Beer and Games: Saints Row IV and Mrs. Stoutfire

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So, I’m sure you are aware of my infamous Ebony & Oak review that went viral (I wish…) where I gave it, shall we say, less than flattering remarks. Ends up my opinion wasn’t absurd. Ebony & Oak got recalled by The Bruery due to infection and not living up to their product standard. I was one of the “lucky” few that got a bottle before the recall. I wrote my review a week or so before the recall. We appended the review with editor’s notes informing our readers of the situation regarding Ebony & Oak. So, I wouldn’t say my previous review was “redacted” or anything, but the product was flawed and acknowledged as such by the producer.

But, I have to give The Bruery credit. After seeing my review The Bruery contacted me and I received a free bottle of Mrs. Stoutfire shipped at no extra cost, as well as the standard $15 store credit all purchasers of Ebony & Oak received. So, I can’t be that mad. They more than made it up to me. Good customer service.

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Game on.

But still, this is Beer & Games baby! Just because I’ve been sweet talked and received the product free of charge doesn’t mean I’m going to be any nicer on it. And forewarning… I hate smoked beers. I don’t get it. There is always a trend in craft beer. First was the imperial IPA, then it was the Barrel Aged Stouts, now it is all about those sours – it seems like “smoked” beers are trying to cut their way in in an attempt to be the next “thing”. Well naw. I’m not having it. I’ve had quite a few smoked beers at this point and none of them I would actively buy again. Jester King is one of my favorite breweries, but their smoked collab beer Salt Lick (now called “censored” due to crazy Texas law) is up there with one of the worst beers I’ve ever had. I love Jack’s Abbey, but their beer Fire in the Ham tasted literally like liquefied spam. I don’t see the appeal. Stone’s Smoked Porter is fine I guess, but that may solely be due to the fact that it isn’t nearly as potent on the smoke flavor as the others. Don’t get me started on some of these German smoked beers that taste like pure bacon. Shoot me.

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So I’m entering Mrs. Stoutfire with just a little bit of hesitation if you haven’t noticed. As for Saints Row 4, I again have to give you readers some background information. I’m sorry if this is turning into the world’s worst/most useless history lesson, but suck it up. The Saints Row series is actually kind of interesting. What started of as a blatant rip-off of Grand Theft Auto has turned into something different entirely. The Saints Row series is almost like a contained parallel universe where Rockstar (developer of GTA [Grand Theft Auto] for whomever out that needed to know that) decided that Grand Theft Auto should become more crazy opposed to entering the more realistic world introduced in GTA IV. And I don’t know if that is a good thing or not.

So the original Saints Row comes out and it mimics the vibe of Grand Theft Auto San Andreas more than anything. It was a basic open world gangster game featuring car jacking and a copious amount of guns and more than the solid-helping of uses for said guns. Saints Row 2 came out at the same time that Grand Theft Auto IV came out, and the two couldn’t be further apart. Rockstar had it going on after the PS2 era of GTA games, and yet they decided to completely rework the system with Grand Theft Auto IV. They pulled away from the ridiculous tank driving, UFO encountering world found in San Andreas and they decided to focus on the narrative and the city setting. And it worked. And Saints Row did the opposite and continued down their route of the absurd and it felt exactly the same. I called the franchise dead.

And then Saints Row the Third was announced. And they doubled down on the stupidity. Giant purple dildo weapons. Taxi missions involving a mauling tiger. Tron/Matrix inspired levels where you are a toilet. I feel dumb even writing it and I’m going to save myself the trouble of trying to describe the even more ridiculous parts of the game. Yes there are more ridiculous items than the ones I’ve already mentioned.

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Source: Me after drinking 750ml bottle of 9.5 abv beer.

And holy shit it worked. The game was oddly refreshing in its absurdness. It seemed to break so far into the realm of the ridiculous that it felt “new”. And that is what was needed. Hence why I’m so pissed at Saints Row IV, because nothing feels new at all.

More history. Saints Row IV was not originally Saints Row IV. It was DLC for Saints Row the Third. The the publisher at the time (THQ) got in some troubles and they realized they had quite a big hit on their hands with the Saints Row series. And they needed money. Badly. Hence they decided to take the DLC being actively developed for Saints Row the Third and continue on with it and make it a full fledged sequel in hopes of quickly gaining more money. Unfortunately for THQ the profit this now sequel would make was not released in time and THQ went under (RIP the inevitable future installment of the Tak series).

