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EGM Review:
Saints Row IV: Enter the Dominatrix

By
Posted on November 1, 2013 AT 04:01pm

What good is an expansion, if you’re unable to play it?

I don’t buy DLC.

Well, OK, that’s not completely true. I’ve purchased a map pack or two here, an extra set of costumes there. I try to be very judicious in such purchases, however, and I draw an especially strict line at digital purchases that look to expand or add storyline content to the game in question. I shelled out the $15 for the Artorias of the Abyss DLC for Dark Souls—because, I mean, it’s Dark Souls—but my usual rule of thumb is that if it doesn’t come as part of the initial experience that I get when first buying the game, it might as well not exist in my mind.

So, reviewing downloadable content can be a bit of a strange situation for me, since I’m trying to pass judgment on an aspect of game that, as a gamer, I’d not really give a second thought to.

Enter the Dominatrix is different, though. Originally announced as an expansion pack to Volition’s Saints Row the Third, the DLC was nixed in favor of integrating some of its elements into the at-the-time-in-development Saints Row IV.

That’d be the end of Dominatrix, many expected. Except it wasn’t, as Deep Silver and Volition announced that the added content pack would be reworked into something that could be added onto Saints Row IV. How would that work? Would we just be retreading ideas that we’d now already seen and played in the full game, or was there enough content that could be salvaged? And, if the latter were the case, how far along was that content, and how much work would it take to revive the idea of its release?

Finding the answer to those questions was what got me legitimately excited about playing Enter the Dominatrix, given how much I enjoyed vanilla Saints Row IV—and those answers are what make this a piece of DLC I found totally justifiable.

Looking at it from a gamer’s perspective, we often make assumptions about additional downloadable content. One is that what we’re given was content that was originally meant to be part of the retail release of the game, but which was broken off to sell separately. Another is that it was content that wouldn’t be able to be finished by launch, so giving it time to cook would result in a better experience. Or, the content was devised and developed after the full game was finished, either due to unexpected demand or the team deciding they had more ideas for what could be done with the game and its world.

Enter the Dominatrix sits outside of all of those categories. This is a look at content that was nixed, presented in the style of a series of interviews conducted by Stilwater news reporter Jane Valderamma with the Saints Row IV cast about what “could have been.” It’s a humorous, fourth-wall-breaking series of conversations, where the Saints not only set up a handful of gameplay segments by talking about why they’re glad that what we’re about to see never saw release, but also break into that gameplay on occasion with director’s commentary–esque quips about what’s going down.

It’s all very lighthearted and fun in the Saints Row tradition, but there’s something far deeper and more interesting at work here. Enter the Dominatrix—as we’re experiencing it now—is a developer not only giving us a look at content that was being worked on and then was shelved, but actually letting us play that content. In all of my years of gaming, that’s something that I can rarely remember happening. Sometimes, code from a project will leak out to the public, letting us get a rare glimpse into a game that was scrapped and reworked (Resident Evil 1.5), hugely altered to become another brand or idea (Thrill Kill) or simply shelved due to financial or platform shakeups (Half-Life on Dreamcast). Normally, developers can’t—or don’t want to—show us the projects that were never meant to be. When they do, it’s through concept art, work-in-progress videos, or other forms of non-interactivity.

If you come at Dominatrix with the mindset of how much additional content you’ll get for your money, you’ll probably end up disappointed. The entire experience, for me, couldn’t have been more than 30 minutes, and the handful of actual gameplay segments featured neither a level of challenge that could stand up to my endgame character, nor anything that I’d not seen before. (The perks of new homies and weapons are nice, but they’ll better suit those who haven’t completed Saints Row IV’s storyline yet.)

And yet, I consider Enter the Dominatrix to be absolutely fascinating, and something I’d recommend any true fans of the game to pick up. For me, DLC proves its worth when it adds or expands a game in a way that justifies its price—and for $7, you’ll not only be getting a rare behind-the-scenes look into a slice of Saints Row that could have been left forgotten, but an idea that both could and should be used far more in this industry.

Developer: Volition • Publisher: Deep Silver • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 10/22/2013
7.5

Enter the Dominatrix, as a new batch of downloadable gameplay content, is short, disjointed, and not especially challenging. As an entire experience, however, it’s an utterly fascinating look at what was left on the cutting-room floor in the making of Saints Row IV—and a must for any serious fans of the latest adventures of the 3rd Street Saints.

The Good A chance to play and experience a side of game development that we rarely get.
The Bad When taken strictly as new gameplay content, there isn’t much to Dominatrix.
The Ugly The welts a dildo bat can leave on barely dressed S&M fetishists.
Enter the Dominatrix is available on the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox 360.
Eric L. Patterson, Executive Editor
Eric L. Patterson got his start via self-publishing game-related fanzines in junior high, and now has one goal in life: making sure EGM has as much coverage of niche Japanese games as he can convince them to fit in. Eric’s also active in the gaming community on a personal level, being an outspoken voice on topics such as equality in gaming and consumer rights. Stalk him on Twitter: @pikoeri. Meet the rest of the crew.

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