Review – Saints Row IV

By: Louis Edwards

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The release of Saints Row IV is officially less than a week away, but we have been balls deep in the action for a week and are now ready to tell you what we think. Is the game ready to be unleashed upon the world, or should Volition and Deep Silver be impeached for trying to pass this off as a video game?

Read on to find out.

 

The Saints Row franchise first came to life in 2006 as an open world, action-sandbox style game, that allowed you to personalize your main character with their own style of clothes, ink and custom weapons. From the very start, the Saints Row franchise created systems that became genre defining, such as their respect system, their wide variety of customized clothing lines, the personal gang customizations, custom cars, motorcycles, and aircraft. There shouldn’t be any wonder as to why new releases fly off of the shelves when launched. Saints Row IV looks to not only build upon the previous successes, but also add in some new game mechanics to the already fun mix.

I am on top of the world...

I am on top of the world…

Saints Row IV starts up where Saints Row: The Third left off, following the “Save Shaundi” ending. You’ll get to play through and stop the launch of the nuclear weapon being launched by the asshat Cyrus Temple. You throw caution to the wind, climb aboard the nuclear warhead as it launches, laboriously climb up the missile, all the while stopping to tear at the navigation wires as you progress. You single handedly save the world, but instead of going out with a bang as everyone seems to think you are about to do, you jump off of the warhead at the last second, free fall into Washington DC, and land right where you belong. Sitting behind the big desk in the Oval Office. As you look around at your new digs you realize that the only things missing are a wet bar, a couple of stripper poles, and some able bodied strippers.

Fast forward five years and you are introduced to your current administration. All of your old Saints friends are there, and you even found a job for Oleg, albeit a violent one (the big guy does make a great bouncer). As you work your way through the halls of the West Wing, politicians are griping about this and that, others are wanting to party on the weekend, and there’s even a couple of bills for you to choose from to get pushed through Congress. Being the President seems a little boring. Maybe a few more stripper poles could liven the place up.

You finally make it to the briefing room for your daily press conference when the roof is tore open and an alien race known as the Zin, led by Emperor Zinyak, descend upon the room. Zinyak snatches up multiple members of your administration and you dash to the Oval Office to arm yourself with the weapons of freedom that will right this wrong and make ‘Merica safe once again……….

Yeah. Sounded good when you said it. Right?

Things don’t quite work out like that. Zinyak turns out to be a hell of a lot harder to take out than you thought, and you and everyone one in your administration end up in Zinyak’s virtual world of Steelport. Think of it as Neo and The Matrix, because that’s pretty much what it is. The game goes off the deep end and waaaaaay over the top as you enter into a world of niceness and pleasantness that could only be summed up by Leave it to Beaver. Lucky for you, Kinzie has already figured out a way to disrupt the machine and get you out of the depths of this pleasant hellhole.

Once free from the machine, you’ll have to run around naked for a bit (all pixelated of course) and fight the good fight until help arrives. Eventually you are introduced to the interface that will allow you to jack into the machine and start creating chaos and destruction all in the hopes of disrupting the machine and giving Kinzie electronic holes she can use to hack into it and give you powers that you had only dreamed about. While jacked in, you are given quests to complete that will not only help Kinzie, but just might help you get the band back together.

Need some new ink?

Need some new ink?

The story for Saints Row IV is well written, with more references to pop culture icons, movies, songs, cliches, TV shows and bands than you can shake a dildo bat at. Some games have tried going this route before and failed miserably (we won’t give any names here cuz they know who they are) but Saints Row IV hits the mark almost every time, they even poke a little fun at themselves. While the story might not win any awards for drama, it is still very entertaining overall and the humor will have you chuckling often. Fans of the series will see many familiar faces, and might recognize certain areas from some of the side quests, but we won’t be spoiling anything here.

Gameplay will easily keep you occupied for twelve, fifteen, maybe twenty hours or more, depending on your level of ADHD and how big of a completionist you are. Once you are jacked into the virtual world of Steelport, you are given an open world to explore with a mini-map always present in the lower left of your screen. Icons will show up anywhere there’s a store or activity nearby. Those frigging icons are everywhere and seem to just keep screaming at us. It’s very easy to get side tracked from your main quest and find yourself all the way across the city thanks to those damn icons. Pulling up your menu (press Select on the PS3) will give you access to a map of Steelport, as well as a few other items. Using this map will allow you to set custom way points which can come in handy when you seem to constantly be running around like a chicken with your head cut off. This may sound like a gripe, but in all actuality, these things make the game even more enjoyable.

