Review by Bobby Blackwolf

Game Review: Saints Row IV (PC)

Game Review: Saints Row IV (PC)

The video game industry is growing up. It's maturing into magnificent pieces of art where important stories are told and breathtaking set pieces are shown. More and more companies are taking their games seriously to cash in on the "grown-up" sensibilities of the audience.

Which is why I'm glad that Saints Row IV exists, because it is none of that - it merely wishes to be Fanservice for Gamers.




The Third Street Saints Are Back


Once again, you are The Boss of the Third Street Saints, a former street gang turned international pop culture superstars. Saints Row: The Third cemented the idea that this was less about organized crime and more about having fun being a badass, and Saints Row IV takes that to the next logical step - being even more of a badass and having more fun.

Hail To The Boss
Hail To The Boss
Five years prior to the events of Saints Row IV, the Saints are called in by the British government (MI6, to be exact) to take out a terrorist threatening to destroy the world. After a mission modeled after both Metal Gear Solid and Call of Duty (complete with door breach) you take out the bad guy and save the world to the tune of the first of many extremely appropriate song choices. This, obviously, wins you the adoration of America and you get elected President.

Fast forward to the present, and your cabinet (all former gang members) inform you that you suck as a President with just 20% approval rating. Thankfully, as you're walking to a press conference, aliens attack and abduct members of your cabinet, causing you to arm yourself to the teeth with the weapons you stashed in the Oval Office, because that's what you'd do if you were President.

Sadly, Emperor Zinyak of the Zin Empire has different plans and captures you as well. In an attempt to break you, he puts you in a Matrix-style simulation that does not fit at all, and then sends you to a virtual Steelport where the Saints no longer exist.

With some help from outside of the simulation (much like The Matrix) you are rescued and are able to jack back in to help save your gang and take the fight to Zinyak.

Superpowers In My Open World


WHEEEE
WHEEEE
Because Saints Row IV takes place mostly in a "simulation", this allows for superpowers to exist in the world. As you collect data clusters (think the agility orbs from Crackdown, complete with audible ring that makes you want to get them all) you can enhance any number of magic powers while inside the simulation. You can sprint at high speeds, jump high and long distances, run up walls, freeze or burn enemies, throw objects around, you name it and it's there.

Being able to run and jump means that you will rarely drive a car after the first few hours. While the carjacking and driving systems from the previous games are here, once you're able to run faster than the cars, you won't bother with vehicles all that much to get from place to place.

The combat abilities work well to compliment the gunplay, however I spent most of the game using the fire element. As I collected more data clusters and gained more XP, I was able to blast a larger area, and then as my enemies died, they would explode, causing a chain reaction with any other enemies closeby. I was DEADLY. Later on, they introduced a buff superpower where I could make my bullets shoot fire as well, but I never felt like messing with rapid changing of the superpowers (which is done by the d-pad) to use it, especially since I already had a good rhythm with what I was doing.

Umm...
Umm...
There are also special guns that can only happen in a simulation, such as the much talked about Dubstep Gun, which are cute and funny for a couple of minutes, but then I relegated them out of my inventory to make room for more functional weapons. I kept opting for the alien version of the weapons because instead of reloading, there was a cooldown timer - so as long as you didn't overheat, you could pretty much continually fire.

The Virtual Steelport


Hackers Gonna Hack
Hackers Gonna Hack
As in previous Saints Row games, you have shops to take over and activities to do. Instead of using money to take over shops, you now have to "hack" them using a minigame extremely similar to the hacking minigame in Bioshock. You will have to do this minigame to even open up the shop, not just get a discount, so they aren't always optional.

The activities are fun a few times, but to me, get a little redundant, even though they raise the difficulty for some of them. Some get downright annoying, such as the Insurance Fraud mode where you throw yourself into traffic and try to get hit as many times as you can to collect more money (like Pain.) It's funny to watch the first time, but not for three straight minutes of watching yourself get hit and then magically hop back up right before the next car is going to run over you (which then doesn't count.)

Satan's Ladder
Satan's Ladder
There are also races (where you have an unlimited supersprint ability and are hitting checkpoints) and superhero fights where you can only use your superpowers against waves of enemies. There are platforming puzzles where you're either jumping across to other platforms or climbing a tower. Then, there are the instances of clearing out Zin troops at certain flashpoints or hotspots, which I started dreading.

See, the great thing about the simulation is that it's controlled by the Zin - everybody except for you. So, lets say an activity wants you to clear out 12 Zin troops. Simple enough, right? But, then the cops come, because you have notoriety. And then, portals appear to bring in more Zin troops to back up the cops (which turned from human to Zin.) Now, you've cleared out the original 12 and secured the flashpoint, but now you're at level four notoriety and everyone's after you. You can't hide because they're aliens, and you can never wipe them out because they'll just keep opening portals and bringing more people in.

RUN, BOSS, RUN!
RUN, BOSS, RUN!
Your only option, until you get bonuses that decrease notoriety as you run away, is to run after a little yellow ball that looks like the Space Core from Portal and catch him - even though he goes faster than you. By catch him, I mean you have to hit a button while sprinting in the exact split second you're close enough to smash him, and that will wipe all notoriety. What should be something simple (execution of 12 sorry aliens) now becomes a frustrating several minutes of trying to stop the entire Zin Empire from killing you while you're running after a yellow ball. All I wanted to do was murder 12 of their soldiers!

If you do decide to stay and fight, however, you might be fighting the camera and the perspective. There is no lock-on feature, so trying to focus your firepower on one enemy while being stunned and blown around gets frustrating. This is mostly evident with enemies where you can only hit them on the back of their head, and you have to wait for them to target you before you can run back there and take them out. Many times, by the time I was able to readjust the camera, they were already turning back toward me and I'd have to try it again.