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Good night my sweet prince.

So the publisher Deep Silver bought the rights to Saints Row during the THQ bankruptcy auction and they saw through finalizing Saints Row IV. But the fact still remains that this originally was an “expansion” at best, and it feels like it. It is obvious. Blatantly obvious. This is the same game head and toe to Saints Row the Third. No improvements to the engine whatsoever. Even the setting is rehashed with an added image filter and called anew.

It feels weird to me. I think what bothers me the most is the fact that they incremented the number in the title. Listen. Assassins Creed 2 came out and had copy-paste iterations of it with subtitled sequels (Brotherhood and Revelations). Then they incremented the number to Assassins Creed 3 and changed the setting and updated the engine. Even GTA followed this path with the PS2 era sequels to GTA  3, until incrementing to the full fledged sequel of GTA IV.

So I can’t help but imagine that if this was simply called Saints Row: Enter Subtitle Here, I wouldn’t be as disappointed. I’m annoyed more than anything at the fact that this franchise was on the upswing after Saints Row the Third and instead of using that momentum to go further they decided to be lazy and ride the wave. And I can’t help but think it hurt the series as a whole.

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Yes I will be wearing this throughout the game.  A+

Woahll ney. I guess this will be a long one? Fudge I haven’t even talked about the beer. Mrs. Stoutfire. Clever pun. 10/10 pun rating. The beer is actually pretty nice though. As mentioned before, I’m not a fan of smoked stouts. I’m not a fan of smoked-any liquid. But this one works because it isn’t “give me black lung I can cough up and re-swallow and repeat after only a single sip”- smoked beer. It is much much more subtle. If I had blind taste tested this one, I wouldn’t be surprised if I would of miss interpreted the smoke flavor as some kind of standard oak aging. I’m a fan. I’m not tasting any bacon/meat flavor of any kind which is a definite plus and the main worry I have when first trying a smoked beer.

I don’t know if I would necessarily purchase Mrs. Stoutfire again when other beer styles are available, but I’m definitely surprised I’m enjoying it as much as I am. It definitely comes off more as a standard stout than smoke forward one and I would go as far as saying it is the perfect entry point to smoked beers (an entry point to a future place I personally believe blows chunks, for the record).

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Snifter down, onto the next.

Editors Note: I Am only half way through writing this and as mentioned in previous Beer & Games, this is a no bullshit operation. I play and drink, then write all in one shot. Welp, I just finished Mrs. Stoutfire while playing Saints Row IV and it is far too early to go to bed and I still have things to write about. Hence I’ve opened up a Stone Enjoy by 10.25.13. So now I’m doing Beer & Writing “Beer & Games”. Also side note to the Editors Note: Stone Enjoy by==10/10. Just bottle this year round cross country and drop the gimmick of freshness. Yes freshness helps but I don’t care. I want this all the time running through my veins. Hospitals should use this stuff in IV bags and death rates would decline from the sheer alcohol joy the hemoglobin would have [I assume all terns used are medically inaccurate]. For real though. Piney hop juice amplified.

So Saints Row IV is interesting. See, Volition (the developer) really worked themselves into a hole that Rockstar somehow foresaw and avoided. The hole seen in the scientifically accurate line graph I presented earlier. See while their fans (myself included) were clamoring for the even more absurdness after Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Rockstar knew better than them (us…) and said “Screw you, we know what you truly, deep down, secretly without knowing it, want and you want more realism and deeper narrative”. And we let Rockstar force feed us that and we liked it. We liked it a lot.

Saints Row vs GTA is a case study of design choice. Saints Row has nowhere to go now. In Saints Row IV you are the president of the United States during an alien invasion which throws you into a computer simulation/Tron/The Matrix world where you gain super powers (super speed, jump, telekinesis, etc) in an attempt to save mankind all while using weapons like “the Dubstep Gun” and the “Inflato-Ray”. And you thought my description of Saint Row the Third’s features were ridiculous…

And while these super power additions are cool, they kind of mess up the game overall.  I could see how it would work great as a 1-2 hour DLC experience.  A quick “check out this cool shit” game.  But this is an 8 hour+ game.  And you get these powers very early and you basically become god.  This results in a game that feels like you are just going through the motions.  No real threat. Just super sprint and jump everywhere with no worries. Screw guns I can throw cars at people or fireball them.  It kills/murders/destroys all forms of pacing.  In Half-Life 2 you get the super charged version of your gravity gun in the last act.  IN THE LAST ACT.  And you basically become all powerful.  But that is fine because the game ends shortly there after.  Saints Row IV has no build up of any kind.  They just unleash the playbin and that is that.

