Now, for all intents and purposes, The Penetrator is a fantastic weapon. And most likely the best of any phallical (which is totally a word, spellcheck) device/object I've ever layed my hands upon whether virtually or IRL.
The problem with it and many other kooky toys in SRTT is that they carry too big a burden.
What I mean is: I feel Saints Row: The Third relied far too heavily on gimmicks such as these to keep people playing and having fun.
However, please don't think I also feel that SRTT is a bad game. I have a little more sense than that. Honestly, it's hard to imagine somebody not at least having a lot of fun with the game. Even for a person like me, a huge fan coming off of Saint's Row 2, it's an improvement in more than a few areas.
In fact, the very core of the gameplay, the one thing I, personally, hardly see changing so much across sequels within popular franchises, has not only been changed, but improved dramatically. Not only can you open vehicle doors to hijack some fool, you can now jump through the car, violently shoving the driver out the side for quick access. Not only can you melee unfortunate civilians and the more deserving of your zany menace, but you can jump on their backs and skid across the ground on them like a damn skateboard.... or you can perform a variety classic wrestling moves on them. Either way works.
And I feel the need to mention that these two awesome additions only require holding down LB and then pressing one of two buttons (for 360). Which is so intuitive because you're already always sprinting (LB) towards something.
Another improvement is in the overall feel and responsiveness of the game as cars are much less jerky without feeling slow and "realistic" ala GTAIV and shooting feels even more solid and is much more akin to other big-name third person shooters like Gears of War (although still not quite as good).
Last nod goes to the upgrade system, both for the player and weapons, which is very nice. We've had some of these upgrades in SR2, but it's far more fleshed out here.
Now, take all that and put it into one frame. These are the basics of what make up the gameplay. As I've said, this is the "core". However, the frame is still fairly empty. This is what the campaign, weapons, story, etc. are there for. The extra stuff. Sadly, this is where the game falls flat for the most part.
First off, the city of Steelport.
Leading up to SRTT's release, I was thinking to myself how awesome Steelport looked. How much better the art and graphical design were. How much more fun it must be to drive around in. To be honest, SR2 and it's city of Stilwater looked like total crap in comparison. Looking at footage and stills of SRTT made playing SR2 boring and almost a chore.
Even when first popping in SRTT, I felt Steelport was such a huge improvement over Stilwater. I mean, Stilwater had some nostalgia factor to it, but that was about it.
It wasn't until well into my playtime that I found myself not having nearly as much fun riding around. Naturally, the more and more I accomplished in the game, the less and less content-packed the world felt which made me think about Steelport and just on it's own. I then started comparing the two cities, Steelport and Stilwater, and their variety of locales and amount of interesting places to go and I just couldn't bring myself to think of much worth noting about Steelport. It's got a giant statue and... I guess that Gothedral place is kinda cool too. Not like you can go inside it or that there's anything remotely interesting surrounding it, but the sign's pretty eye-catching.
Oh yeah and that one section which becomes a zombie-infested crash site later in the game. That's nice.
Then I started thinking about Stilwater. The Mall, the college campus, that giant hilltop, the trailerpark, that really cool little shopping strip near the middle, the underground cave, that huge Rome-inspired opening with that clothing store where I bought my Spartan helmet.
It may've looked like crap, but man it was soooo much more lively and fun.
Then, we have the campaign. Half of which wasn't really even a campaign. Though, I will give it this much: It's memorable. And if it weren't for me replaying through a bit of SR2 recently, I wouldn't of been able to recall any more than maybe 2 missions from that.
Still, while it may be memorable, it doesn't feel all too meaty. There's maybe 22-24 actual missions, with the other half being entry-level activities (and not even all of those remaining 22-24 missions being winners). No lie, I beat that Tank Mayhem "mission" in around 15 seconds. Uh huh. GREAT MISSION. WOULD PLAY AGAIN.
I can also go into how all my favorite activities from SR2 (FUZZ, Crowd Control, Septic Avenger, etc.) are gone, what activities are there are (generally) far too simple and lacking of any rewards for beating them (ala SR2.. can't remember if a similar system was in SR1), the exclusion of clothing layers and wear styles, many other things.
