Saints Row IV

(1 customer review)


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Complete Review & Description

It’s hard in video games to do comedy well. It’s just not the right kind of medium. Gaming is all about inputs, it’s not a passive sit back and laugh kind of deal. So that makes Saints Row IV’s comedic genius all the more impressive.
But importantly, Saints Row IV manages to create an experience that is both hilarious and fun to play. And it’s done it by sidestepping that annoying yankee slap-stick style to boot. What results is a game that has depth, honesty and substance. For a title that has put dildos and gun babes at the centre of its marketing, that’s a very welcome surprise.

Saints Row IV is the fourth iteration of the now well known Saints Row Franchise. Developed by Volition Inc, and published by Deep Silver, it has come to be beloved by fans and critics for its wild and zany approach to open world gaming. For many, it’s Grand Theft Auto’s poorer, and more ridiculous cousin. There are obvious similarities: gang warfare, fast cars, and open world missions. But with the Deep Silver’s fourth crack at the crazy Saints Row story, the resemblance is rapidly fading. Saints Row has always reached out for the surreal and the astonishing. This year they’ve completely and utterly doubled down.
Saints Row IV begins where the third left off. Piece, Shaundi and the Boss are still kicking about, but this time they’ve decided to help Asha and Matt Miller who have become international counter-terrorists. Right at the start of the game they go in guns blazing to take down Cyrus Temple, who is trying to nuke Washington DC. After saving the day, the Boss is made the President of the United States, whereby he is suddenly set upon by an alien invasion, led by the aloof warlord Zinyak — who forces the Saints to battle their way out of a simulated version of Steelport.

It’s a totally ridiculous start. Marrying the Matrix with Independence Day with President Camacho from Idiocracy is insane. It’s brazen and crass and brilliant. But thankfully, it’s also clever, satirical and self-referential.
Deep Silver have obviously taken a leaf from Mike Judge’s book and made sure that while Saints Row IV might at first appear to be a stupid, sexist, violent douche-romp, if you look hard enough you can clearly see there is something very smart going on under the hood. Go on, have a peek. It’s there right from the beginning.
If you’ve played Grand Theft Auto you’ll be at home in the core gameplay of Saints Row. It’s a third person, open world shoot em up that puts you into a world that you can rampage around in. In this regard, Deep Silver have kept Saints Row IV close to what we saw in Saints Row Three. The combat is broadly similar, as are the graphics and the core gameplay. You make your way through the game by completing major storyline quests; and you expand your in game dominance by completing side missions and special challenges. Finishing these successfully conquers parts of the map, which increase your total control of Steelport.

So far, so familiar. Except for the aliens. Saints Row’s lurch to the sci-fi has put a strange and unfamiliar spin on the way the game is played. The introduction of Zinyak and his vicious minous takes the core Saints Row gameplay we are used to, and adds a whole new level of complexity. The most obvious example of this is the powerups that The Boss can use. These new abilities — ultra fast sprinting, jumping herculean heights, or using telekinesis — totally alter the way the game is played. Previously, if you wanted to get from one gun store to another, you’d steal a pimpin car and zoom your way there in a cloud of nitrous oxide. Now, The Boss leaps from building to building like Spiderman or zooms down avenues like The Flash. Once these new superpowers are upgraded a few times, the tired old world of motors and machines becomes completely obsolete. Before long, allusions to GTA become a distant memory. Instead, its as if Volition Inc have turned Saints Row into a really rude version of Infamous 2.
For some gamers, this radical change of style will be too overwhelming. The decision to embrace the sci-fi setting has been made with gusto. The Boss now has new weapons, new powers, new abilities, new missions… new everything. And it’s all wrapped up in the sci-fi aesthetic. So much so, it feels as if the core Saints Row gameplay has been tacked on as an afterthought; something to keep loyal fans entertained. But if all you want to do is steal cars and shoot guns, that’s ok. You can do that too.
For other gamers the sheer breadth of gameplay on offer will be enough to stop them in their tracks. This is not an open world title with a linear path. The sheer amount of “extra” available will make heads spin. Saints Row IV would have benefited with some early water wings – just to help players make sense of it all.

But thankfully, the inclusion of co-operative gameplay goes a long way to resolve these concerns. Saints Row IV has vastly improved the ability of gamers to jump into each other’s experience to lend a hand. Co-op gameplay has featured before in the series, but now it’s easier, faster and more tailored. Gamers can drop into each others games to help with the main storyline quests, or they can compete against in other in specialised co-op minigames. It’s a very welcome move by Volition, and it goes a long way to helping the game break down the smorgasbord of options on offer. Not to mention the churlish glee you get by following your teammate to a clothes store, just see what ridiculous outfits you can both try on.
But unfortunately, Volition have not approached the combat mechanic with the same revolutionary zeal. The same problems that plagued Saints Row: The Third have remained. The combat AI is sluggish and frustrating, and the difficulty swings wildly. There is also a jarring disconnect between the powered-up super world in Steelport, and the harsh reality of the world outside. Its amazing how quickly you get used to playing god. However, its not all bad news in the gameplayer department. By locating the game mostly in cyberspace, Volition have given themselves the freedom to really experiment. The payoff is wonderful gameplay moments, such as nostalgic throwback to the text based pick of the paths of the 80s during a mission to rescue Mat Miller, or a Godzilla sized battle between a massive Saints Flow can called Paul and a monumental statue with a ladle. These moments are inventive, novel, and fantastic to play.

These set pieces are only added to by Saints Row’s narrative and characterisation. This is a tremendously well written game that speaks to every audience. If dick jokes and boorish misogyny is what give you your jollies, then Saints Row will let you play in that sand pit — but there is also a lot here for the more discerning gamer. From brilliant one liners, to sly digs at Metal Gear Solid, all the way to off-handed derogatory comments about Margaret Thatcher, Saints Row’s writing packs a real punch. These moments are so well constructed, and the interaction between its cast of character is so well scripted, that Saints Row IV quickly becomes much, much more than a sci-fi shoot em up. It becomes a hugely enjoyable, and hilariously satirical, pisstake of games, gaming and the people who play them.
It’d be a tough sell to say that Saints Row IV is the greatest game you will ever play. The core gameplay is not particularly inventive, most of its action happens in a place that fans have played through before, and the combat is still plagued by problems of the past. But that’s not really all that important. For open world games what matters is the whole package.
Saints Row IV combines irreverence, comedic genius, and fantastic characterisation with one of the most bizarre and ridiculous storylines you’ll see all year. As a total experience, its got the goods. If you want authentic real world action with perfect polygons, wait for GTA 5. But if you want to see a steel giant destroy a monolithic energy drink can by opening the tab on its head, then Saints Row IV is calling for you.


1 review for Saints Row IV

  1. tpicks

    Rich Story

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