See the biggest issue with Saints Row IV is even though that list of features I mentioned previously seems crazy and out of this world, the whole time I was bored. I was bored to the point where I didn’t want to play anymore. It got to a point where playing Saints Row IV was passive at best. I felt the same way playing Saints Row IV as I do when I watch some shit reality show on TV, hoping to pass enough time to hopefully get to something better. And like shit reality TV, it isn’t totally a bad thing. It just isn’t a good thing.

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Oh look!  Its like that game Crackdown that came out 6+ years ago.  Glowing orbs and all!

Didn’t Crackdown also have a sequel everyone hated because it rehashed the same city with a new filter and engine all over again? Oh yeah where is that franchise now?

The one plus side of Saints Row IV is the humor. A lot of times it doesn’t work, but when it does it is fun.  A lot of the jokes are rehashed versions of ones found in Saints Row the Third, which isn’t a surprise since basically this whole game is a rehash.  You get some brief moments of modern video game parody that I loved. Bashing Call of Duty for its breach and clear moments and the Mass Effect crew communication on the ship moments were great. And it is refreshing to have a game parody modern video games opposed to the regular poking fun of the 16-bit era and prior.  And the ridiculous music choices are brought back with the occasional random karaoke moments performed beautifully by the characters.

The best way to put all of this is if you liked Saints Row the Third, you will like Saint’s Row IV, just not as much. And if you didn’t like Saints Row the Third, then you definitely won’t like Saints Row IV. Actually you’ll probably absolutely hate it. Even if I were unaware of Saints Row IV’s history (something I so kindly informed you all on), I would still know this game was a cash in. I can’t help but believe that if this were a $30 entry to the series instead of a incremented sequel that I would give it a higher score. But hey. You are calling this Saints Row IV. I’m going to compare this jump to the jump from Saints Row 2 to Saints Row the Third. And comparing these two jumps together results in distant results.

At this point I don’t want Saints Row 5. Seeing what Saints Row IV is, I now realize I didn’t want it either. Like many other entertainment products, Saints Row blew its load too early and now its stuck with the awkward aftermath (see Dexter Season 2 using up plot-lines that would fit perfect for the final season). The series has nowhere to go. Hell, maybe they come out with the inevitable Saints Row V and they somehow reinvent it in a way that makes it work. But I don’t see how they can. I honestly have no clue what they could do to make Saints Row V work. They will create a new engine and in inject more crazy. But its over. Series dead. And it hurts me saying that.

Deep Silver was smart though getting this game out right before the epic that is GTA V.  And I was not smart by playing this after playing GTA V.  GTA V is at a whole ‘nother level.  It is almost scary how much better that game is.  And I know there are probably some of you out there saying “At this point you aren’t allowed to compare these games anymore because they are totally different” (see line graph again).  But I’m talking on a strictly technical level now.  Saints Row IV is absolutely dated compared to GTA V.  Mechanically, graphically, depth and scope, everything.  It feels like I’m playing games from 2 separate generations entirely.

Sorry this turned into an editorial about why the Saints Row series is stagnated, but I don’t prep this stuff.  I just write my thoughts after playing, and these are my thoughts.  I’ll give it a 4.5/10. Just know what you are getting into purchasing it. You are getting Saints Row 3.257 (Saints Row III.CCLVII ) at best. This isn’t Saints Row IV.

Mrs. Stoutfire is solid. I’m not going as far as saying it turned my perspective on smoke beers around, but it definitely adjusted my pitch at least a little bit. Hence there are many ways at which I can rate this beer. Do I rate it from a perspective that it overcame my original fears of smoke. Or do I rate it simply from a neutral “How does this taste?” level. I still don’t know. I’m just going to go by the overall “Did I Enjoy” level. I guess that means I’m going with a 7/10. If I were to read the description prior to drinking(which I obliviously did) and rate it without tasting, I would have predicted I’d give this a 2.5/10. So a 7/10 is pretty damn good. Its making me consider trying The Bruery’s Smoked Wood beer now, a beer I originally discarded strictly based on it’s name.

Saints Row IV: 4.5/10
The Bruery Mrs. Stoutfie: 7/10

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Author: Chris Fadeley View all posts by
I am UF alumni and a computer engineer. I know virtually every useless fact about videogames ever. I like computers and potatoes.

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