Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Windows, PS3, Xbox 360, Linux
Publisher: Deep Silver, Buka Entertainment
When it comes to Saints Row (SA), we all know what to expect and that’s crazy, over the top version of Grand Theft Auto (GTA). Saints Row is the game you’d play when you get bored of GTA V. However with SA IV, I have mixed feelings. Is SA IV going to be a classic in years to come? Well of course not, but that doesn’t mean it’s not to be enjoyed. SA IV isn’t a bad game, it just feels a bit too similar to SA III and the reason is because it doesn’t really add anything new apart from a different story line and the addition of super powers. Apart from that, expect the same style and same way of doing things. Not to mention the fact that your super speed and charged jump powers make you question why some things are even in the game, but we’ll get onto that later.
There’s certainly a difference when it comes to graphical quality and it does look better than Saints Row III but I wouldn’t call it stunning or something to be excited about. One could even say that SA IV could very well have been an expansion to Saints Row III, but the problem with SA III is that the side missions weren’t worth doing and I largely ignored them. However what makes SA IV worthy as a separate game is how great you’re incredibly rewarded for completing side missions. Want unlimited sprinting? Better get busy doing the side mission that rewards it! There are even missions that give you additional followers, weapons, vehicles and so on. In fact the complete opposite in SA IV where side missions dominate most of your time and distract you from the main story line. So there’s always something for you to do when you complete the story line. Gaining upgrades as you complete missions serves as some sort of progression for your character because you expect to feel somewhat more powerful after doing a mission, which is exactly what happens.
It’s no secret that the Saints Row games never fail to make you laugh. Right off the bat it’s filled with over the top action and humorous dialogue where the character you play (who is fully covered from head to toe before you’re able to customize your appearance), jumps onto a missile and Aerosmith’s ‘I don’t want to miss a thing’ starts to play, the song actually pumped me up and got me in the mood to play more of SA IV. That’s what this game thrives on, ridiculousness and humour.
He is the one!
It doesn’t take long for you to realize that Saints Row IV is essentially a parody of the Matrix and this is what I love about the Saints Row franchise, its accuracy when it comes to things it parodies. In SA IV you enter/exit the simulation and when you exit the simulation (since you’re in a computer program) you find yourself on a spaceship with friendlies. You enter the simulation by standing in a pod-like machine. In the simulation you have super powers but outside you don’t. Now is it sounding a little familiar?
How does it play?
First of all, let’s talk about the city in which Saints Row is based in, Steelport, the exact same city in SA III, except with additional alien structures which look really, really boring and are very much so to scale. Having to be in the same location for two games straight is just, to put it lightly, a bore fest. It’s like having each GTA game based in the same location every time, and that would be something you wouldn’t buy because we want new locations and different settings. As a result of being in the same city, if you’ve played SA III, you don’t really want to explore because you’ve already seen it all before even playing the game.
The game plays exactly how it has in Saints Row III and in that regard it’s very disappointing. There aren’t any particularly new mechanics regarding gun or hand to hand combat, except a super speed grapple which executes an attack unique to super speed power. The whole super power deal is really cool…until you max out your super speed and super jump (charged jump). It gets old really fast and just feels gimmicky. It doesn’t mean that it’s not exactly fun using your powers, not at all! You’ll often find yourself running and jumping all over the city just for the heck of it and that never gets old. Landing after a super jump is absolutely bad ass and feels epic because you feel like Superman or The Hulk when they land at such high speeds.
As with Saints Row III, the character customization is quite flexible and allows for some creative customization and for you to go wild with your imagination. Despite having the majority of the customization focused on your head, you can alter your body type i.e. skinny, muscles and fat presets with a mix and match parameter so you can be a little fat with muscles or a muscular skinny thing. What you can alter about the body apart from the body type are the breasts and genital areas…because you know, it wouldn’t be a Saints Row game without the ability to change the size of them! Colour wise, there are a wide variety but what would have made it better is a colour picker so you can really go for the colour you want if it isn’t there in the default colours. The character customization overall is very disappointing because it’s a carbon copy of Saints Row III’s customization and there’s not one single new feature. Even just changing the size of your limbs would have been great because that would allow for some deeper customization and wackier characters.
