[Review] Saints Row IV

Published on February 20th, 2014

Saints Row IV is like playing an open world sandbox game with cheats on. It seems like a great idea at first but then you quickly realize that this isn’t all that fun for an extended period of time. This is the problem that Saints Row IV suffers from, it make you too powerful all the way to the point where it becomes boring to play, and the combat and traversal are both so mindless they don’t help the situation either.

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Saints Row IV starts off with the former gang leader of the saints being the president of the United States, and after a brief tutorial mission of you saving the world, earth gets invaded by aliens. You’re then brought into a virtual recreation of Saints Row’ previous city, Steel Port, where you have to gather some friends to destroy the evil aliens. Steel Port is relatively the same as last time, except this time there’s alien towers to climb and statues looming around that depict Zinyac, the alien leader. With the character being in a matrix like simulation this gives the games developer, Volition great freedom with gameplay. There’s nothing stopping them from putting something in that’s “unrealistic” although based off the previous game I don’t think they ever aimed for the series to be realistic. As the player you’re given tons of super powers. In a matter of a few hours you’re able to pick up cars with your mind and run up sky scrapers with ease. The way you upgrade these powers is with clusters that are scattered around the map. At first finding these clusters were addicting but after a while I found them to be somewhat of a chore. This was due to the simplistic nature of the traversal. Instead of going around the environment like a platformer, it was just me constantly pressing the left bumper, and with that I was able to run up sky scrapers and go across the map in a matter of minutes. This felt like I wasn’t fully involved in the game and that I was just on auto pilot while going around the environment. Saints Row did do a great job at making me feel powerful. Although this sounds great, it went overboard. I felt like they hit a sweet spot with the previous game in making me feel awesome but there was still some challenge. There’s no challenge at all, to the point where the minute to minute gameplay tends to get stale fast.

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Although the gameplay did, at times get stale it did have its moments. Such as all the weapons and powers that you get to play with. Blasting people with my shotgun or rocket launch was always satisfying, despite how easy it was. The special weapons never really did interest me though, most of them are underwhelming and, if they are interesting, the novelty wears off fast.
Customizing the skins of my weapons and my character was a blast. The level of customization is something that is hardly ever seen in other open world games. I could do whatever I want to my character, make him look funny, bad-ass, or he could even look like my favourite action movie star. There’s also a variety of voices to choose from such as an Australian male voice to Nolan North and then you can adjust the pitch. Seeing my Samuel L. Jackson looking character sound like Nolan North and run around and be featured in cut scenes was something that I got a kick out of, and was always fun to see. And although extremely underutilized, the car customization is very in depth as well.

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http://cdn4.steampowered.com/v/gfx/apps/206420/ss_8b859de08adde0d31a9f60f10f39562d73614bd2.1920x1080.jpg?t=1392115425

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The story in Saints Row IV is good. It made sense going from point A to B and I always knew why I was doing something and, at times it can be funny. Something that frustrated me about the story was how many call backs to previous Saints games were thrown in. As someone that came into the series during Saints Row The Third, I found myself confused as to who these characters were, and why I should care about them. Most of the time old characters would be introduced with the game saying, “hey remember this guy?” and then you would kill him quickly and that would be that. In ways it almost felt like fan service to long-time fans rather than something that was there to benefit the story.
The pop culture references in the story are some of the strongest parts within Saints Row IV. They’re constantly parodying other games such as Mass Effect 2, Metal Gear Solid and even side scrolling brawlers. These parts were some of the best and most memorable moments of Saints Row IV and in this case the “inside baseball” lingo that occurs in the story actually benefits them here. Although these parts are very strong I did feel that most of the straight up jokes fell flat. Most of the time I found myself laughing at the jokes for how silly they are and how they try so hard rather than just straight up laughing at the joke because of its content.

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http://cdn4.steampowered.com/v/gfx/apps/206420/ss_45959656e4ffcc3e1f60982ff00ae112887056c4.1920x1080.jpg?t=1392115425

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There’s a general amount of sloppiness to Saints Row IV. Such as presentation issues and character glitches. One example in particular was when I would complete an objective and for what felt like minutes afterwards the character dialogue would still be going on as if I was on my way or in the process of completing the objective. Presentation issues were not very glitchy but they were annoying. Such as the building textures constantly moving or the world just looking plain ugly at times. All these issues by themselves would generally not bother me but when all put together they really do affect the experience as a whole. It should also be noted that a lot of the parts of the presentation I had an issue with was justified by the simulation. So, it made sense why building textures were moving but it didn’t look good at all.

Final Thoughts
Saints Row IV is a game that can be great, but never is. With gameplay and presentation issues, it’s something that with a few tweaks could be something special. It has its moments but never quite reaches its potential.
6/10 Stars

 

Written by Taylor Moyle: Guest writer extraordinaire.
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All images courtesy of THQ and Volition Inc.

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