If you’re in the market for a series of games that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and throws logic out the window in favor of explosions and carnage, then you don’t have to look much further than Saints Row. Originally a GTA clone, the series embraced the idea of balls to the wall fun and took the series in a whole new direction, eventually moving from organising a small inner city gang, to somehow saving the human race from aliens. Behold as the evil conqueror of worlds, Zinyak, lands at The White House and threatens the entire human race, and only one man (or woman, or any combination really, they don’t limit you that much) can stop him!
Zinyak is one of the more interesting characters I’ve had to face in Saints Row, and while I don’t say SR4 is my favourite game of the series, Zinyak was definitely my favourite villain. Born and raised in Zinshire, of the country Zinland, on planet Zin (not making that up) Zinyak was a black sheep among his people. Where most Zin are usually concerned with matters such as “arm wrestling and counting the spots on ones back”, Zinyak took an interest in the finer walks of life, instead focusing on the arts and specifically the works of Jane Austen. As such, outcast and bullied from his peers, Zinyak worked every day to become the finest man (er… alien) that he could be, eventually graduating with honors, and celebrating by swiftly snapping the neck of a former bully before enlisting in the Zin military. It was a long, arduous journey towards glory, but his cold, unending hatred of the enemy helped Zinyak through the rough early years of his service until eventually he lead the charge in countless battles for the glory of the Zin empire and was rewarded with his own ship. Zinyak roamed the cosmos for years after that, striking fear into every planet he crossed, and murdering the previous Zin ruler to claim his throne.
However, such glory soon lost its appeal to Zinyak. He grew bored of conquering worlds, and it left him with a hollow feeling nothing could satisfy. That is until he built the simulation. A world made entirely in cyber space to both contain and indoctrinate the galaxies best and brightest stars, keeping them and their work for future enjoyment. The idea was simple, keep the bodies of the captives in stasis chambers while their mind roamed free in a simulation completely built and controlled by Zinyak, where they would live out their deepest fear until they submitted to the will of their captors. That is until our protagonist was put into this world and did everything in their power to break out.
Okay, so the boss fight with Zinyak is nothing special, it’s actually quite disappointing. It’s just a long sequence of whittling down Zinyak’s health while you’re being attacked by minions. However, you do get to do this while wearing a set of power armor, and while Zinyak is controlling a giant robot, so that’s kinda cool! No, the reason I love Zinyak so much isn’t in fighting him, it’s in getting to know him. Originally meant for a cameo role in a Saints Row 3 DLC, Zinyak became the main antagonist of SR4, and takes to that title with a flourish. Not only does he strike you from start to finish as a powerful creature who can snap your neck without breaking a sweat, he’s also delightfully tasteful and cultured for a lunatic! Everything he does, he does with a flare, whether it’s conquering worlds or enjoying a good novel. Throughout the game you can read a text adventure of Zinyak’s history and get to know him and his sassy attitude, and honestly while I still wanted to kill Zinyak at the end of the game (He is a psychopath after all) I enjoyed my time beforehand. When he popped in for little jokes here or there in the simulation I smiled, and it made my experience of the game that much better for it. What a shame it was that I had to rip out his spine and show his head off as a trophy.