The game calls for you to ‘hack’ shops to gain access to them since you’re in a simulation, which is fair because the aliens don’t want you to gain any advantages. But the problem I have with it is that although it’s a nice break from all the chaos that you cause, it’s a pointless mechanic. It feels like it’s in the game because, well it is.
Having to upgrade your weapons, powers, character abilities, vehicles gives a sense of progression and goals to reach for, which is essential in any game and SA does it well. Sure upgrading the damage (by 1) property of a gun won’t impact your game a whole lot, but once you’ve fully upgraded it, that weapon will certainly be more powerful than having no upgrades! Weapon appearances are also a thing in SA IV, but how much damage they do stays the same as before but the animations do change also. This is a great little feature because it keeps things fresh if you want to have a change every once in a while. You can even have a pistol style of Han Solo’s weapon which shoots lasers but has a really lame sound to it! Or if you fancy a water gun look for your machine gun, there’s one for you. Another one of Saints Row IV’s amusing parodies!
As with all Saints Row games, there is a leveling system to keep you busy. Experience points are gained from pretty much everything, from killing to buying things, to hacking and missions. These experience points go towards your level and each time you level up you may unlock an upgrade that you can purchase for your character. For example at level 8 you unlock the +50% (+25%) health increase passive ability that you can buy. There is a way of course, to upgrade your super powers. Code clusters (big blue bits of code) are used to upgrade your powers. There are loads of them scattered around the city and they can’t be easier to find. It seems like a reward for exploring the city but it’s really just something you’re forced to do because they give such a big advantage.
One thing I do love about Saints Row games is the Radio station, The Mix 107.77 because of the killer songs it plays and throughout my play through, it’s literally the only station I had had running because there are songs like ‘What is love’ by Haddaway and ‘I don’t want to miss a thing’ by Aerosmith and other timeless classics. What’s even more fitting is how these songs make you feel when you’re using your super powers. Just imagine how you’d feel when one of these songs plays during an intense fight where you’re button bashing as hard as you can. Pretty damn epic right?
Let’s step away from the fun of the game and look at the reality here. Saints Row has never been a franchise where the world felt alive or even all that populated. Sure there are some cars and people out on the street, but there’s something that I can’t quite place my finger on that makes GTA’s world feel alive, whereas Steelport is completely the opposite. As a result of this the game can get a bit stale at times with the environment looking very similar no matter where you go. The city is just disappointing in this regard and it makes you tire of seeing the same things over and over again. It’s a good thing that the missions distract you from everything else!
Sure the game is incredibly fun when you’re blowing things up and showing off your powers, upgrading and using ground vehicles is an inferior feature in SA IV. The same can be said for flight because they’re clunky and horrible to control, whereas running, jumping and gliding your way around the city is much faster and easier to control, especially once you’ve gained unlimited sprinting. Even calling for your gang is in inferior because of how dominant these super power features are. These are features that were used often in Saints Row III but are now no longer used simply because, you don’t need to. Hell, if blast powers had no cooldown then even weapons wouldn’t be used that much! It’s almost like the developers gave up on these features and just said “Let’s put in super powers…because super powers”. I can’t even see them making another Saints Row game because where do you go after having super powers?
Although my time with Saints Row IV and III were very much enjoyable in terms of combat and running around the city but I can’t help but notice the fact that it’s not a game that it will stick by me for years to come. The truth is it fails to establish an emotional connection to anyone and anything in the game and it’s not because it looks ‘exaggereal’ (a term that was used to define the art style of Saints Row) and over the top, it’s simply a lack of caring for any of the characters that you see in the game and that’s why I’ve given it the rating shown below. And that’s what Saints Row IV is, just a fun game. It’s only the character customization that you put the most thought into because you’re either trying to make the wackiest or sane looking person in the world. Of course it’s not all bad, the comedy and fun that you have with having super powers kind of balances out the negatives, but if you’re looking for a groundbreaking story or unique mechanics, this isn’t the game for you.
I cannot see myself spending more than £15 (consoles) on it, even though I nabbed it at £5.80 on PC. But it’s worth noting that without the DLC, the game feels a little bare and almost like it’s required to get the DLC because most of the fun is from the DLC. Besides, these prices included the DLC so if you’re interested in investing some money into the game, then I’d seriously recommend that you grab the edition that comes with all the extra content! If all you’re looking for is a fun game to spend some time on then look no further.