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Saints Row IV

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By JcDent19-08-2013
MrJenssen (editor)
Bis18marck70 (editor)

The Defence

Developer:
Volition Inc.
Publisher:
Deep Silver
Genre:
Action
Release Date:
US 20-08-2013
EU 23-08-2013

The Prosecution

CPU:
Intel i3 2100T
AMD Phenom II x4
VGA:
Nvidia GeForce GTX 560
AMD Radeon HD 6800
RAM:
4 GB
HDD:
10 GB
DirectX:
10, 11

The Case

 

Saints Row is going to be compared to GTA as long as both of them exist. It's only natural that you spend your time and money on one, so of course you have to convince both yourself and others that your choice was the best. Nobody goes into discussions like that with willingness to change one's opinion. And that's despite the fact that these games are very, very different. Case in point – Saints Row 4 involves almost no car stealing or driving...because you can run up buildings.

The Trial

 

I didn't like Saints Row 3 too much, in my opinion, it's a weaker game than Saints Row 2 was. On the other hand, I only need to see how SR4 stacks up against SR3 and that should be easy...

Saints Row 4 starts with our character – a notorious gang leader turned corporate mogul – eventually becoming the President of the United States. And then aliens kidnap everyone and put them into simulations to torture them, because what else are you going to do if you're a half-naked ghoul, looking to conquer the galaxy? So, the goal of the game is to defeat the alien overlord Zinyak and save Earth. So, basically the promised joke “Enter the Dominatrix“ DLC for SR3, but stretched into a full game.

But is it any good? Well, depends on how much you demand from the game and how willing you are to compare it to GTA (I assure you, there are people who'll do that). On a technical scale, it will likely pale in comparison – on the other hand, that's only a problem for console players, since we're not getting GTA 5, at least not yet. Also, Saints Row most assuredly runs on the same tech that powered Saints Row 3 and relies on wackiness as its main selling point. In GTA, you have families and pretentious pricks for characters. Here you can throw cars with the power of your mind. You decide!

You can pimp the trike! Too bad you’ll never use it.

You can pimp the trike! Too bad you’ll never use it.

For the missions...well, almost all the side missions are actually sets of activities and some of the early primary missions are an introduction to those. The great thing about it is how obvious it is that it copies/makes fun of Mass Effect or, with their take on romancing characters back in the base and loyalty missions. On the other hand, for a game that relies on wackiness as a selling point, it's not that fun. It has its moments of brilliance – interaction between homies makes calling them more appealing - but most of the time you're either doing activities (which don't offer much in the way of funny writing) or you can feel that they're trying too hard. You still get a laugh or two in the end missions, but that only makes you sad about all the stuff that was before - it had potential, but didn't carry through.

Indeed, sometimes you'll catch yourself thinking “yep, this is probably funny, I'm supposed to be laughing at it” which means that you're not immersed in the game. It suffers from the Red Alert/Call of Duty effect where devs think that some part of the game is so funny that they jam it up in the sequel: Red Alert had a “sooo funny” overdose, Call of Duty beat “the character you're playing dies” to the ground, and here they added more real life celebrities because they had one in SR3! Thankfully, even these moments are better than the most obvious attempt to do “funny” and “random” in SR3 - the “driving with the tiger” activity. I mean, sure, driving around with a tiger in a passenger seat is unexpected, but the activity has several instances and the process of driving around isn't fun.

It's a good thing that activities somewhat are improved. The most enjoyable one is, surprisingly, the most basic one - “Blazing” is just you, zooming forward at super speed collecting boosts and avoiding “firewalls”. Towers are a copy of the whole “scale a tower, reveal area” thing from Assassin's Creed – only here you do it with wall running and super jumps. Sure, you can fly a chopper up top, but you're incentivised to use powers by the upgrade points scattered along the tower – a nice touch. Other activities mostly focus on one power or the other, so you can hone your skills too – I also got the feeling at the end that this was almost smart in some cases, but the situation in which I felt it wasn't difficult enough to really drive the point home.

I imagine Obama saw a screen just like that.

I imagine Obama saw a screen just like that.

