We’ve written two Saints Row IV reviews, because this game is good enough to deserve double the love. We still can’t decide whether or not the end of that previous sentence is naughty/innuendo-y enough to do Saints Row justice. Does it really matter, anyway? Read on! And when you’re done with that, read Tarryn’s review here!
Before I start this review I have to say that this is the first game in the Saints Row series that I’ve played. I must admit that I’ve never seen something like it before. Nothing comes close to the utter madness that is the essence of this game. You’ll see massive explosions, scantily clad women, awesome fighting scenes and one-liners that could have only been written by a five-year-old. This barely scratches the surface of the shallow insanity this game thrives on.
You play as the president of the USA, who is also the head of a powerful gang known as The Saints. This role probably fits him better than the leader of the free nations, a job he doesn’t take seriously at all. But this isn’t America as you know it: this is an America where ANYTHING is possible. An alien race known as the Zin invades Earth and takes you hostage. You are then inserted into an Earth simulation where most of the game takes place. But not to worry – you’re not alone. You have a few allies including an overly-amorous nerd girl, a wannabe superhero and… Keith David. That’s right, Hollywood actor Keith David lends you a helping hand to destroy the evil alien menace. These are just a few of the many vivid and lovable characters you’ll have the pleasure of meeting.
Saints Row IV plays like a loose mix between GTA, Need for Speed and Prototype, with various not-so-subtle homages to The Matrix. It obtains a certain originality by, well, being unoriginal. It mixes various influences of these games into a single explosive package and then rounds it off by slapping on a distinctive sticker of Saints Row absurdity. It removes frustrating aspects of other games by adding interesting ways to overcome them. For example, instead of running or riding countless miles to reach your objective you have superpowers to leap vast distances, as well as glide and sprint at lightning speeds. Alternatively, you can just use your array of alien ships to fly there. Both of these options are open for use relatively early in the game.
There is a large amount of customization available in Saints Row IV. At the start of the game, after an amusing intro, you’re able to create your character. Here you are faced with endless options, from the very mundane to the outright insane. You can, for example, apply skin colours ranging from the expected selection to basically any colour imaginable. You can even set the size of your “manhood” as a male character. Beyond that, you can customize and upgrade your character traits, cars, clothing, guns and gang members.
You also have a few elemental powers at your disposal, which are easy enough to use. When you’re faced with a horde of bloodthirsty enemies in mascot outfits, cycling through these powers can be a bit of a hassle. Unfortunately I don’t possess the nimble fingers the game expects. But not to fret, you’ll have the most interesting arsenal of weapons I’ve ever witnessed in a game to offset that.
Saints Row IV boasts a large playable area that you are free to roam in whichever way you please. There’s a range of shops to be found, mostly used for customization such as clothing stores, plastic surgeons, garages and gun stores. You are also provided with many different modes of transportation. When it comes to driving cars you won’t have any problem drifting corners at full speed. Bikes are a little harder to control but it’s nothing unmanageable. When ground-based travel gets too boring you can always just hop into an alien spaceship and rain down destruction from the skies.
One aspect of the game I liked was the amount of groovy tunes to be heard. You have the option to flip through various radio stations even when you’re not in a vehicle. No matter what your musical tastes I can promise you’ll find something worth listening to, with the radio stations covering a wide range of genres from reggae to dubstep to rock to hip hop. Each store also has its own distinctive tune. Music is one thing that was given a lot of attention in Saints Row IV. It has some of the phattest [Wiehahn’s pulled out the “ph”. SHIT JUST GOT REAL. – Ed.] beats I’ve heard in my years of gaming. It even features a weapon called the “Dupstep Gun” (a gun that fires out brilliant neon-coloured lasers while blasting some hardcore dubstep) which is probably one of the coolest and most unique things I’ve ever seen.
As far as graphical quality goes, Saints Row isn’t going to win any awards. Realism may not be the aim of this game but with close inspection it falls short compared to the graphical capability of recent games. For example, explosions aren’t much more than tiny orange blocks. When you start playing the game there is a preset film grain filter on. Though this is slightly amusing, it takes away the visual crispness of the game. Seeing that the game’s visual quality is nothing to brag about I would suggest disabling it.
Saints Row IV incorporates everything that’s wrong with today’s society: shallowness, violence, stupidity, killing of innocents and much more. Yet it’s wrapped in such a humorous and amusing package that it all seems okay. It contains an entertaining amalgam of fun compared to most recent games that aim for realism and turn out to be incredibly serious. Though Saints Row IV lacks the intellectual potency of such games it manages to remain a game in every sense, unlike many recent high-end titles that turn out to be more of an interactive film. There is never a dull moment in this game and it is certain to keep you entertained.