Reviewed on: PlayStation 3
Also available on: Xbox 360, PC
Reviewed by: Bracken Lee-Rudolph
When THQ’s assets were auctioned off, and their numerous IPs given to the highest bidder, Saint’s Row and Deep Silver’s respective futures were up in the air. However, since Koch Media have stepped in, Volition Inc. have gone about their business in creating Saint’s Row IV from the ashes of Saint’s Row: The Third’s abandoned and re-purposed DLC pack, Enter the Dominatrix. The insane final iteration in the current Saint’s Row story arc is at hand – does it live up to the rest of the unique franchise that has been built up over the past generation? Let’s find out:
Saint’s Row IV puts you back in control of the leader of the Third Street Saints, now the President of the United States of America in a brief prologue where you track one of the antagonists of Saints Row: The Third – Cyrus Temple, the President proceeds to a press conference and aliens known as the Zin invade, capturing the President and his crew and putting them inside a Matrix-like simulation. Kinzie, your tech-savvy ally, hacks the simulation and allows you to both exit the simulation and gain super-powers within it. This allows you to take the fight to Zinyak, which you promptly do. The story isn’t narrative gold, but by rescuing your allies from their respective simulations, you gain a bit of insight into their pasts and personalities, which I found very interesting. This has the added bonus of allowing new players to get some perspective on the characters who have featured in several titles and how they’ve changed throughout the series.
However, the narrative was always going to be overshadowed by the gameplay and it turns out exactly like that. The title’s gunplay is very similar to that of Saint’s Row: The Third and besides the superpowers, the title plays very similarly to its predecessor. However, the title is filled with new, over-the-top weaponry, vehicles with new customisation options and, of course, superpowers which vary the title enough from Saint’s Row: The Third to make it worth a sequel. Your superpowers change the entire dynamic of the game, as the added verticality from abilities such as Super Jump and Super Sprint change both how you move (which is now very similar to the Prototype series of videogames) and how you fight your enemies on the ground. These powers also add to your arsenal of abilities to pit against your enemies, with abilities from Telekinesis to Super Stomp aiding in giving you new and exciting ways to turn NPCs into little piles of pixels. Other than the superpowers, however, there is not much new, other than the obvious environmental pieces and enemies. Nevertheless, Saint’s Row IV is packed to the brim with easter eggs, references, and – most importantly – fun diversions that make your time in virtual Steelport a lot of fun and completely ludicrous.
The one complaint I did have with the gameplay was the overwhelmingly dull structuring of the side missions. The main missions are fun, as they explore the Zin’s invasion force and the psychology of your team, but the side missions are glorified excuses to make you do the diversions for XP and unlockable stuff. These diversions are, for the most part, nothing new to long-standing fans of the franchise, and the fact that the only dialogue in these is that of your teammates telling you where to go next gives you almost no reason to play these except for the rewards and to get them out of your quest menu.
Graphically, the title looks almost exactly like its 2011-counterpart, and the visuals are really starting to show their age. Despite its almost cartoony art-style, Saint’s Row IV most certainly looks very dated, as does the slightly overhauled and re-lit city of Steelport. Most of all, however, the character models are very disappointing, and certainly prove that the title needed a visual overhaul from its previous iteration. The other addition to the title; the fragmenting of objects from time to time to emphasise that you’re in a simulation and that you’re taking damage wears on the eyes rather severely, and sitting down for a long play session is often very straining on the eyes.
The title does fare better in its audio department as voice acting is well done – thanks to a star-studded voice cast, and the sound effects for the numerous weapons (and their variants), superpowers and vehicles are all fitting and audible. Although cars are more or less obsolete, the option to listen to the radio stations while in the simulation, even when outside a vehicle, has been added, and players can listen to the soothing sounds of anything from classical music to a song from the newest In Flames album. This adds a decent atmosphere to the title, as the city without music is quite desolate – especially since you’ll spend most of your time traversing rooftops to get from place to place.
There is plenty to do, and the drop-in/drop-out (online only) co-op mode adds quite a lot to the lasting appeal of the title, because the only thing better than one grossly overpowered super-president is two grossly overpowered super-presidents. Playing with a co-op partner allows you to play the same game you would if you were playing alone, but with an extra player to add that little bit of extra kick (occasionally literally). This also makes the “side missions” somewhat easier, as an extra player helps to destroy, kill and decimate things to an extreme extent – especially when you’re stuck on the more difficult challenges. How well it plays is largely dependent on your connection and your connection to the other player, but given the 2-player max, this shouldn’t really be a major issue unless you’re playing with foreign players.
As previously said, there is plenty to do in the world of virtual Steelport. The numerous diversions offer plenty of reward, as well as an opportunity to test out the extent of the President’s powers. Furthermore, the parodies, easter eggs and references as an extension to the already over-the-top humour should be enough to keep a player entertained for a good 15-20 hours, and the co-op will allow players to have another 15-20 together.
Saint’s Row IV is not a particular innovative game, it runs very similarly to Saint’s Row: The Third and it certainly doesn’t make great strides in gaming, however, it’s still a game that everyone should have the opportunity to own, for a number of reasons. First off, the game doesn’t take itself too seriously, there’s always room for an inappropriate joke or a parody of a popular scene in gaming, film or television culture. Secondly, it is an insane amount of fun, and disregards all ideas of balance for the sake of giving the player something very enjoyable to play and rounds off the current story arc in extravagant style.
However, that is not to say I only have positive things to say about the title. The graphics really need an update, as they look very dated, which is best seen in the character models, the side mission layout is poorly thought out and doesn’t add to the title in the least and the world of Steelport is certainly not the most interesting locale they could have given players to explore. Despite this, however, Saint’s Row IV is still worth playing, simply because of the immense amount of fun a player is likely to have while giving this generation of Third Street Saints a proper send off.
Lasting Appeal: 8/10