Saints Row IV: How the Saints Save Christmas DLC [Review]

How The Saints Save Christmas is the holiday DLC you've been waiting for.

Saints Row IV: The Saints Save Christmas

Unlike movies, I don’t really have any Christmas-specific games I play around the holidays. Ocarina of Time may be one of my most memorable Christmas gifts, but it’s not something I’d revisit every year like The Grinch or Die Hard (Did you know that it is physically impossible not to see Die Hard in its entirety over the holidays? Try it.). Figures it would be the guys at Volition who would try to fill in that gap with the gang from 3rd Street in The Saints Save Christmas DLC that just came out. That title alone set the bar pretty high, and the hour you spend with your favorite dangerous criminals will leave you with a smile on your face and some cheer in your heart.

Taking cues from Futurama, Santa has been knocked out of the picture, leaving only Santa Clawz in his place. Clawz is not to be screwed with – not with his fortified sled or his legions of heavily-armed elves, nutcrackers, and gingerbread men. The typical aliens and machines you fought throughout the main game have all been replaced with these monstrosities, and while they don’t really change combat all that much, it’s still pretty fun to blast gingerbread men into the air with rockets. It’s equally ridiculous that the nutcrackers have taken the place of murderbots, so seeing them grinning away while taking loads of punishment is all kinds of silly. And when the game tells you that Clawz has used his cruel powers to create giant elves? Magic.

The enemies aren’t the only folks who’ve gotten a change of appearance. The game starts off in the 1950’s area the main game began in, but far more fleshed out and with a Christmas theme. There is a grandstand where people are singing, fields filled with trees and lights, and snow is all over the ground.  You can even wear your favorite (mandatory) Christmas sweater to the new drive-in theatre they’ve added to the level. Try not to get any blood on your nice new clothes!

Saints Row IV: The Saints Save Christmas

That was a nice addition, but even better was the small city that forms Santa’s workshop at the North Pole. It’s a huge town with a couple of nice setpieces including the robotic reindeer pens and the horrific centrepiece of the whole village. Let’s just say the regular reindeer are not doing well, shall we? The toys and presents add a lot of color to the town, as do the pulses of light coming from the elves’ weapons. Moving on from there you get to venture into Santa’s workshop, running in between rows of strange toys as you dodge mines and laser fire. After you’re done fighting there, you also venture to a skating rink at night, one surrounded by holiday symbols and bright colorful lights, creating a nice backdrop for your final showdown with the dreaded Clawz.

It would almost seem a little too normal to bring your regular helpers along with you for the journey, wouldn’t it? As such, the game has sent Shaundi from the future to help you. The story as to why a half-cyborg Shaundi has come back to help you isn’t something I feel like spoiling, but she’s a fun addition to your party and has some amazing lines to say; especially when your second partner joins: Santa Claus himself. Now, I don’t think there’s anything I can say about Santa Claus wielding a laser machine gun that can convey just how funny it looks. All I can tell you is that having him back me up was enough to make the whole DLC worthwhile, and he is still not the funniest combatant who will come to your aid. Once you play through it, you’ll know what I mean.

What you’re doing seems like it might be the dull part of the DLC, as fighting enemies that have been reskinned as gingerbread men and nutcrackers might not offer you all that much more than the main game would. Many of the fights in the DLC end up being arena matches against hordes of these enemies, and I found they were a decent challenge; at times pushing me pretty hard. I had a harder time with some of these fights than I did with most of the main game, although part of that comes from being incapable of taking gingerbread men seriously as enemies. These are satisfying fights that can be pretty challenging, especially in small areas that prevent you from using your powers to overwhelm the enemies easily. They’re fun, even if they don’t technically offer anything new in combat that you wouldn’t see in the main game. The final showdown with Clawz is somewhat complicated and more interesting than the regular fights, but it still doesn’t require anything especially intricate compared to the basic package. The new skins are the main appeal here, so if you’re hoping for something new in combat you may find the DLC lacking. I was pretty happy with the reskins, though.

