Game Review: Saints Row IV – Shall I Compare Thee to a GTA

SaintsRowIV

Release Date: 2013

Developer(s): Volition and High Voltage Software

Publisher: Deep Silver

Platform(s): Windows, Xbox 360 and PS 3

Prior to this game, I had not played any of the other titles in the Saints Row franchise. And what a crying shame that was! I knew quite a bit about the other SRs but had never gotten the opportunity to play them. I could have just gotten the standard release, but who in their right mind would choose that over the GAME OF THE CENTURY EDITION?!  I got home, as excited as a child on Christmas morning. The game throws you right in, the tutorial section was great for story without feeling clunky. After you manage to heroically disarm a nuke in mid-launch, to the emotive lyrical genius of Aerosmith’s I don’t want to miss a thing, you suavely land in the Oval Office and promptly unlock the Adoration of America. What’s not to love?

The character customisation is so versatile and varied that you could lose a decent amount of time perfecting your style. The randomisation function shows you different preset facial features to choose from instead of trying to create these aspects from scratch. The great thing about this function, though not unique to this game, is its ability to create a plethora of believable looking characters. If you decide to employ whimsy, it is equally easy to create a complete crackpot, outlandish persona. There isn’t an extensive selection of voices but I found that the options available, depending on what you are looking for in a president, are perfect. One note I would like to insert here is that instead of choosing between male and female, my options should have been to either run as a Saints Bro or a Saints Ho.

This game asks the important questions

Straight off the bat, you can see that all the drugs went into the creation of this game. It throws everything at you, including the kitchen sink. For once, this is a bad thing. I’m usually a “less is more” kinda girl but the developers were so thorough in the insanity that was built into this game that it creates a bizarre consistency. It’s almost as if the game is playing a role, and never once breaks character. From the lunacy of an anti-aircraft turret on the White House lawn to the propositioning of each crew member for sex, there is a strange internal harmony throughout the game. SRIV is so unapologetically offensive and crass that all you can do is enjoy it and embrace your inner puckish rouge. Benjamin “Motherfucking” King and Keith David obviously make this exceedingly easy to do.

This is an open-world, 3rd person, action-adventure feature. It is strikingly reminiscent of several other releases, such as: Prototype, Darksiders, Far Cry – Blood Dragon and, of course, GTA. There are so many different sub-genres built into the game. It has puzzles, time trials, battles, skill exercises and even a mechsuit. I had concerns about the control and the fluidity of motion but the character turned out to be nimble and easy to manipulate. This comes in handy, of course, when most of the game revolves around your ability to assess and respond to varying situation, be it fighting a horde of enemies, a boss fight, racing against time over buildings and people or racking up carnage to build XP. There are two distinct aspects which enhance the game play for me:

  • The soundtrack – the predetermined music used when advancing within the story is too perfect to put in words. How could you not think it epic to sing a duet of Paula Abdul’s Opposites Attract with Pierce? As with films, a soundtrack can make or break atmosphere. The use of both contemporary sub-genres (dubstep and hip-hop) and 80’s and 90’s classics means that you become completely immersed in the characters. What is particularly great is that you can select the genre you are most partial to when in free roam mode.
  • The other aspect is the genius use of pop culture references. The attention to detail is astounding, from the weapon skins to the clothing choices, no aspect has been forgotten. Playing in a computer generated dreamworld and the fact that certain items of clothing are named “Morpheus”, you see the love of the Matrix everywhere. There is a Nude Nuns with Big Guns suit (which is strangely arousing), and if you like you can run around with Captain Reynold’s or Robocop’s guns.

Initially, the map didn’t seem that large but once I started playing it became apparent that there was a fair amount of ground to cover. The travel time is significantly shortened when you graduate from using vehicles to gliding Prototype style. As you progress through the game, areas on the map slowly change from grey to purple. This change can be triggered by completing a mission set in story mode, or by completing the array of activities when free roaming (including missions from the crew to things like hacking into the various stores you need for clothing, vehicles and further customisation). In addition to the activities, there are also hundreds of collectibles on the map which assist in converting areas into “Saints controlled hoods”. As you convert more and more of the map, and thus control more and more of the computer programme, small changes happen around you. We all know the Saints’ colour is purple, so you’d expect to get sick of seeing too much of it. I only realised the changes happening within the game world when most of my areas were already Saints controlled because the branding, both is colour and the use of the fleur-de-lis, was so subtle; something I was not expecting from this game!

