If You Give a Saint a Superpower
I admit, about a month ago, I was ready to dismiss this latest entry in the Saints series. I had the opportunity to check out a preview build of the game and was quickly turned off. Considering the timeline of the build, I assumed there was not enough time to bring the game to fruition. Thankfully, I was wrong.
Saints Row has set itself up as the type of game GTA fans who miss the fun will play. It is a great formula and largely the reason Saints Row: The Third did so well. It is definitely the main reason I have repeatedly played the third entry in a franchise I never really cared for before. While I understand you must maintain a level of disbelief and even forgiveness with any game, you are asked to take a huge slice of the “what the f$&^?” pie in Saints Row IV , and not everyone is going to be hungry for pie.
This is probably the harshest thing to say about Saints Row IV . Volition asks you to accept so much that you may find yourself unable to invest in the game. Hopefully, this won’t be the case, as Saints Row IV has provided me with a lot of humor and even more fun. Then again, I don’t mind the notion of gaining superpowers to take on a threat larger than life: It’s typical sci-fi fanfare these days. In fact, Saints Row IV really speaks to the millions of people who have made Sharknado the number one television movie this summer. Nevertheless, I digress.
Saints Row IV starts with you taking on a terrorist cell in some foreign country. The reason for this is that the Saints want to be more than just a gang/movie stars/product endorsers/role-models, and as we all know, taking out a terrorist cell is the next logical step in dealing with your identity crisis. Plot hole aside, this is the catalyst for the Saints taking over the White House. The Saints run the government in their traditional gang infrastructure, kinda like in the real world but with more high-fives, kicks to the junk, and fun. My political views aside, these opening moments of Saints Row IV really had me mentally prepping for some out-of-this-world stuff happening. And yep, then the aliens attacked. No kidding.
Proper speaking aliens, the worst kind, attack right when you get comfortable with being the president. They kidnap you and every member of your crew, but not before some traditional Saints’ carnage ensues, though. It truly all feels like one big setpiece of action, much like the opening of Saints Row: The Third . Except this time, there is more “’Merica” being thrown around. It also really helped things along having Nolan North do the voice-over. In the selection menu at the start, you are given choices for your character’s voice, and Nolan North is one of them, so why wouldn’t I choose that?
In fact, Nolan is not the only noteworthy voice actor in the game. I will not ruin everything, but I will say this much–having one of the most recognizable voice actors (next to Nolan North) be my vice president was amazing. All previous actors and actresses return to provide the vocal exposition needed for these characters. There’s not a beat missed with the dialogue in this game. While it is easy to be caught up in the over-the-top craziness of it all, the voice acting really grounds it, and it delivers, at times, some great cinematic moments.
I think this is probably the best thing about Saints Row IV . There is a ton of [email protected]$^ing-rocker craziness, but when it needs to deliver a solid moment, a solid experience, it nails it. It made me care about the past of these characters, their fears (well, most of them—I’m looking at you, Paul), and even how their lives would be after the game ended. With a game that has a giant purple d*ldo attached to a baseball bat as a weapon, making you care is not something you’d expect.
Speaking of weapons, Saints Row IV does not disappoint in this area, either. It literally seems that this time the developers wanted to go over-the-top once more, but oddly, as a whole, it feels refrained. Yeah, I know there are many “choice” weapons in the game, but in all honesty, the best weapon, or rather the weapon I have enjoyed the most, is the Dubstep gun. It is also somewhat poetic that the way to defeat aliens is through music.
In addition to the great weapons, you have tons of other things to do in this game. The most notable of these is upgrading and collecting superpowers. The starting super speed and super jump abilities give you a real sense of how useless vehicles are in the game. This sounds like a negative, but it truly is not. This only drives home a very important fact I discovered: You really have a sense of free rein in how you play this game. You can go the traditional route of stealing a car and driving around doing missions, or you can achieve total super-powered badassery and leap, glide, and run fast as hell across Steelport. It is this I find myself congratulating Volition on. In my play experience, I can honestly say I have not encountered a lot of the “bad” stuff people claim Saints Row is known for. It feels like a grown-up superhero game. There’s no denying that the occasional (OK, constant) [email protected]$^ is used, and the moral lines are grey at best, but it still has a deep sense of superhero messaging. Yep–with great power comes great responsibility. It’s odd that a game so rooted in violence and obscenity somehow turns out some of the most honest moments about doing the “right” thing.
There are, however, some downsides to this latest outing. Yes, you have tons to do in the game, such as romancing crewmembers (with interesting results), doing loyalty missions, racing, disrupting alien locations, and the list goes on. This, however, is mostly the problem. The list goes on, but it is the same. In most cases, the side-missions and loyalty missions repeat themselves at their core level, and the gameplay becomes a bit stale. For example, doing Loyalty Mission A will have you doing a race, defeating an alien mass, unlocking a store, etc., and then in Side-Mission B, you will be doing the same thing, just slightly different. It makes things dull in the middle of the game. It does not mean these things are any less fun, but if you have been marathoning the game, and then you hit this section where you unlock several side-missions, it begins to feel bland.
Saints Row IV does not revolutionize the open-world genre. Hell, it doesn’t even revolutionize the series. It provides another fun chapter to the franchise. It has its faults–repetition, lack of substance outside of the main story and loyalty missions, and the occasional graphical hiccup–but then again, none of these truly matter because the game is just chaotic, simple fun. Seriously, Saints Row is filling a gap in the industry. Too many games on the market are melodramatic doom and gloom. It is refreshing to know that games such as Saints Row IV are built on the idea that people should have some [email protected]$^ing fun while playing a game. For that, I say thank you to Saints Row IV : purple d*ldo bat and all.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.4 Graphics
The presentation is a solid step forward from Saints Row: The Third . 4.0 Control
With the addition of super powers, the camera can really become irritating. 4.6 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Nolan North. ‘Nuff said. 3.9 Play Value
There’s a ton to do. Huge chunks of the game repeat, but you won’t care. 4.2 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|