At least when a Warden appears, the miniboss removes all other enemies. Once you defeat him, your notoriety is back down to zero. They're actually easier to handle than the swarm.

Fanservice for Gamers


Donkey Beer
Donkey Beer
All that aside, the simple fact is that you're going to love Saints Row IV because of how many winks and nudges it does to you as a gamer. Even when creating your character, nods to other games are apparent, including being able to explicitly choose Nolan North as your voice actor. Because he's already in every game ever made, so why not? (Sadly, the self-referential Nolan North script only seems to have lines in the opening act in the White Crib. The rest of the time, he plays the character straight.) If you don't want Nolan, the other choices aren't bad - Troy Baker (Booker DeWitt from Bioshock Infinite), Robin Atkin Downes (he will always be Byron from Babylon 5 to me) and Laura Bailey (Rayne from Bloodrayne) are some of other choices.

Even in the game itself, there are massive nods to other games. The great thing about being in a simulation is that they don't just have to simulate the open world game - they can do just about anything. The missions where you rescue your other team members all take place in other games, including previous games in the Saints Row franchise. Yes, Johnny Gat IS back, yes, they DO explain it, and yes, his rescue mission IS amazing. There is also one other nod to popular culture which I did not see coming at all, but is equally amazing, especially considering some of Keith David's previous work.

There's also no way to forget that, when you're out of the simulation, you're on a ship. With your other gang members, which are all at specific locations on the ship, just waiting for you. Mass Effect fans will know what that means...
PRESS X FOR MAXIMUM FUN
PRESS X FOR MAXIMUM FUN


Sights and Sounds


The hardest part to review in Saints Row IV is the graphics, and it's because I would keep getting confused. I'm playing the PC version of the game, and am always wary of my graphics card glitching out. The issue lies that, as a part of the narrative, the more of the virtual Steelport you take over, the glitchier the graphics will get in that section. You'll start to see broken textures, deformed models, pixellation galore - and it's all a part of the game. It made me really believe that my graphics card was about to glitch out. When you look past that, the game looks great, and is definitely an improvement over The Third.

Avoid this guy's station, though.
Avoid this guy's station, though.
A lot of love went into the music stations, and you'd think that it was wasted because you spend so little time in a car now. This is a SIMULATION, though, which means that the radio stations are wired directly into your brain, so you can listen to your favorite radio station no matter where you are. Several of the music choices are also used during missions at key points, all to great hilarity. (For those who were fans of the All I Got singalong from The Third, just be patient and do all the loyalty missions.)

The voice cast outside of the players voice is also stellar. Keith David (who voiced Julius in previous Saints Row games) is back, but plays himself. Neil Patrick Harris has an all too short cameo dealing with multiple Shaundis, and yes, Daniel Dae Kim is back playing Johnny Gat. They all do an excellent job with the script.

The Verdict


Turrets on the White Crib lawn!
Turrets on the White Crib lawn!
I wound up not getting the "true" ending at first, after about 12 hours of play. It wasn't until I conferred with a colleague after he completed it that I realized that I should have spent a few more hours doing loyalty missions to get the "full" story. On a first playthrough, you're looking at probably 12-15 hours to get the true ending, more than that if you want to get 100%. Other than a few frustrating times with the generic shooting of aliens, and a couple of unexplained and unrepeatable crashing to desktops, I really had a fun time with Saints Row IV. The fanservice was amazing, and I spent a lot of time saying "No, they're not about...Are they? YES THEY ARE OH MY GOD" at the references.

It's really a shame that this is releasing around the time of many other blockbuster titles, because I'm afraid it's going to get buried. It's crass, it's insulting, but it does it in a purely Saints Row way, so if you're okay with that, this is definitely something to get. This is ridiculously over the top - even more so than The Third - and while that may anger fans of the first two Saints Row games, it made my time very enjoyable.

The only question left on my mind is: Where do they go from here?

Version Reviewed: PC (played with Xbox 360 Controller)
Acquisition Method: Review code provided by publisher

Our Grade:
A-
The Good:
  • Fanservice for Gamers - the nods to other games and genres are plentiful and hilarious
  • Music and voice actor selections are top notch
  • Superpowers and aliens just seem to fit in the universe
The Bad:
  • Continually respawning enemies with a frustrating method of getting rid of them
  • Some activities are boring after the initial laughter wears off
  • Camera gets difficult to control when in a swarm of enemies

Bobby Blackwolf is the host of The Bobby Blackwolf Show on the VOG Network, lead developer of the website, and lead GM for VOG: The Game. Follow him on Twitter at @BobbyBlackwolf

Review by - 8/14/2013 6:01 AM690 views

Your Responses

LOKI
LOKI
DISSENTING OPINION

Grade: C+
After playing nearly 40 hours of the PC version, 100% complete offline, I can say this game certainly is a let down. Most of the game is a grind-fest, with a small portion of the middle (loyalty missions) actually being interesting. Superpowers would seem fresh to the series if they hadn't already done it in The Third. Sadly, this game feels like Saints Row 3.5 (ironically that's how the internal file structure refers to it). It feels rushed and lazy.

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Comments

ObiWanJabronE
ObiWanJabronE
8/15/2013 8:27 AM

2 0

Reply
Very good review. I can't leave an opinion yet, as I won't get my copy until the 23rd of August. But I will say this, I can't wait for my Super Dangerous Wub Wub Edition! Best name for a special edition this year.

As I type this, all I see on my Facebook feed is about GTA V's online play. I'm thinking to myself "Go away already, and give me Saints Row IV".
DarkTetsuya
DarkTetsuya
8/14/2013 12:24 PM

1 0

Reply
I've only really played a little bit of the predecessor... but if SR4 is more of that but cranked up to 12, it sounds like it'll be an even more epic game. Great review!
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