Saints Row’s coop is a very, very weird thing. It seems both somewhat sane and completely insane. But mostly completely insane, not because there’s two people causing chaos instead of one, but because of how Saints Row: the Third’s coop works. I’m not sure if Saints Row 2’s coop is the same, but it’s just as weird in Saints Row 4. Since I just finished a bit of coop with aabicus though and it’s fresh in my memory, I’m going to stick to what I know.
Let’s start off with an example. Both aabicus and I created a new game at the same time. Aabicus is hosting the game because, well, he has better internet speeds. Well, I joined his game with a new character. We both progressed through the tutorial/intro missions, creating our character and landing in Steelport. Up until this point, our completion percentage was the same. Once we got our feet on the ground and could walk around in Steelport, my progression ended. From that point on, any mission progress we did went to aabicus’s character.
But it’s not horrible. My character, even though they are not making any mission progress at all, gets to keep all the weapons that they buy and upgrade, the levels and upgrades they purchase, and all the vehicles they’ve stolen. What is kept and what isn’t seems to be tied to story missions. City Takeover progress, i.e. buying properties and dealing with gang operations, things like that, do seem to count towards completion but it’s not very clear. During story missions, you’ll see your character in the cut scenes, but you won’t make any progress if you’re not the person hosting the game.
None of this is particularly obvious when actually playing coop, you’d assume that something is being completed as you tear through Steelport and destroy everything in your path. In fact, I only found out about this somewhat recently, when I loaded up the character I’d made with aabicus and realised I was in Steelport, right at the very start. I still had all my weapons and everything but story-wise, I had nothing completed.
The lack of completion doesn’t seem to make any sense, but there’s actually a somewhat good reason for all of this. Whenever you start or join a coop game, you’re given the choice to load a save. If I wanted to, I could pick my 93% completion character, who is level 50, has infinite ammo and can only be killed by melee damage or being run over by a tank; and take that monstrosity into someone’s game. Alternatively, I could take a brand new character and join someone’s game as they are about to defeat the last mission. But since story completion isn’t included in character saves, my super OP or brand new coop character can’t really complete or interfere with the missions in a harmful way. My brand new character has to complete missions on their own, and there are plenty of story missions which a maxed out character can’t effect anyway. The coop player is a helping hand, not someone tied into your save.
Let’s look at this in a different way. Rather than you both being the Boss of the Saints, the player who hosts is the Boss, and the coop player is just another homie, the second in command who tags along when he’s not busy. It’s actually a super nice way of looking at things, and this all becomes far more apparent when you look at how the game works in coop.
In almost all missions, the host player takes charge, and the coop player assists. The host player drives the cars, the coop player shoots people out of the way. When you play flying missions, the host flies and the coop player shoots. Side missions in particular emphasize this, particularly when you’re doing missions like Snatch, Trailblazing or Insurance Fraud, the second player has the option to tag along for the ride, actively help (e.g. by throwing molotovs to score extra time in Trailblazing) or even go off and earn points elsewhere, speeding up your progression.
It’s definitely not a great system, but I can kinda like the idea that I’m not a detriment to someone else’s game, no matter which game save I happen to load. It’s also nice to kinda be the Best Homie Ever, even if said homie is often laggy as heck and accidentally blows things up from time to time.
Next time though, maybe I’ll host, just so aabicus can play the sex mini-game during the Escort mission that he’s so desperate to try…