I don’t know about you but I’m getting annoyed with these annual sequels. The first ones I noticed were the sports titles, though I let them pass because team rosters change every year so it makes sense to make a new game every year, but then again DLC. Next was the Need for Speed games and again I let them pass. It was because each game so vastly different from the last, each had its own take on speed. Then came the Call of Duty & Assassins Creed franchises; however neither got a pass from me. Why you ask? Because each title barely changes from the last and in some cases are worse. Now we have Saints Row 4, sequel to last year’s Saints Row: The Third. Now Saints Row would fall into this category if Saints Row 4 wasn’t the end of the saga and what ending it is!
Saints Row 4 follows the events of Saints Row: The Third which had seen the 3rd Street Saints rise from being an influential street gang to celebrities. Now after taking out a wanted terrorist & saving the USA, the Boss (your character) has become president of the United States of America. Not long after becoming commander-in-chief, earth gets invaded by Zinyak & his alien army. After a valiant attempt by the boss to defend it, the earth is taken over & the boss is put in a virtual simulation of Steelport. Think the Matrix but in reverse. It is up to you, the Boss of the 3rd Street Saints, to breakout of the simulation, stop Zinyak and save to world - Saints Row style!
The story is surprisingly well written, you actually care about most of the people in your crew this time as they resolve their conflicts from the previous Saints Row titles. Like it was said, “the hero is only as good as the villain” and Zinyak is one awesome villain. His British accent, wit & charm are enough for most people to fall in love with *cough cough*. When you add a layer of sarcasm and very clever writing, he’s one of few villains you’ll love and hate at the same time.
Like I said earlier, Saints Row 4 came out a year after Saints Row: The Third so there isn’t really much of a graphical leap like other yearly titles. Yeah there are more options in the character customization menu and Saints Row: The Third never looked that bad. There isn’t much write home about in graphical sense but then again it’s not a bad looking game. Like previous title, Saints Row 4 has a really color scheme with plenty colors which pop-out. But then again if you start looking at finer details then you start to see where the game is lacking.
One of the more interesting graphically qualities, by interesting I mean hit & miss, is all the intended graphical glitches. These include; cars disappearing, upside down cars, deformed character models & textures pixelating in and out. As horrific as some of these are, they help remind you that you are in simulation.
The fact that Steelport is a simulation, you get access to the all the radio stations even when you’re outside the cars. This is a pretty cool feature because all the radio stations actually play good music. There’s a nice mix of styles of music & I’m sure there’s enough choice to make everyone happy. Even if you don’t find something you like, you can always turn it off. However I feel like they missed a prime opportunity to let you import your own custom soundtrack.
Saints Row 4 takes a more serious approach, well when compared to Saints Row: The Third. So the voice acting has gone up level and features a lot less crude humor and a lot more serious tones. Plus everyone’s favorite voice, well I say everyone, also makes an appearance, yes Nolan North lends his voice as one of the voices your character can have.
Now to Saints Row IVs greatest strength and its greatest weakness, the super-powers. First the good, the super-powers are great fun to play around with. You have 4 passive and 4 active powers; the passive powers mainly help you get to locations faster while the active powers help you put the smack-down on Zinyak and his forces. You can shoot energy balls, do an earth shaking ground stomp and move object with your mind. This is just the start; all the passive powers can be upgraded with different elements. Instead of setting your enemies on fire with the fireball, freeze them solid with an ice blast.
The problem with the superpowers is that they pretty much make most of the vehicles and weapons obsolete. Why spend time finding a fast car when you can just run and glide there just as fast? Or why spent time upgrading your weapons when doing a super powered melee is both an insta-kill and are quite fun to watch?
It’s made even more confusing when you consider just how much customization you can have on a car, you can customize almost everything about a car; the body kits, the wheels, the paint job and much more. In fact there’s so much customization that it puts the Need for Speed Underground games to shame, yes that much customization! Then there’s the weapons, a black hole launcher, an abduction gun, an inflator ray and a dubstep gun. That’s right you can kill your enemies with the power of dubstep. There are also your standard weapons that you find in almost every other modern shooter game and all these weapons can be upgraded just like in Saint Row 3.
Between the main story missions you can choose to help out your gang members by doing some odd jobs here and there. Most of these odd jobs are just the random events that occur around Steelport anyway. So why do them you ask? Well for starters you get money, XP and they unlock weapons and powers. When you complete enough of them for a certain character you unlock a super powered version of them which you can call to help you out in your times of need or just to raise hell. These events are mini-games which make great use of the superpowers as you run around collecting orbs, jump in between platforms, climb up towers and generally cause mayhem. These mini-games are mostly fun to play, I personally detest 3D jumping puzzles, and it’s nice how you are rewarded if you do complete them.
When you complete the epic conclusion of the Saints Row saga, you can go back and complete any of the events that were still left. Some of these are CO-OP only events and do require you to go online to complete them but when have another player running around as powerful as you are, then you will have a good time. I mean how many other games allow you to play golf with tanks as the golf balls?
In case you ever get tired of the mayhem, you can go around collecting audio logs of the characters and the text adventure of Zinyak. These all expand and explain events from the previous Saints Row games until now and generally makes love Zinyak more. Even if you get bored of collecting things, you can always go to your home base and romance your gang members like a well-known game which has had a massive effect in the industry.
Saints Row often has a bad reputation as being the poor man’s GTA, no matter what you have thought of it in the past this “poor mans” GTA has now become the best Matrix game. Yes this game much that much fun, not only does it do a wonderful job of parodying and referencing pop culture. You get references from Armageddon, Call of Duty, Metal Gear Solid, Zero Dark Thirty, Tron, The West Wing and plenty more & the best part is that it’s done right.
As I tweeted before, “Saints Row 4 is the video games, video game” but that I meant Saints Row 4 is video game that knows it’s video and don’t try to hide it one bit. Instead of being a dark & gritty game with a story that’s sends you down 7 levels of depression, what you have with Saints Row 4 is a game which puts a smile on your face & keeps it there from beginning to end.