What I found myself eventually left with was not incentive to finish the few activities I still had left, not to find the collectables (there's even less of a reason to collect these than in SR1/SR2), certainly not to replay the campaign (especially since they also took out mission replay), but instead to try on furry costumes, occasionally fly around in my VTOL, maybe go streaking, toss a few dudes around in my Genkimobile, get a few chuckles out of the Fart in a Jar and, worst of all, wait for the DLC. But, not necessarily to have more to do, but just to maybe finally have something else to do.
In a word: SRTT is "underwhelming".
For the first time since getting myself hyped up for SRTT way back in March of 2011, I legitimately wanted to play SR2. And I say, with plenty of confidence, I would rather play SR2 over SRTT anyday.
Don't get me wrong, these "gimmicks" are well and good. But only when they don't feel like they're the only reason I'm still playing the darn game. Then they start feeling tacked-on. SRTT's longevity pales in comparison to SR2's. Hell, perhaps even SR1's.
This is probably a horrible analogy, but SRTT is like asking for a plate of delicious steak fries, but not having the ketchup to go with it. Or a cake without the icing.
Volition once said that SRTT was almost like a new beginning for the Saint's Row franchise. Which, when looking at the jump from SR1 to SR2, gives me confidence for a more than possible SR4.
Look, I get why the game is lacking. They created a whole new engine, a really good one at that, and had to build a game from scratch with said engine in just around 3 years. For some developers, that would be quite a challenge for a game like Saint's Row. Even if it is their own, established franchise.
Taking that into consideration, I let my disappointments with SRTT slide a little (minus one or two that, because of spoilers, I won't bother trying to go into).
However, this means that SR4 needs to be nothing less than f***ing awesome.
What would I do with an SR4? Well, I have a list here that goes on for quite a lot of "enter" clicks, but to keep it short:
1.) Don't jerk the player around with the optional side activities.
Remember how people complained that, in SR2, you had to complete activities in order to increase your respect meter which unlocked more of the campaign? Yeah, this was still a problem in previous games. Albeit, personally, much less of a problem, but still a problem.
In SR4, I don't want this at all. I want it GONE. These are supposed to be there for the player to enjoy at their liege, nothing more.
2.) Give me even more main missions like the plane sequence, the cyberworld or the STAG base. Missions that don't just take place within the open world.
Maybe there could be a mission where you venture to the docks to hop into a mini-sub to sink an incoming cargo ship far off shore? And maybe while taking down the ship, you'd have to occasionally dive underwater to destroy robot sharks they send after you... I don't know. Something awesome like that.
This would help differentiate the campaign from the fun of f***ing about in the open world and the side activities. Help it feel even more like it's own thing.
Save the majority of the basic "go here and kill kill kill" for stuff like the optional Strongholds from SR2.
3.) Bring back the MP greatness from SR1.
SR1 had awesome MP. And some interesting ideas. Like that mode where two teams had to compete to bling out their ride the most while select members of each team would try to f*** over the other team's ride. That was some hectic fun, right there. I miss it.
We need more modes like this back if they're gonna have MP make a triumphant return. Of course, along with the obligatory Deathmatch and Team Deatchmatch. Those are fun too.
4.) Give us gimmicks, but also plenty of actual stuff to do.
This mainly consists of just giving us the plethora of activities to do from SR2 again (and old favorites back like FUZZ and Crowd Control pretty please), bring back mission replay, etc.
5.) And, finally, make the city an awe-inspiring playground. Not just something there for the sake of something to explore or a place to set a few key structures for the campaign.
This is one of the most important parts of an open world title, for obvious reasons.
Give us a bunch of interesting locales, buildings to explore like another mall or airport.... man, I really hated how there was no mall in SRTT. I spent several hours, one day, f***ing about in SR2's mall with a friend of mine in co-op. Such amazing times. Times like I could never have with SRTT.
Do maybe 2 or 3 of these things and you have my full support, Volition.
I know you can make something special, because you made SR2. You told the world your franchise wasn't just simply another GTA game, but something that could stand on it's own. Don't take what you did with SRTT for granted. This is a learning experience. Even as you, yourself, said, it's a new beginning. I hope this is the start of something incredible.