Do you like all that classy romance in Mass Effect? You know, the kind where you try to have a normal conversation and you end up as half-naked polygonal models humping and bumping in space? Yeah, friendship ain't an option when the world is at stake. Well, Volition went the same route with Saints Row IV, keeping all the pleasantries of the romance that you would usually find in a BioWare game.
Jim Sterling is the captain of the narrative ship, and he does a fine job of making sure that if you're not comfortable seeing a large muscular man make man-love to another man on the whim of casual space sex, then you'll at least laugh enough at the notion to forget you're watching a large muscular man having casual space sex. Except... you're really not.
The thing is, you don't see anything and the most “sexually explicit” material only happens between Gat and the player character and maybe Matt Miller and the player character... oh and maybe if you count the robot giving your genitals an unprotected MRI, which could be considered as sex... I guess.
Anyway, Jim says it best about Volition basically making a parody of the rather shallow romance options present in many of BioWare titles. I would say CD Projekt RED but Geralt doesn't waste time trying to win the ladies over, the guy dresses down and gets his women buck naked for a romp; they don't even try to convey that there is a measure of “effort” involved with the romance.
The funny thing about it is that technically Volition gets it right. In Mass Effect you had the problem of talking with your teammates and mistakenly choosing the sexy time options when you were just trying to figure out where to go next:
Shepard: “Oh hey, Jacob, how do we get to that black hole?”
Jacob: “You want me to show you a black hole?”
Shepard: “Uh yeah... I guess?”
(cue sexy time)
In Saints Row IV you at least don't have to worry about being suckered into the sexy time while talking about someone's father, or trying to figure out why they were imprisoned or asking about an “Illusive Man”. If you get tired of actually having some friendly banter with your cohorts, you just press 'X' and let the good times fly. No subtext or clandestine conversation mechanics required.
Not everyone is fond of Saints Row's overtly offensive comedy but sometimes when it works, it works. I think this is one of the few times where it works in spades and garners a few laughs in the process.
The reality is that romance in games will never be anything more than a precursor for sexy time. It can't serve any other purpose than that because, well, video games are about interactivity and goal accomplishments, and taking romance any further in the “interactivity” or “goal accomplishment” territory runs the risk of turning into a Japanese sex simulator. Although, Rockstar didn't seem to mind heading into that territory with the “Hot Coffeee” mini-game.
You can look for the game to launch later this month for home consoles and PC. Need more info? Feel free to visit the official website.