Stores are spread out around the city and include clothes stores, auto shops, tattoo parlors, plastic surgeons, and weapons dealers. You won’t be able to just walk in the front door just yet, though. Each of the thirty four stores will have to be hacked in order for you to gain access. Hacking will have you playing a mini game with an electrical circuit with a limited number of pieces to complete that circuit. Depending on the difficulty you decide to play the game on, you are given a set amount of time to complete the hack. If you fail, all hell will break lose as police and aliens will descend upon your location to take you out.

Activities

Activities

As you help Kinzie disrupt the system, she will start to unlock Super Powers for you to use. Super Sprint and Super Jump will be your first two, and they will eventually make driving obsolete. Scattered through the city you will see these glowing cylindrical shapes that are known as Data Clusters. These clusters are to be collected and then will be used to upgrade your powers. Your Super Jump, fully upgraded, will make a thirty story jump seem like a leap over a picket fence. You’ll also unlock a glide feature that will almost make you fly, and covering ground from above just might become you favorite mode of transportation.

Snapshot_20130813_123303

Upgrades

Now back to these clusters. They are literally everywhere. There are 1255 of them and once you start chasing them down, it can turn into an addiction that can’t be stopped. Knowing you’ll need thirty or so for an upgrade, or maybe sixty for a couple of upgrades, you will probably find yourself jumping from roof to roof, and billboard to billboard, trying to gather up as many as you can. You won’t be able to get them all, though, until you have unlocked three more powers. We found that gathering these clusters in moderation was the most time friendly way to go about it. The game will autosave after each cluster is acquired, and you can make a mental note of any that you may decide to zip on past. There will be plenty of time later, and upgraded powers will make them easier to acquire. Just remember: Moderation is your friend.

Our only real complaint for Saints Row IV is the quality of some of the cut scenes. It’s odd, but the earlier scenes almost looked PS2-ish but the later scenes looked great. The graphics for the game play are great, with only a few slow downs when there was a lot going on at one time on the screen. We didn’t run into any glitches or crashes and the game overall looked nice. The City of Steelport is pretty big and the level of detail, right down to the picket fences in the ‘burbs, was a nice touch. While the cars aren’t licensed machines that you might recognize, they are still sporty, stylish, or just tough, depending on what you choose to jump in. There’s enough of a difference between jumping into a little sportster or a full size SUV that you can tell some thought was put into the vehicles themselves.

The weapons you’ll get to choose from go from basic to absurd. This is a Saints Row game so that is to be expected. Weapons can be upgraded at arms dealers, and fully upgraded weapons sport unlimited ammo. That can come in handy when the entire world seems to be out to get you. You’ll have access to pistols, rifles, shotguns, alien weapons, a sword, a bat, a dildo bat, and other weapons. All of these can be upgraded, and upgraded weapons make a big difference. maybe not so much with that weird shaped bat, but still, it helps most of the time.

The sights, sounds, and music are exactly what you would expect from a Saints Row game. While there are some of those Dubstep station on your radio, there’s also something for just about everyone on there. The music does a great job of matching the city and matching your style of gameplay, whatever that style maybe.

Thanks to the glory of the internet, and internet connected consoles and PCs, you can keep track of all of your death and destruction online at SaintsRow.com. Even though the launch of SRIV is still a few days away, game tracking has been active since we got our review copy last week. While we haven’t been able to play online with friends yet (Xbox users already have that feature from what I understand) we have been able to track our progress. The website tracks just about everything you can imagine and even keeps your kill count for you, broken down by who (or what?) you killed.

AlienKillCount

Once you connect to the website you can connect your console or PC account to your SaintsRow.com account. This gives you the ability to browse through all of the Saints Row characters that have been created and have them queued and ready to download to your game machine of choice the next time you start playing. With so many customization options available to you, there’s really no telling what people can create.

Since we weren’t able to try out the multiplayer just yet, we will revisit this review and post a separate mini-review on that aspect once the game launches and/or once multiplayer is unlocked for the PS3.

Saints Row IV is more than just an action-adventure game. It has RPG elements, it has platforming elements, it has driving elements, it has weird elements with weird shaped bats. The game is almost over the top, but Volition took a step back from the edge of absurdness and created a game that, while not exactly family friendly, is a lot of fun to play. The language is rough, the sexual innuendos are spread through out, but there seemed to be a line that Volition wouldn’t cross. That’s a good thing.

Well done Volition. Well done.

9

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