Saints Row: The Third was an extremely successful game. Actually, it was one of the most absurd and completely random games I have ever played throughout my 20 years as a gamer. I never would have thought that there would be a game that was crazier than Saints Row: The Third, but I was wrong. Saints Row IV takes the series to a whole new level of absurdity and it changes the Saints Row franchise altogether. While the characters and the storyline felt like a Saints Row game, the gameplay switch was quite drastic.
Saints Row IV starts as our character saves the world from a nuclear threat and become the President of the United States. Many characters that we are familiar with are part of the staff. Shortly after all of this, Earth is invaded by the Zin empire. Their leader named Zinyak captures the Saints and places them in different simulations. We’re then off on a mission to rescue our friends and stop the Zin empire. The premise of the game is intriguing and it’s great to see a familiar city such as Steelport, but the city isn’t really full of life. The simulation doesn’t quite capture the magic of Steelport from the previous Saints Row.
This time around, players get to use superpowers! This sounds great in theory and the powers are awesome, but they make the game feel a little bland at times. Sure, there are plenty of advantages with superpowers, but it makes every other aspect of the game feel unnecessary. Why should I spend tons of cache on ammo and weapon upgrades when I can just obliterate the world with my powers? Your character can shoot fireballs, ice, lighting, use telekinesis, drain health, control enemies, slam the ground, suspend enemies in the air and you force fields made of fire. This makes the player near invincible and renders plenty of weapons useless. There are “required” segments where weapons must be used, but for the most part you don’t NEED them. The segments where you’re stripped of powers and must play the game normally just aren’t fun because it’s easy to see just how weak you are as a person without Superpowers.
Another negative comes in the form of the Spaceship (hub) in which you interact with the main characters and jump back into the simulation. Many of the side missions require you to meet up with your crew on the ship. That means you have to keep going through loading screens twice. One time to enter and another time to leave the ship. It’s okay at first, but it quickly becomes VERY tedious. It came to the point where I almost didn’t want to do side missions just so I could avoid all of the loading screens.
The side missions also lack creativity. They usually revolve around hacking into a store, killing Zen aliens, completing Chop Shop missions or uploading viruses. Each side mission involves a variation of these five activities. While they may get boring after a while, the perks are worth it. In addition to getting new powers, you can also unlock infinite ammo for your guns as well as unlimited sprinting, etc. Each crew member has a loyalty mission that takes you through a personal battle they are going through. It’s great “bonding time” between your character and your crew mate. These missions add diversity and humor into the Saints Row Universe.
The game also suffers from annoying slowdowns and lag. Most of these occurrences happen during autosaves. They don’t always happen, but these moments are frustrating. Sometimes the game even freezes during autosaves. When the game gets hectic, the game slows down constantly and that takes away from all of the action happening onscreen.
While it may seem that I’m just trashing this game, I really did enjoy Saints Row IV. For all of its setbacks, there are plenty of things to love about the game. First off, the game keeps its sense of humor. Saints Row IV is insanely funny. From the dialogue, to the set pieces and especially because of all of the parodies, Saints Row IV’s highest praise is definitely the game’s ability to make the player laugh. The game also has plenty of homages to famous movies/TV shows. The Matrix, Leave It To Beaver and Armageddon are a few examples. There are a few gameplay parodies and spoilerish moments that I won’t ruin, but fans of 70′s-80′s Sci-fi as well as old coin-op arcade games will be very happy with some of these segments. They are unforgettable and perfect sections to play through.
The superpowers give Saints Row IV a fresh new feel. That’s both good and bad. While it’s awesome to jump hundreds of feet into the air and travel quickly around Steelport, the powers make your character feel indestructible. In fact, it’s almost impossible to die. I only died once and that was due to a glitch during one of the levels. The game is surprisingly easy even on the hardest difficulty. Superpowers aren’t always required so if you want to have a more traditional experience, you should just stick to weapons.
There are fights against extremely powerful aliens named Wardens that are basically tank enemies. They have a shield around them that can only be deactivated by using a Superpower. Also, when your notoriety becomes so high, killing a Warden wipes your slate clean bringing peace around you. Other than these enemies, you can basically play the game how you want. Whether that’s with all Superpowers or with all weapons, there are plenty of play styles to adopt in Saints Row IV.
Activities are back and better than ever. My personal favorite activity has always been Insurance Fraud and Saints Row IV makes me love it even more. It’s always great to jump in front of cars. This time around, you can fly into buildings and fling your character halfway across the game world. It’s an extremely fun activity that never gets old. There are also new activities called Rifts that basically put your powers to the test. These are really fun, but there are not enough of them to really appreciate these activities. In terms of weapons, you’ve already seen most of what Saints Row IV has to offer, but there are weapons such as the Dubstep gun and the Disintegrator that bring plenty of WOW moments into the game.
Saints Row IV is the latest sequel in the franchise. For a game series that initially came out to rival Grand Theft Auto, the series slowly distanced itself from the game it set out to take down. That’s not a bad thing because Saints Row is no longer a GTA clone. Instead, the Saints Row games have a life of their own. Saints Row IV brought the series into new territory. While I wish that the Saints Row games would come back down to reality, Saints Row IV proved that this series will continue to go above and beyond to completely amaze players. With this game we were introduced to superpowers, but now I’m wondering… How much crazier will things get when the inevitable Saints Row 5 comes out?