coal to the bad kids. It is filled with every cheesy moral out there, not meaning a single one of them, but trying to strike a mood. But once again, this is a Saint Rows game, so the script was never going to be serious. No one is expecting gaming brilliance, so we just take the thrown together Christmas story and be happy that Saints Row IV isn’t done with us just yet.
Then why was Enter the Dominatrix so much more fun. It was just nonsense thrown at the player, until enough jokes stuck, but I definitely preferred it to this outing in the North Pole. I think a lot of it was just the way that anyone was possible. When you are having a gimp swinging a giant dildo at you, you find yourself game for anything (social context, right people… right? Right? Moving on…). With this Christmas special, you already know how it is going to play out. There are some nice little surprises along the way (a Christmas Dubstep gun, for example), but for the most part, you feel like you are going through the motions. Also, other than the player, we are given totally new characters. One of my favourite things about Saints Row IV was the banter between all the characters and I loved that the last DLC gave me more of that. I felt that it was a crime to have all of these great characters, like Matt and Pierce, and then leave them on the sidelines. Kinzie gets a small cameo right at the end, but for the most part, you are left fighting with a Santa that sounds suspiciously like Bane from the Dark Knight Rises. This is why my favourite part of the game was the ending, where you are treated to a Christmas montage with the Saints hanging out.
One more point. I know that I am looking in the completely wrong direction here, but there was one moment where I wanted the jokes and non-stop action to stop for just a second. As you enter the North Pole, there is a scene where Santa walks into a new area and we see the heads of his twelve Reindeer stuck onto poles, in a surprisingly gory fashion. Of course, Santa’s despair is treated like another joke, because it is funny that everything associated with Christmas has turned into a war. This scene is played out, as you fight, because the game is terrified that if the fighting stops for a second, exposition will be totally ignored. But could you imagine the emotional impact of the game suddenly taking a moment to reflect on the sheer sadness of seeing Rudolph’s head on a spike? It would have been a fantastic moment, totally making this DLC one of the most memorable 2013 gaming moments. Alas, it’s a Saints Row game, so this scene was never meant to be.
Final Verdict: The weakest adventure yet, but it is still a nice little surprise to even have. It is hard to hate Saints Row IV too much.