Saints Row IV: The Saints Save Christmas

You do get another vehicle mission in “Naughty or Nice”, though. In it, you’ve taken over Clawz’s sleigh, and can alternate firing coal or presents at specific buildings that have been marked on your map. The game indicates whether the people within are good or bad, and all you have to do is fire accordingly. It’s not super hard, but the game has a reasonably tight time limit on the game so you have to move fast, often taking a lot of hits while you line up your sights on the right targets. When you finally finish one off, you get a huge explosion of colored lights as candy canes and giant presents shoot out the houses, showing they’ve been filled with cheer. It’s quite the display, and another thing that had me laughing.

While it’s not all that long, the DLC does offer some collectibles if you want to extend your time with it. There are ten letters to Santa lying around the environments that you can collect as you play, and I imagine they unlock… something. I have no idea what since I couldn’t find them all, but they do provide a nice diversion for someone who wants an excuse to walk around the environments a little more. There are few moments when the game isn’t throwing bloodthirsty gingerbread men at you, though, so looking for them while dodging gunfire actually makes item collection a bit of a harried experience.

While you’re at it, you can look at the various nods the DLC has to other Christmas specials, which are everywhere. Right from the start you get a certain rifle that you will definitely use to put someone’s eyes out, and it’s not long before you’ll be dared to stick your tongue onto a metal pole. Something about having this stuff happen in the Saints universe, one where I routinely make whole city blocks explode while riding my space ship, makes these cute little references seem all the funnier. The same goes for the plot of this story, which has this odd, innocent humor to it despite containing the feel and dialogue familiar to the series. If the Saints Row series were any less absurd they’d never have been able to pull this off, but they manage to combine a cute, almost family-friendly Christmas story into a world of dildo bats and murderous criminals, making it all click.

Saints Row IV: The Saints Save Christmas

I was a little sad to see it all go so soon after I’d started, but apparently I’d been a good little criminal as Santa rewarded me with a ton of unlocks from the DLC to play with in the main game. That fortified sleigh? That’s my regular ride now. Want to call future Shaundi, Santa, or the evil Clawz to help as your homies in the game? You can now do that too. How about the festive dubstep gun or the candy cane bat? They’re yours to keep forever, along with homie versions of all the enemies, a handful of special Christmas vehicles, and a bunch of clothes that will let you bring the Christmas spirit to the simulation whether the aliens like it or not. The DLC didn’t seem like it would ever stop handing out unlocks once it was done, and it’s all stuff I was afraid I was never going to see again once I’d beaten it. I’m happy that Volition gave me the opportunity to play with it whenever I liked.

Speaking of that, having the DLC available to replay as soon as I completed it was a nice touch as well. I really liked this DLC, but in a lot of the games I’ve played the DLC missions tend to disappear once they’re done. With How The Saints Save Christmas, I could hop right back in again to whatever mission I liked. It’s rare that I find DLC that I’d want to play twice, and I was thankful that I was given the chance to play it again whenever I liked.

Seven bucks might seem like a steep price for How The Saints Save Christmas when it’s only an hour or so long, but you do get some long, decently challenging missions for your money. Not only that, but all of the neat enemy skins, clothes, vehicles, and characters get added into your main game with a lot of other bonus items, so you get quite a bit of content for your money. Some “Naughty or Nice” side missions even get added to the main game for you to play with your new sleigh, so it felt like you got a solid amount of stuff for your money; making it more appealing than the Elements of Destruction DLC I just finished. The fun story, told in a way that only the 3rd Steet Saints could pull off, makes it all worthwhile. It’s funny stuff, and if you want something that’ll get you in the holiday mood while still dealing with your violent gaming tendencies, this will do it.

Saints Row IV: How The Saints Save Christmas DLC is available for $6.99 on Steam.

Joel Couture
Joel Couture
Joel Couture

MASH Veteran

A horror-obsessed gamer, Joel is still spending his days looking for something to scare himself as much as Fatal Frame. Even so, he has ridiculous action games and obscure gems to keep him happy in the meantime. A self-proclaimed aficionado of terrible retro games, he's always looking for a rotten game he hasn't played yet, and may be willing to exchange information for candy.

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