[As Read on GIO.]
Let me be clear- Saints Row: The Third was a game that I had thought did not require a sequel so relatively soon after its release, for more reasons than one. The first reason would be the sheer amount of content it already offered, and the premise that I’m sure much more could have been shoved into the already bustling and busting world. The second reason would be because of its witty and insanely comical storyline, dialogue, and antics- making for a very memorable and hard to top experience. And the third reason being that, with each iteration of the Saints series getting better and better, it only takes so many sequels before you inevitably fall down a notch in the process. Saints Row IV is a good game, but it is not a better game than Saints Row: The Third in many ways, although it might still top it in others. By no means does this mean that IV is not a worthy sequel, or that it is automatically to be trashed simply because it didn’t do as well as its predecessor. In fact, I’d still say that, in terms of the craziness and carnage we’ve come to expect from the Saints series, IV ranks second behind The Third, and is worlds better than SR2 and SR1. It is particularly interesting how Enter the Dominatrix became a full fledged title, and you’d expect that title to be a little barebones because of that, but it is surprisingly immersing instead. If you’re looking for a crazy, fast-paced, and exciting title, then this is definitely a game for you.
The extremely apparent reason for Saints Row IV being ten times more crazy than its predecessor lies in the fact that you are in a computer simulation, and therefore anything goes- from superpowers to supercars. The fact that these powers are given to players early on in the game is a double edged gameplay sword. On one hand, it is awesome to be able to be overpowered and already leap buildings in single bounds a la Crackdown, however, on the other, you never get to really appreciate your powers so much by building them up and enjoying their ins and outs also a la Crackdown. In fact, on a Crackdown note, Saints Row IV can be easily compared to the first title in that series (or the second,, if you think about it) in that you possess a special set of powers, you fight overwhelming odds often, and you also find yourself in an abnormally hilarious and over-the-top experience every step of the way. First things first though, before I draw many more parallels between games here- let’s get back to this review. You play as the President of the United States (or is it President of the United Saints? I’m really not sure…) and you have the power to veto bills or leap high buildings and run at dangerously fast speeds. Bear in mind, you can upgrade your skills and learn new ones, however, it is simply not as expansive and time consuming as it could be a la Crackdown, which is both good and bad. If you are looking for a more in-depth experience, it is a little disappointing, however, if you wish to level up fast and kick some booty, it is excellently paced.
One of the other double edged gameplay swords present here for and because of your super abilities, is the fact that your transportation methods are drastically affected. You’ll most likely only find yourselves utilizing cars or other forms of transportation in the missions that require them, whereas you would normally just fly, sprint, and glide around to your destinations otherwise. There are still some epic vehicles, and by all means you are welcome to take them for a ride, however, you are a lot less likely to when you’ve got the choice between flying and driving. It’s just a no-brainer. Now, going back to something I mentioned earlier about Enter the Dominatrix- the majority of the game is spent within said computer simulation, so expect even more shenanigans and hijinks than usual. The best thing about this is that those hijinks don’t just stop at gameplay and dialogue, but instead percolate into the entire world as well. There are several moments that parody entire scenes from well known movies, games, and books- such as, but not limited to, Tron, Matrix, MGS, and more. The humor that the series has become known for still elicits laughs here and there, but ultimately it is the over-the-top, insane gameplay that has you rolling on the floor, not the scripted sequences or fallback jokes.
Let’s talk about craziness and insanity for a moment here. No- not Vaas’ definition of insanity, although that is a very good one, both metaphorically and literally. No, what I am referring to are the innumerable moments where something insane happens in Saints Row IV, and you simply stop and marvel at them. From the dubstep gun to the inflate-o-ray to the lightsabers (yes, you heard me correctly) to the black holes and more, there isn’t a sane moment in this game. I mean, just take a gander at the picture above. That is the dubstep gun in action, and some of its finest work. Truly. Flying high above your enemies, descending upon them like a maelstrom, sucking them into a black hole, blowing them up with your mind, and much, much more is possible- and deadly fun(ny) as well. Some other craziness happens in the form of intentional (and unintentional) bugs or glitches. You might be walking (or flying) around, when suddenly the environment becomes all pixelated and wavy, or maybe you’re people start going crazy and walking into walls and stuff- it all depends. Then, of course, there are moments when you can’t tell whether or not the bug is intentional- such as one instance where I was flying around, landed near a bad guy, picked him up to give him a whooping, and he suddenly disappeared- or so I thought. Instead, he had teleported mysteriously to the top of the world’s sky, fallen for several minutes, bounced off of several hard objects, landed on the ground, sat there for two more minutes, and then gotten up and walked away like it was an everyday occurrence- which, in this game it very well may be. It’s the things like that that actually make the game all the more endearing, even if they are character flaws. The only true annoying glitches are ones regarding the usual freezing and loading issues games have every now and then, but aside from that- the game is solid.
For aesthetic gurus out there, be warned- the entire game takes place in a gloomy atmosphere, so don’t be expecting too much day to day changing world looks or locales. These night happening are made all the more interesting, but I could easily see how it could also irk people as it did our very own, beloved Dan Ryckert. Anyway, I for one, was not too miffed about it, seeing it merely as a design choice I would not have taken, but ultimately respect simply in the fact that it doesn’t in any way diminish the gameplay or graphics- merely the visual palette. Saints Row has always been a fun and crazy experience, and always had its few little glitches and issues, and on the whole, IV is not entirely too different, despite the change in ownership. It’s the same as the Metro sequel in many ways- from developer to the fact that some things have changed, whereas others have remained faithfully true. Solo, cooperative, or just time sinking are all viable options, and all with their respective personalities and gimmicks. Superpowers and superpowered enemies just make things all the more risky, fun, and insane, and I wouldn’t have missed the opportunity to play with them for the world- or rather, for an animated Steelport simulation. The series has always been known for its customization abilities and upgrades, and those return in force this time around, with upgrades for everything from your techno weapons to your superpowers and looks. This might be the same old story as The Third, with controlling and protecting Steelport and your interests, but you can bet that it is far from the same experience as that of The Third- even if Johnny Gat does make a come back. (Sorry, had to spoil that- plus I’m sure you already knew anyway, and if not…oops.)
Concept: Simply put- Saints Row: The Third with more customization, more insanity, and more superpowers…well, actually HAVING superpowers, anyway.
Graphics: The graphics are slightly improved over The Third’s already pretty good looking graphical scheme, and the only slight inconvenience is the brightness or lack thereof present throughout your adventures. That is easily cured however by simply turning the settings and gamma up of course, so it is quite minor and not detracting from the experience.
Sound: The in-game radio stations and the soundtracks and scores themselves are as silly as the game is, and often quite fitting to the scenarios you find yourselves in. Sometimes the game tries to be dramatic, and it is usually all the more hilarious for it.
Playability: I wouldn’t have though there would be much more room in the controls for your super abilities and augmentations, but by golly, they sure managed to pack them in there anyway didn’t they? Now, not only can you curb stomp somebody, but you can inflate-o ray them, drop them off of a building, curb stomp them from fifteen feet in the air, AND toss them into a black hole for added measure.
Entertainment: Saints Row IV certainly shines in some moments, and it has quite a few solid times, but overall, it’s still just a close second to Saints Row: The Third, and seems too much like Saints Row 3.5 for me. But that’s just my opinion, and has nothing to do with the solid gameplay and tight controls.
Replay Value: Moderately High.
Overall Score: 8.0