#2. Don't Hold out on Us
Most games hold back on the best stuff: You don't get the ability to summon the soul-meteors of your ancestors until the tail end of a Final Fantasy game; you don't get access to the rocket launcher in GTA until well after the hooker-stomping mission; you can't unlock the Enzo until after you finish obsessively detailing your Camry in Forza. That's just how games are structured -- you have to save the best for last, because what's the alternative? An ever-escalating scale of absurd power, until the whole game devolves into nonsensical explosions and tank jumps?
Fucking yes. Yes, that should always be exactly what happens with everything.
Saints Row III was pretty good about this: They gave you a predator drone in practically the first mission. In the fourth installment, you unlock super-speed and super-jump right off the bat, which are pretty cool. But when do you get what you really want -- the ability to punt a man's crotch off of his body?
The answer is: You already have it.
It's not even unlockable. The game doesn't even make mention of it like it's a special thing. Of course you get the ability to fling a man's wang into a different time zone than the rest of his body -- just hit the wang button, son!
You'll find the power has been within you all along.
There are further unlocks to augment your strength in combat, but the second you get super-powers of any kind, you also instantly get the ability to punch a car into a grocery store. Being granted this level of unprecedented power so early makes for an unbalanced end game, but the question you have to ask yourself is: Do I really give a damn?
Balance is great, don't get me wrong. But it's not crotch-imploding drop-kick great.
#1. Leveling Up is Awesome; Do It Constantly
Leveling up is the best experience in gaming. Perhaps because it stands as such a counterpoint to reality: In real life, self improvement is tiring, frustrating, and incremental. Spend two months practicing a language, and you will, at best, be marginally more intelligible by the end of it. In gaming, you spend 20 minutes punching a cat and you're rewarded with a golden explosion and the ability to shoot fire from your fists. The only downside to this is the gradual, progressive difficulty curve of leveling up -- it has to get harder and harder over time, in order to fool the player into a sense of accomplishment. Eventually, that leads to grinding: At the upper levels, you'll spend 10 hours slaughtering golems to get a meager 10 percent gain in MP. It sucks, but that's just what it takes to maintain balance.
Says god damn who?
Saints Row IV doesn't give one apathetic Sunday morning fuck about balance. It doesn't even know what balance is -- it lurches and staggers around your living room, breaking lamps and puking on the floor until it falls flat on its face. And it is awesome. The entire game is a constant, unceasing blur of upgrades. You unlock them by collecting data clusters. Don't feel like scouring the city for these hidden power-ups? Don't worry -- they're friggin' everywhere. You literally cannot avoid them. And at some point, you are going to want to avoid them, if only because there are about two soundbites your character uses upon collecting a cluster. Mine were "woo" and "oohhh yeaaah." If I made any sort of concerted effort to hop around and collect the clusters, it sounded like Macho Man Randy Savage having a mind-shattering orgasm.
By the time you get the hang of your last ability, you've already got a new one. It can almost get annoying, because you'll never make use of everything given to you. But that's a fairly minor complaint, modern gamers: We who remember when the Frog Suit was a game-changing revelation will not pity you -- as you leap over skyscrapers, glide across the city, sprint through garbage trucks and roundhouse an alien's dick into the ocean -- because you forgot about your super-stomp.
Saints Row IV has its problems -- some of them glaring -- but hey, it lets you play an open world simulation of just the interesting parts of Hancock.
Emphasis on the cock, of course.