Saints Row IV Review: A Stupidly Insane Good Time

by David Sanchez August 22, 2013 @ 10:51 pm

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Saints Row: The Third became notorious for breaking away from that Grand Theft Auto-inspired style of action-adventure games. By thinking outside the box – way outside the box – developer Volition managed to successfully create one of the wildest sandbox titles this console generation. Saints Row IV continues that trend and even manages to go crazier, delivering a surreal adventure set in a virtual world where super powers, aliens, and dubstep are all commonplace. No, it’s maybe not as novel as Saints Row: The Third was, but it’s still super insane, and the new implementations thrown in by Volition ensure that Saints Row IV is a must-play for fans, as well as a must-try for those who’ve yet to give this series a go.

The story takes place a few years after the events of the previous game. The Saints have already gone from street gang to pop culture icons, so it only makes sense that they take on Capitol Hill next. You fill the snazzy dress shoes of the leader of the Saints and newly appointed President of the United States. Everything’s going well until an alien race known as the Zin invades the White House. Quite fittingly, things go awry and you’re soon tossed into a weird virtual version of Steelport by the alien leader Zinyak.

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Saints Row IV is clearly a direct follow-up to its predecessor, and its gameplay systems reflect that. The bulk of what you can do revolves around quick side quests, but there are also lengthier story missions, the usual batch of collectibles, and all of the madness that comes with an open world game. Yes, it’s very likely that you’ll be sucked right into this rendition of Steelport due to just how fun it is to simply run around and create widespread panic. The reason it’s so much fun this time is because of one little addition to the series: super powers.

While you’re stuck in this silly virtual Steelport you can defy all logic. The real Steelport was already hardly realistic in Saints Row: The Third, but this installment manages to build one of the most insane open world experiences yet. You can run at super fast speeds that surpass the fastest cars. You can leap into the air and reach heights far above many of the city’s buildings. You can even shoot ice at your foes and then put a bullet in their frozen carcasses to watch them break into hundreds of little pieces. Oh, and if you want to use telekinetic powers to toss pedestrians and cars around, you can do that, too.

The super power aspect in Saints Row IV is the clear mechanic that really changes things up for the series. The way you explore the city is vastly different because of it, and it won’t take long before you realize that you never need to drive a car, because your created protagonist’s feet are much faster. Then there’s the jumping, which is absolutely ridiculous and a sheer joy. You can run up buildings if you want, or you can just leap over them. It’s dumb, it’s awesome, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun. It’s also reminiscent of Crackdown, but this game is so much more than just a cracked out Crackdown.

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All of these super powers can be upgraded if you collect data clusters. There are over 1,000 of these glowing blue orbs, and most of them are situated atop houses, pillars, and skyscrapers. Again, flying all over the place to accrue all of these may bring back memories of Crackdown, but it would be foolish to limit your idea of Saints Row IV to some Grand Theft Auto-meets-Crackdown fusion, because it’s ultimately more than that.

Silliness aside, you’ve also got cool weapons that can do tons of damage. Due to your elemental attacks having a recharge period, it’s impossible to rely solely on freezing fools or lighting aliens on fire, so you often have to be well-stocked. Shotguns, SMGs, and pistols round out your normal firearms, but there are also plenty of unorthodox weapons for you to enjoy. Firing the black hole gun sucks everything into a dark abyss. The dubstep gun eliminates its targets while making anyone nearby dance. There’s also an abduction gun that allows you to get rid of any pesky jerk by having him taken away into the depths of space.

I played Saints Row IV on the PlayStation 3, and visually, it has a lot in common with the entry that came before it. The game isn’t exactly ugly, but it’s certainly not all that great-looking, either. Sadly, when things get a little bit too hectic, you’re bound to witness some slowdown. It only got really bad for me on two separate occasions, but those instances were rough and had a direct impact on my enjoyment at those moments. Additionally, the game tends to stutter when saving, which can be annoying.

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As far as audio goes, you’ve got a wide list of radio stations with music that ranges from rock to hip hop to classical. Plenty of praise has been directed toward the soundtrack, but personally, with the exception of a few songs, I didn’t really dig it all that much this time around. Of course, this type of thing is really subjective, so everyone’s opinion will vary. The voice acting is once again great, and comedic lines are delivered nicely, meanwhile the “dramatic” parts are appropriately over-the-top.

You’re bound to have hours of great fun playing around in the giant sandbox that is fake Steelport. Like Saints Row: The Third, this latest iteration of the series is all about having fun. It’s nonsensical and crass, but pleasantly so. It’s amazing how cathartic the whole thing is, really, and being able to run at crazy speeds, all the while knocking away any trucks and pedestrians that get in your way is a total blast. Jumping high into the sky is also quite amazing, and it makes you feel like you’re controlling a twisted superhero. This isn’t exactly an evolution of the Saints Row name or the open world genre, but it’s one of those stupidly entertaining games that you really should play and enjoy.

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