The powers are the main stand-out thing about SR4. Everything else handles the same – female characters still run in a somewhat manly manner and shooting and driving is still the same (which means that motorcycles still suck). You still buy your clothes and gun upgrades at stores while your character upgrades are sold in a „phone“ menu, which also serves as an access point to maps, quests and other similar stuff. So yeah, Saints Row 3, but with superpowers!

...and without gangs. The three distinct gangs that were the main antagonists of the previous games have been replaced by the alien Zin-race, who take over most of the police and rival gang roles. So, only one „heat“ bar and street cops are quickly replaced by aliens who jump out of portals to attack you with laser rifles. One greatly celebrated new thing about this change are the Golden CIDs – yellow floating ball robots that supposedly control the force attacking you. Catch one (via your super speed power) and all heat disappears, which is a good concept and likely a conscious Harry Potter reference. Also, as if taking a page out of my Tumblr about how I would have made a better SR 3, at the end of the heat scale you get a super powered opponent – defeat him and the enemy will back off. Better chase that CID – it's faster and cleaner.

As an opponent, the Zinyak are better than the assorted gangs of SR3 – in a mechanical sense. The floating portals mean that they can be delivered anywhere and without highly cluttersome cars. Some of them have super powers that, unlike SR3 specialists, don't make them annoying. Most of them are very easy to defeat as they're probably just reskins of the STAG forces from SR3, but still. Better than killing a hundred Oleg rip-offs by shoving one hundredth grenade down their throat.

Hey, look at that! References!

Hey, look at that! References!

Since you have powers super speed and super jump make all non-flying vehicles instantly obsolete, especially once you sink some upgrade points into them. And you won't starve for those either – they shine blue and are scattered everywhere across the map, on a rate approaching one for each building. Once you upgrade them with abilities to glide and run up buildings, you'll never want to drive again. I only customized two cars – just to see if anything changed since SR3 (nope). So these are very handy for getting around as well as getting away from a fight.

During a fight you'll use burst first, telekinesis second, sometimes remembering that stomping is also a thing. Most powers can be upgraded with elements, the first one being the most useful most of the time. For example, burst acts like a fireball, but the first element is ice, which freezes enemies in place and makes them brittle (also, civvie driven cars slide around adorably) . It's great for initiating battles and dealing with the hordes of enemies thrown at you, especially if you're packing explosive rapid-fire weapons. Same goes for TK – only once did I find genuine use for Life Steal element since most enemies drop health as they die. Using the primary powers (the ones I didn't mention are really few and more of a weak attempt to bolster the number) is fun and I personally flung more civilians into the sky than what’s mentally healthy to do.

Then again, you're running around with the tentacle/dildo bat, so it’s probably too late for mental health, right? Indeed it is, because who the hell uses melee weapons in a game with guns and super powers? I mean, sure, furies with baseball bats can mob you effectively as melee hits interrupt some powers, but you're only one. So just blast away with pistols, rifles and shotguns (SMGs are still useless). One thing that I like is that the heavy pistol, awesome that is, is no longer the gun you will finish the game with – there are other more powerful guns that require less skill to use. On the other hand, the “fun” weapons – the Dubsteb Gun, for example – are neat, but not that useful. One good thing is that weapons come in about three models (the alternates are usually inspired by pop culture) and several skins. And they also have the required effects (your new laser pistol shoots lasers), which shows that they put at least some effort into it.

Nudism returns again.

Nudism returns again.

Clothing and car customization basically remain the same as before. There are some new additions in the clothing department but if you spent SR3 imagining that you're a sociopathic Barbie doll, you won't find much here. And cars, as I mentioned before, are useless. Even if they did try to give you cool vehicle unlocks along the way. This can also be said about Steelport itself – Stillwater supposedly underwent some major changes between SR1 and SR2 (neighborhood-sinking earthquakes tend to do that) while Steelport only placed alien bits here and there. An interesting decision (style/mechanics wise) is that in some instances gameplay will change into stuff highly reminiscent of say old school side scrolling beat'em ups. How much you'll like that depends on what you think about for example Retro City Rampage. The sound part suffers somewhat since the radios (you can now listen to them on foot) are horrible and boring while the urban sounds... just aren't enough. And from the pedestrian chatter, I only remember the overly loudly, indescribably infuriating “CAN'T FORGET THE PICKLES” that throws your immersion out of the window time and time again.

