R18: contains violence, sexual themes and offensive language
This page outlines how the classification criteria were applied. We do our best to discuss the content while avoiding spoilers, but please avoid reading this information if you do not want to learn anything about the content of this game.
Date registered: 25/06/2013
Saints Row IV is the fourth in a series of free-roaming sandbox games once modelled on the popular Grand Theft Auto series, but now striking out in a more fantastical and less realistic direction.
As in previous titles in the series, the player controls the leader of the Third Street Saints, who has now become the President of the United States. The game returns to the same fictional city of Steelport from Saints Row: The Third, which has been redesigned as a retro-futuristic dystopia with elements of Washington, D.C. The game takes place a few years after The Third, focusing on the Saints fighting a larger threat than the typical street gangs: aliens.
The game's treatment of sex, crime, cruelty and violence bring it within the s3(1) subject matter gateway. The game contains intermittent sexual references and sexual behaviour. A number of women characters are described as prostitutes, patrolling streets and occasionally calling out juvenile sexual innuendos while posing in a sexual manner. The player can view strippers dancing suggestively at nightclubs, but the women are scantily clad rather than nude. The inclusion of such characters is more part of the overall seedy, criminal environment.
The game includes a wide range of interactive criminal activities, violence, and elements of cruelty. These comprise the majority of the game's objectives or general game play. In terms of s3(2)(f), while the game includes elements of extreme violence, it does so in a completely ludicrous and overblown manner that significantly limits the degree of impact. Therefore the game does not promote or support the infliction of extreme violence.
The game is based around, and contains the facility for, repeated depictions of the infliction of serious physical harm. Outside of game missions, which are pitched against well-armed gang members, military/law enforcement agencies or alien soldiers, the player can freely attack random pedestrians. The pedestrians can be run down in cars, or physically attacked using an array of weapons or brutal hand-to-hand combat techniques.
Some of the game's strongest content occurs when a character is lit on fire. The victim staggers about, arms flailing in the air, before collapsing to the ground. The level of cruelty is stronger because of the length of time it takes for the person to die. In-game cut sequences also feature a range of violence, such as people being shot in the head. These are shown in a very cinematic way, utilising camera angles and sound effects one would expect from a feature film.
The violence is balanced by a number of factors, such as the far-fetched and satirical nature of the game, and the lack of realism generally.
The game's dominant effect as a whole is of a satirical and violent third-person console game. The game is self-referential and set in an overblown, ethics-free action world. The game allows potential for the player's character to commit gratuitous acts of violence upon unsuspecting members of the public and the police, as well as frequently commit extreme acts of anti-social and illegal behaviour.
This kind of content is likely to be disturbing to children and teenagers. The way many of the game's violent scenes are bathed in dark humour is likely to lead to a desensitisation in attitudes towards violence and its consequences in real life for more impressionable teenagers. The nature of the game's many crude sexual references assumes that the player is familiar with aspects of sex and its associated language.
Children are likely to be negatively influenced by this content. Adults are considered more capable of recognising the game as a contrived experience that is distinctly separate from the real world, and are less likely to be affected by its content. Frequent highly offensive language adds impact to many of the scenes and supports the need for restriction.
The classification of R18 limits the freedom of expression as provided by the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. However, given the considerations above, the availability of Saints Row IV at a lower classification is likely to be injurious to the public good.
Contact the Information Unit if you require further information on a classification decision.