The first Saints Row I played was number 3, just earlier this year. I knew absolutely nothing about the series, and was pleasantly surprised at how much fun and over the top the game was. Imagine my delight when I heard another trip into this franchise was on its way, bringing with it some super powers and aliens! Will it live up to its predecessor? Or has the series run dry?
The game kicks off sometime after the events of the third game, you are tasked with stopping a nuke landing on the face of your country. Fast forward five years and hey presto! You’re now the president of the United States. Fast forward some more and OMG ALIEN INVASION! Say hello to the Zin and their leader Zinyak, the alien scum that has taken your home away. He enslaves the entire human race, placing them in a virtual simulation of their worst nightmare and makes them live it again and again.
After some help from Kinzie (everyone’s favourite computer boffin), you escape your nightmare and find yourself in another simulation, very much reminiscent of the Matrix. Your body is in the real world, and the majority of the game takes place in the virtual one. Welcome to fake Steelport, the city you know and love blended with the alien scum that put you there in the first place.
Areas are literally the same, almost copy pasted from the third game, but with a brand new alien paint job. With some manipulation of the simulation, you are granted super human abilities, and by Zimos pimp stick, it is awesome! Just pause for a second and imagine the love child of Infamous and Grand Theft Auto, and you have Saints Row IV.
This is not to say that there are no minor niggles. Sure the super sprinting and power jumping makes traversing this city as seamless and fun as ever, but some of the powers you unlock just seem so unimaginative and boring. In Infamous for example, the developers used one element (electricity) and gave it so many different applications as the game progressed, keeping it fresh and fun.
It’s just a tad disappointing to think that Volition have had some really insane and awesome ideas for their previous games, but stumbled when putting together the powers for Saints Row IV. Telekinesis? Revolutionary! Fire/Ice/Mind control blasts? Exciting as a brick, but hey maybe that’s just me.
That’s where my next gripe comes in. The pacing of the game is off by a mile. What makes a sandbox game fun in my eyes is the fact that as the game progresses, you get access to more vehicles and abilities, unlocking the playable area piece by piece.
Within an hour or two of playing Saints Row IV, I had the ability to run up walls, making even the tallest skyscraper scalable. I got access to a flying vehicle in the same time frame, meaning I had the choice of simply using it to blow up enemies the easy way, instead of fighting on the ground and working for my kills.
Let’s not mention the fact that I can choose to super spring and leap away from any fight I don’t really like, making the game too easy to the point where I only died once in my whole playthrough. Consider this: my entire playtime, spanning the main story as well as every single side quest clocked in at around 19 hours. Either I myself am the best gamer in the world, or the game was too easy. I can’t play minesweeper to save my life, so the latter must be true.
The weapons themselves are fun to play with, but again, seem overpowered to some extent. Just about all the alien weaponry has unlimited ammunition. All you need to do is let them recharge quickly before you continue your destruction.
God mode? Unlimited ammunition? As child I loved using these sorts of cheats in every game I played, but nearly always took them off because they watered the experience down completely.
The main missions themselves are varied and exciting, but the side quests are repetitive, and I mean, repetitive. Saints Row has a multitude of activities scattered all over Steelport, and initially, they are enjoyable. Doing these activities gains you control over the area in which you find it, boosting your income and influence.
As the game progresses ,you will find and rescue members of your crew from Zinyak’s evil simulations. Where do the side quests stem from? “Oh thank you for saving me boss! I’m so pissed off, I wanna kill some Zin and stuff yo! Let’s do this activity and that, again and again and again! Oh when you’re done you can have some money, experience, and maybe a new gun”. These activities all have one purpose, disrupting the simulation and making life for Zinyak as difficult as possible.
So how does one disrupt the simulation? Oh, by racing through it, destroying stuff, stealing cars, destroying stuff. Did I mention that you get to destroy stuff? Now, you might be thinking that this isn’t so bad, is it?
Honestly, it’s not, but if you’re like me, you want to finish all side quests before carrying on with the main one. The main quests are actually pretty darn awesome, giving nods to other gaming franchises, and being varied themselves. The side quests? They get repetitive very quickly.
After reading the above, you may think this game is terrible. Here’s the thing though, it really isn’t. Its Saints Row, looking better than ever with some work done under the hood. The trademark humour is there, delivering some hilarious one liners and some genuinely funny dialogue.
There are all your favourite radio stations to suit your every listening need (WUB WUB WUB WUB WUB WUB!). There’s the usual crazy character customisation to let you create whatever the hell you want. The enemies may not be tough and may not carry enough variation or challenge, but mowing through them Saints Row style remains as addictive as ever.