I didn’t find the game particularly difficult, overall but there were certain elements which I found challenging. Flying alien spacecraft in mini-missions and initially learning to use the telekinetic power in Professor Genki’s Mind over Murder challenges were tricky. Even so, after enough practice, it became a cake walk. The only thing I have yet to master is the beauty of Insurance Fraud, where you basically have to play in traffic, causing as much mayhem and destruction as possible in free roam. After playing for long enough and unlocking the special abilities and weapons, your character is so completely OP that nothing seems to be challenging. Fighting wardens and completing side missions kept me on my toes, and I quickly became exceedingly adept at chasing and catching the golden CIDs, which clear your notoriety instantly upon destruction. The mechsuit is so much fun and easy to use while still giving you a faux-badass fix.

Drop it low for my little friend

There are not enough words in the English language to accurately and adequately describe the selection of weapons in this game. There are golden oldies, like the 3 foot purple rubber dildo, but there are also so many new additions to the Saints Row family. My person favourite, for sheer hilarity, is the Dubstep gun with the Classical Skin. When fully upgraded, the weapon is equipped with explosive “wubs”, killing people with the Flight of the Valkyries. I absolutely love the fact that I can dual-wield SMGs and also equip my homies with twin SMGs. Weapon change out was really smooth when popping in and out of the menu. The menus seem to be quite intuitive, and as a result I found it easy to go in change a few things and come out without braking my ass-kicking flow. Certain challenges require that you quickly change which ability you use in order to maximise total carnage. These powers are partially equipped to the D-pad but even if you had to enter the weapon menu, it’s easy to select what you want.

When the going gets really tough, the tough call in homies. Throughout the story mode, you fight against past rivals, nemises and characters. As these characters are defeated, they join your cohort of homies that you can call on when you find yourself in a particularly sticky situation. They come in really handy when you need a distraction. And of course, Gat is back! I thoroughly enjoyed the dialogue and banter between the characters. I am particularly partial to a number of the exchanges between Boss and Zinyak. Zinyak is the perfect villain. Written like a cool, calm and collected Bond villain, Zinyak quotes Shakespeare and never seems to really fluster. The dynamic it creates between the Boss and Zinyak is great.

The Game of the Century Edition came with a certified shit-ton of free DLC. It included, clothing, weapons, vehicles and additional mission add-ons (like “Enter the Dominatrix” and “How the Saints Saved Christmas”). As great as this game is, I did experience a few glitches. Sometimes, these happened at the most inopportune moments. The most annoying of glitches was the games need to suddenly freeze. This would result in a hard reboot of my machine. Let me mention, as this point, that I was playing this on a PS 3. A friend who played SRIV on PC had absolutely no glitches. There was also strange terrain clipping. At one point, I got stuck behind a table and couldn’t get out. I had to exit and restart the mission. Twice. Generally the weapons and vehicles behaved as they should but I did have a few instances where my stomp ability didn’t work correctly. I set the stomp to “explosion” which causes any pedestrian nearby to turn into human homing rockets. Every so often, they wouldn’t turn into rockets, which kinda defeated the purpose of selecting “explosion”.

Final verdict? I loved every second of this game and would highly recommend it to anyone who is not easily offended and looking for some insane fun. Personally, I much prefer SR to GTA. Somewhere along the line GTA starting taking itself far too seriously. SR restored my faith in a game’s need to just be stupid sometimes while still being highly entertaining, with a superbly mapped plot. All this and you do it looking like a true pimp.

My Rating: 5/5

Buy Saints Row IV – Game of the Century Edition at Amazon.com

Also see:

Two Best Friends Play – Saints Row IV

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