[Review] Saints Row 4

ESRB:M
ONLINE:Yes - 2 Player Co-Op Campaign
INSTALL:Mandatory [4.5GB - PS3]
RELEASE DATE:August 20, 2013 [North America], August 23, 2013 [Worldwide]
PLATFORM:Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC
PUBLISHER:Deep Silver
DEVELOPER:Volition
ONLINE PASS:Yes [$9.99]

Story

Saints Row 4 takes place not long after the events of Saints Row: The Third. The game opens with the Saints embarking on a mission to stop a terrorist threat, lead by Cyrus Temple [The former STAG leader].

Pierce, Shaundi and The Boss [The Protagonist] are called for this mission, assisting MI-6 agent Asha Odekar and her contact – the former Decker, and one of The Syndicate from SR3, Matt Miller.

Temple has gone insane after his defeat during the events of Saints Row 3, and is plotting to destroy Washington D.C. with a nuclear strike. The Boss manages to kill Cyrus, but not before he sets the nuke to launch.

A Terminator 2 reference later, and after a bit of running and gunning – you find yourself climbing up the nuke, dismantling it in midair while your team chimes in on the radio with thoughts of how much you mean to them, and how much they’re going to miss you.

All while Aerosmith’s “Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” plays in the background.

After dismantling the nuke, and having it detonate safely in the air, you fly down – with a badass thumbs up to the camera – and crash land in the Oval Office of the White House, directly into the President’s seat. After which, you are alerted that you’ve unlocked not only the adoration of the country, but also the Presidency.

Fast forward a few years – The Boss has been elected as the PotUS with members of the Saints – new and old, acting as his/her cabinet. During a walk-n-talk “West Wing” style segment, you get to make decisions on whether to Cure Cancer, or End World Hunger, Punching a dickhead, or punching a dick IN the head, and hanging out after the press conference.

These choices don’t matter – they’re just there to give you something humorous to do while you make your way down the hall, and makes things “Saints-y”. This made me a little sad, as I had hoped these choices would have some kind of effect on the game – if only something minor.

Once you reach the press conference, all hell breaks loose. The Zin attack and we’re introduced to Zinyak – the main villain and Emperor of the Zin. It’s here that the game really takes off – everyone is abducted by the Zin and forced into a simulation – ala The Matrix. Each character is put into their own personal hell that they are forced to live over and over.

I won’t go into much more detail on the plot from here, as it’s actually a really good story. It’s very smartly written – they’ve ditched the sex jokes for a much more clever script this time around. The game references countless sci-fi classics – Terminator, Alien, RoboCop, the list goes on.

Movies aren’t the only targets here either – it even references other games, including Metal Gear Solid & Splinter Cell for one mission, and by far the best throwback to old school gaming I’ve ever seen in a game.

And yes, Johnny Gat is indeed back.

I know many people are disappointed that Saints Row is no longer a gang-based crime drama – but I really don’t think it would have reached the level it has today if it stayed that route. It was always overshadowed by GTA in its early days – It was always “that somewhat crazier version of San Andreas“.

i do really appreciate the love they’ve really shown for the series here as well – constant references and missions relating to the previous entries, characters returning from the first game that haven’t been seen since – it’s all really nice.

Like a love letter of sorts. And given that they’ve said this is the last game in this story, it seems like a last great hurrah.

The story here is also very self aware. The Protagonist constantly wonders what the hell is going on, never understands any of it, and doesn’t hold back in making it known that they think most of the reasoning behind everything is absolute BS – as they should, because it is.

The fourth wall is all but non-existent here.

It’s not a life changing experience or anything like that. It’s just a great time, filled with witty writing and an ironically stereotypical villain – the “I’d rather break you than kill you outright”, get-caught-monologuing variety.

It’s also fairly lengthy – clocking in at roughly 10 hours or so [20+ if you want the “better” ending.]

Presentation

Saints Row 4 marginally improves upon the engine present in SR3. It’s not a huge difference visually, but it does look better. I especially like the glitchy look of the Simulation – cars and pedestrians kind of buffer and pixelate randomly, building textures pixelate and do weird things, pedestrians glitch out with large eyes and deformed limbs after completing certain gameplay. These things happen more and more as you complete the campaign – effects of what you’ve been doing the entire time.

All nice touches.

That said, the game is not without its unintentional glitches, either. The framerate isn’t that great at times, other times it’s blazingly smooth. Audio glitches have happened on numerous occasions, I’ve seen important objects, like mission objectives, glitch out and fall through the world, or completely vanish, forcing me to reload.

Worst of all, the game crashed a few times – flat out froze up for no real reason, forcing a reboot. This was especially annoying on one of the final missions where I almost wasn’t able to finish the game because the next cutscene just wouldn’t load.

However, as bad as these things were, they thankfully weren’t that frequent. I had maybe 3 crashes in my entire 20 hours of playing, and most glitches fixed themselves after a few moments, or by restarting at the last checkpoint. These kinds of things are to be expected in an open world game.

Especially one that allows you to run at super speed and leap tall buildings in a single bound. Literally.

Speaking of – the powers all look great. I especially like the upgraded “Death From Above” that you get later on – which allows you to cause a nuclear explosion if you use it from a high enough altitude.

