Review: Saints Row IV
Saints Row IV originally started out life as DLC for Saints Row The Third, called Enter The Dominatrix. However, things change and Volition with their then publishers THQ decided to make it into a fully fledged sequel. Now being published by Deep Silver, Saints Row IV has landed and it promises more craziness that has been slowly progressing since the original title, does it work or has it gone a bit too far?
The game starts with you as the leader of the Saints in a Call of Duty style mission simply titled, Zero Saints Thirty – which if you’ve seen the film Zero Dark Thirty should give you some idea of how this mission plays out. After completing the mission you find yourself a hero of America and end up falling into Presidency. This is where stuff really starts to hit the fan, the world is being invaded by the Zin, an alien race hell bent on destruction and being led by the evil and apparently British, Zinyak. Your character finds themselves locked in battle with Zinyak, before being knocked unconscious and waking up in an unusual place.
I’m going to be a bit light on the details as I don’t want to spoil anything but eventually you return to Steelport, or so you think, it’s actually a virtual Steelport as Zinyak has trapped you inside of a simulation. Basically, think Matrix and you’ll pretty much have the story worked out. The story itself is pretty decent, there’s some real laugh out loud moments and some very odd ones, but that’s probably to be expected with a Saints Row game.
As you’re in a simulation it’s allowed Volition to basically do what they want, so they decided to give you super powers. There’s eight powers in total, four passive and four active – the passive powers are always active and they’ll allow you to run at super speed, jump as high as buildings, glide and so on. The active powers include Blast, Telekinesis, Super Stomp and Buff. Blast shoots out a blast of elemental power, Telekinesis allows you to pick up and throw objects, Super Stomp is well, a super stomp and Buff flows around you and effects your bullets as well as injuring any enemies nearby. Each active power also has different elements, for example, Buff can buff you with fire or ice, Blast can shoot Fire or turn enemies into friendlies and so on.
The powers can also be upgraded, to do this you need to collect Clusters, these Clusters are scattered across rooftops and in hidden areas across the map, if you’ve played Crackdown then think Agility Orbs, as it’s basically the same thing. As you collect these Clusters you can then exchange them for power upgrades in the menus. That’s not all you can upgrade, in the previous titles you could spend cash to upgrade health, stamina, damage and so on and that’s pretty much exactly the same here, with a few tweaks to the actual upgrades.
I mentioned Crackdown before and that’s all I could think of whilst playing this, well, Prototype as well – it bears quite a few similarities to both of those titles, especially when it comes to traversing the landscape. When travelling around the map it’s unlikely you’ll be using cars, instead you’ll be sprinting through the streets, gliding across rooftops, running up walls and so on – as you upgrade your powers it becomes a much more efficient way to get around. That’s not to say that cars are completely redundant, you’ll still be using them quite a lot and they’ve even tweaked the way you use the garage system. When you’re in a car simply press the assigned button and it’ll save in your garage, you can then pull up your phone, select a car and it’ll form around you.
As far as the open world gameplay goes, apart from the above it’s much the same as Saints Row The Third, there’s still Friendly Fire gunshops, Planet Saints (although they’ve been renamed) clothes shops and so on. However, you now no longer buy these shops, instead you hack them with a relatively simple hacking game, this will then earn you income through your stash. Also, there’s no cribs to buy or customise, instead you have a spaceship, this ship can be accessed through portals across the map and contains everything you’d expect such as a wardrobe, gun stash etc.
Speaking of guns, there’s loads of new arrivals, the Dildo Bat has gone and been replaced with a Tentacle Bat. Of course, there’s alien varieties of the standard weapons as well as some of the unorthodox weapons you’d expect. The strangest of which is the Dubstep Gun, when fired the gun will blast out dubstep, causing all of the nearby civilians to start dancing as well as making the cars bounce, on each beat the gun will damage whatever it’s being pointed at, it’s especially good at taking down vehicles. There’s also a gun that creates black holes, one that fires bouncing orbs, another which disintegrates enemies and another which expands their heads. All in all, the weapon selection is pretty big and there’s definitely something for everyone.
The map works like it did in previous games, the aliens own the map and you then have to complete tasks to win certain sections. These tasks are pretty much, “shoot all of the aliens in this section” although there are some variety like having to hack devices and steal certain vehicles. Activities also make a comeback, some new, some old – the old ones such as Insurance Fraud start to feel a little, ‘been there, done that’ especially when you consider you have super powers, for me it doesn’t really work this time round. The new ones include on foot races, Mech mayhem and new Genki activities which make use of your special abilities.
Mission wise, to use an old cliché they vary from the sublime to the ridiculous. The story actually takes a while to get going, it feels like you’re still playing tutorial missions even after three hours or so. However, in the middle segment of the game there’s some brilliant missions with some fantastic set-pieces as well as some genuinely funny moments and nods to the gaming past. I won’t ruin them for you but I had a grin on my face for some of these missions as they were such a blast to play. However, it falls back to a rather predictable affair nearer the end which was a shame to see as it would have been nice to see them build on the uniqueness that had gone before. There’s also a whole host of secondary quests which will earn you extra goodies such as new weapons, super homies and much more. As with the standard missions some of these are great fun, others not so much. However, there’s a lot of them so there’s plenty of content should you get bored of kicking people into oblivion, which is almost impossible to get bored of.
Saints Row IV is definitely one of the more ‘fun’ games you’ll play this year. The super powers are a great addition and even make sense in regards to the story, there’s some brilliant missions and genuinely funny moments. However, there’s other parts which feel a little drawn out and you feel like you’re just going through the motions. The game – on the Xbox 360 at least – does seem to have some frame rate issues, especially when on rooftops or flying planes, whilst it’s not as glitchy as the first two titles it’s certainly not glitch-free. There’s two player co-op again this time round, it works much the same as it did in Saints Row The Third, you can drop-in and drop-out at any time and play some co-op only activities or work through the story.
If the idea of flying around a city, shooting people with Dubstep whilst attempting to romance Keith David sounds like it’s right up your alley then you’ll love Saints Row IV.