When it comes to Saints Row, there’s not many words you can use to truly describe the franchise. Unique is about as accurate as you can get. If you’ve played Saints Row The Third, you know by now Volition has steered the franchise in a different direction. Some might say that’s a good thing, others, not so much. Volition set out to raise that bar even higher and wackier with Saints Row IV. If there’s one thing Saints Row IV does with 100% correct execution. It’s raising that bar, and then some. Not only has Saints Row IV convinced me it’s a great title, it also scares me a little bit.
So you may be thinking to yourself “Is that a good thing, or a bad thing?”. Well, it really depends on your perception of where the franchise is headed. If you’re on board with the direction Volition is taking, you’re in for a real treat. Otherwise, you’ll get the super hero game you’ve always wanted, but a not so great Saints Row game. If you want a quick answer on whether or not you’ll enjoy Saints Row IV, ask yourself this question: “Do you like drinking donkey beer while leaning on satan’s ladder?”. Do you even understand what that means? Of course you don’t. Which is exactly while you’ll have a fantastic -and very weird- time with Saints Row IV.
The game itself is one giant parody. With that said, I’m not going to spoil any surprises as there’s many. I will tell you if you’re familiar with Mass Effect 2, you’ll feel right at home with the story structure. It’s a blatant ripoff, but actually functions quite well as everything plays out. As the leader of the Saints, you become President of the United States. Shorty after you make some very important -yet irrelevant to the actual gameplay- decisions, Earth gets attacked by alien leader Zinyak and his fellow companions. Thus, the Earth is destroyed and while stuck on a space ship *cough* Mass Effect 2 *cough*, you enter a simulator world of Steelport out for revenge and to destroy the alien race.
Because you’re in a simulation, this gives you access to super powers along with a fantastic arsenal of weapons. The game doesn’t take too long to introduce these powers, and once you gain them, the fun begins. In fact, the controls (Note: I used a controller) are so fluid and intuitive with all the new features, it makes for a very enjoyable experience. You can run like Flash at top speed then super jump from building to building with ease, all while shooting fireballs or even a freeze blast. All of the powers you gain throughout the 20 hour campaign can be upgraded. If you’ve played Crackdown, you’re familiar with the orbs you collect. Same concept here. These orbs can then be redeemed for upgrades.
One of my biggest issues with Saints Row The Third was how activities were used in place of main missions. Thankfully, this isn’t the case with Saints Row IV. As mentioned early, it’s Mass Effect 2 mission structure. Which means you’ll have main missions to rescue your crew, then those crew members will have side quests along with a loyalty mission. Rescuing you friends makes for some very interesting story missions. While in the simulation,Kenzi’s computer skills allows you enter the mind of each crew member and to acquire them, you must save them from their greatest fear. Going into the minds of characters you’ve seen across past entries is a very nice personal touch for character development. Their loyalty missions expand upon that, providing an even more unique experience. So unique, and due to that fact I want to avoid spoilers, that you probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you. Yes. That insane.
Volition has added some new activities, but also brought back most of the old ones. This time around, they’re not extremely repetitive and annoying to complete like they were in Saints Row The Third. In fact, I completed every single activity and all collectibles because I had so much fun. I’m currently sitting at 98% complete clocking in at around 30 hours with only some challenges left. Old activities such as; Mayhem, Insurance Fraud, Trail Blazing etc feel like a completely new experience thanks to being revamped with super powers. Mayhem for example now has a variety of task. Like using telekinesis to use huge metal balls to cause destruction, or using the stomp power exclusively. Each activity also has a Bronze, Silver and Gold Medal. Unfortunately, there’s no leaderboards to compare your score with friends.
Saints Row IV also offers an epic soundtrack. Volition has now added the ability to listen to the radio while on foot. Right from the start you can access the list of all songs and create your own mix-tape to play in the background while wrecking havoc. Personally, I’m not a fan of rock music. However, listening to Aerosmith – “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” while soaring through the sky, then landing shooting fireballs everywhere while A$AP Rocky – “Goldie” plays in the background is nothing short of epic. Saints Row IV is so over-the-top that such a wide variety of genres playing right after each other is indescribable. It’s something you have to experience for yourself.
One thing the Saints Row franchise has always expanded upon is customization. Volition has taken that aspect one step further. Crib customization is out, but weapon customization is introduced. Each weapon has 2-3 different skins with color variants. Not only does this change the look, it changes the sound effect and visuals. The Dubstep gun for example will play different beats with unique visual effects based on the beat. Then there’s the Blackhole gun which is every maniacs dream. If you ever wanted to completely ruin everyone’s day in Steelport. This weapon will become your best friend. Cars, pedestrian, derbies, mailboxes, lamppost etc rip off the ground and are sucked into where you fire. The best part is, once upgraded, you can fire multiple shots. If alien firepower isn’t your thing, you can also buy corrosive bullets for your sub machine gun or the “block rifle” which is a pixelated sniper with retro sound effects.
Co-op also makes a return with its drop-in, drop-out functionality. Although it’s a bit limited this time around. If you enter a players game who hasn’t unlocked a certain super power, it’s removed from your inventory and you’re unable to use it. Your upgrades remain, but prepared to be stripped of your powers if one of your friends is late to the party. While this is somewhat understandable, the weapons aren’t limited. Meaning, certain high powered weapons that would make a newcomers game easy, can be used by your co-op player. Considering the franchise is all about fun and no limits, this is a very disappointed design choice. Thankfully, the super powers do make co-op much more enjoyable once you both have everything unlocked.
With the addition to all the new features and powers, there’s a lot going on at every given moment. Which makes me a little hesitate about the console versions performance. Given I played the PC version, I can safely say with everything set at max, I maintained a flawless 60 frames-per-second. Saints Row IV isn’t the prettiest game around, but it’s very heavy on special effects along with very crowded streets. Granted, it’s probably scaled much lower on consoles to maintain a playable framerate. Even when sprinting full speed and super jumping from one island to another, I never had to worry about screen tearing, frame rate issues, pop-ins etc. The game ran flawlessly.
Saints Row IV is a great addition to the franchise, but also a poor one. It’s almost too crazy for it’s own good that it steers too far away from what made the first two entries memorable and stand next to franchises like GTA in its own way. Now, were given an insane title that many wont know what to do with, but also a game that’s all about having fun and not taking itself seriously. I personally had fun with the previous installment, but I was ultimately was disappointed by end game. Saints Row IV was much more enjoyable, not as repetitive, and offered many new aspects that kept bringing me back wanting more. Unfortunately, it’s not the Saints Row I wanted, but instead a super hero game I’ve always wanted.
+ Super powers are AWESOME
+ Fluid and easy to master controls
+ Epic soundtrack
+ Lots of WUB WUB
+ All around just fun
+ Even crazier
– Even crazier
– Limited Co-op super powers
– It’s more of a super hero game than a Saints Row game
8 and 8.5 represent a game that is a good experience overall. While there may be some issues that prevent it from being fantastic, these scores are for games that you feel would easily be worth a purchase.
Saints Row IV was developed by Volition and published by Deep Silver. It was released on August 20th, 2013, at the MSRP of $49.99 for PC and $59.99 for Xbox 360 and PS3. A copy was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review. The game was played to almost 100% completion, which includes all; Story Missions, Side Missions, Loyalty Missions, Activities, and Collectibles.
Intel Core i-5 3300P 3.2 GHz Processor
8GB of RAM
Nvidia 660 TI x2 (SLI)