Gameplay

Not a big change from SR3 as far as controls or content go. You’ve still got a large open world full of things to do, and the controls still work nicely. Aiming is fairly simple – though gunplay feels a bit lackluster. I did like the Dubstep Gun – probably the most fun weapon in the game.

I do recommend slapping some Cache down on some upgrades to make it a bit more effective, though. It starts out pretty weak.

Also available are weapon skins. Unlike some games, where the skin just changes the weapons appearance – these skins actually change the weapon’s properties. They also reference a lot of famous, sci-fi weapons. Each of the skins changes the weapons sounds, rate of fire, projectiles, everything.

For example, the Dubstep Gun has 3 skins – each with a different dubstep track that plays. These different tracks all have different rhythms – which in turn means the weapon will fire its projectiles differently for each of them.

Cars seem to handle a bit better than they did in SR3, and there are more customization options for each of them – though they feel a bit pointless with your powers.

One other thing which I found nice, but it’s a really minor change – you can listen to any of the radio stations [or your own Mixtape of songs featured in the game], outside of the car, at anytime. The game also features interactive music – which is music that plays during specific missions instead of the radio stations – it helps to add a bit of dimension to these encounters.

Of course, you probably won’t be using your guns, or vehicles, very much anyway with all of the powers you have at your disposal. Super Speed, Super Jumping, Gliding, Elemental Blasts, Telekinesis, Super Stomp, and a few more.

Each of the powers has a slew of upgrades for them, and the powers are split into two categories – Active and Passive.

Active powers are those that you can use offensively – your Blasts, Telekinesis, etc. They need to recharge after each use. Passive ones are those like Super Speed and Super Jumping. Available all the time, no recharge required [Except for Sprinting/Gliding – but only at first.]

All of the Active powers have up to 3 different elements you can imbue them with – each of them giving the power a drastically different effect. For example – using the Fire buff ignites everyone around you, and anyone you come in close proximity with. The Lightning Buff causes bolts of lightning to spew from your body, hitting anyone near you, and arcing to enemies near THEM.

It’s a lot of fun using your powers.

However, you also get your powers fairly early in the game – and it does make a lot of the game pretty easy. That said – it seems the developers realized this – as there are at least a few mission which acknowledge this, and take them away from you – for the sake of “fairness”.

Late into the game, you also meet up with new hazards – like Power Suppression grenades, which take away your powers for a short while. In the real world, you have no powers at all – obviously.

I haven’t had a chance to try out the Co-Op just yet – but from what I’ve seen, it’s not any different from the single player campaign. I do wish there would have been some extra multiplayer modes – maybe an online, Super Powered Genkibowl or something.

Whore’d mode is also absent this time around, though no one is really going to miss that.

And yes, the dildo bat does make a return – take that as you will.

Replay Value

There’s plenty to do in simulated Steelport. Multiple variations of Mayhem [Tank, UFO, Mech, On-Foot, TK], Super Sprint races, Super-Powered Insurance Fraud [Which is SO much fun, and hilariously broken], plenty of missions [Though most of the Homie side missions are the same thing – go do some activities within the simulation].

If you playthrough the game, doing all of the Homie missions from the start, you’ll have 100% completion of the city of Steelport by the end of the game – much like it was in Saints Row 2.

However, there are still Challenges to take up – just like in SR3. Kill X Amount of Zin with X weapon, get Gold Medals in all events, travel X distance in certain vehicles, etc. If you really want 100% completion of the entire game, you’ll have a good bit to do.

Trophy/Achievement wise, this isn’t a hard Platinum/1000GS. It requires you to get 100% completion of the entire game, with a couple of extras thrown in – like jumping from the roof of the 3 count, to the Power Plant without touching the ground or any other rooftops/balconies.

It’ll take some time, but it’s nothing too difficult.

The Verdict

Flat out – this game is worth the $60 price tag. It’s an absolute blast, and the story is probably the best in the series. Yes, it’s ridiculous – but that’s the point. It knows what it is, and it doesn’t hold back. In a generation of games that are trying to be more mature [Which I love, don’t get me wrong – I’m very glad games have been growing up lately], Saints Row 4 is a breath of Saints Flow Grape Energy Drink scented fresh air.

It’s a game that’s meant to make you laugh. It’s meant to be fun. It’s the kind of game you play when you’re tired of saving the country from yet another terrorist threat, or dealing with relationships that require you to go bowling every twenty minutes.

When you want to wreck a city with Outkast’s “B.O.B.” blaring in the background – you pop in Saints Row 4.

Saints Row 4 is also the best Matrix game that never released.

Is it only a slight improvement over the previous game? Kind of, but it’s improved in all the right ways. Yes, it has its technical issues – but don’t let that stop you. The game is still extremely enjoyable.

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PROS CONS
  • A ton of customization options.
  • Powers are fun to use.
  • Listening to music outside of vehicles is awesome.
  • Infrequent, but sometimes game-breaking glitches.
  • Iffy framerate at times.
  • Some mechanics could be better.
  • FINAL VERDICT
    Click here or on the verdict image to the left for full disclosure of what these ratings mean!

    About James Headrick

    James is an aspiring game reviewer that plays primarily on the Playstation 3 & 4. He also works freelance as a graphic designer, doing print and branding based design.
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