The Verdict

 

Saints Row 4 is better than Saints Row 3, but not by a long shot. However, fans of the third game will love this one and newcomers will have everything explained. If you don't care about the plot, it's the rare super power game on PC, so might as well enjoy it. Somehow, even if you don't want it, it gets you to do most of the activities and stretches the gameplay over the 20 hour mark. Which, considering the stuff we see these days, is plenty bang for your buck.

 

Case Review

  • Super Powered Criminals: The super powers are quite fun.
  • A Little More Character: Somehow, it has more character interaction and moments than Saints Row 3.
  • Not a Driving Game: Cars are obsolete WHEN YOU CAN JUMP OVER BUILDINGS
  • Nothing New to See: almost the same old Steelport.
  • Light on Plot: It's a bit jumbled and enemy characters are basically reduced to one.
4
Score: 4/5
Great for SR3 fans but not much of an improvement if you're not one of them.

Appeal

I am addicted. Saints Row 4 hooked me good. Why? Because it’s a fun, fun game! Whooshing through the city, jumping across skyscrapers, upgrading your character and experiencing the story are some of the things that make the time seem to melt around you. This is kind of strange though, because the components of the game aren’t the best or the most innovative each on their own. And actually, in most cases they’re straight copies from other games and movies. The game even makes fun of the fact that it’s copying all those things. But put together, each piece help make one hell of a game.

That said, it still has some flaws and issues, though these are very minor ones that linger on the line of annoyance. Some issues, like control sensitivity inconsistencies can bother you ever so slightly, but it happens only on rare occasions, so it’s not a big issue overall. The fact that the visuals have barely improved since SR3 and that sidequests are for the most part glorified Activities and mini-games is a personal gripe, and can’t be picked as a universal flaw. Especially considering that these fit in the overall tone of the sidequest.

Take this game on its own merit. Don’t give into the whole “Oh, this was supposed to be an expansion” hype. Even people who say this will sooner or later admit that the game is indeed strong, and stands firm on its own two legs. The game will last you a long time, and will give you a healthy dose of laughter and joy… Well, unless you’re the sort of person who rather enjoys taking your cousin on bowling dates instead.

4.5
Score: 4.5/5

Appeal

It's finally here. After much anticipation, much madness and many wubs...it's finally here. Saints Row IV has arrived to suck us into a game within a game. You are playing a game, in which the main character is, effectively, playing a game. Okay, well, it's a virtual reality simulation but that pretty much amounts to the same thing. Along the way, it allows for some extremely refreshing introductions to what could otherwise have been nothing more than a stale rehash.

The introduction of the superpowers makes Saints Row IV a very different game, in so many ways, from its predecessors. Yet it is still Saints Row. As ridiculous as it can feel - being able to jump over buildings, set things on fire and move things with your mind, you never feel overpowered. Powerful - yes, but not so much that the game becomes dull and uninteresting. There's always something hanging around that will remind you of your mortality.

Add to that some superbly managed intervals that change up the pace, such as the intermittent, expertly timed returns to the real world, and you have yourself an outstanding game that is held back from true greatness by only some minor niggles. Steelport is different enough to not be boring, but it's still Steelport. Oddly, the sheer amount of content can almost be a problem, as it is all too easy to allow yourself to become distracted by even something as mundane as collecting the 1250 glowing clusters scattered around the world; the game feels a little unfocused at times. But it's just so much damned fun, you can't help but let it off with an 'oh you!' face.

4.5
Score: 4.5/5
Comments (14)
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Posts: 228

The "direction" went out of the windows when SR3 rolled out. So it's only continuing the curve of stupid that SR3 started.

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Posts: 28

The game seems like a fun waste of time, but just that.

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Posts: 2702

Aramis was always my favourite!

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Posts: 166

I know I am going to give it a try though as I have liked the last 3, and I loved that show when I was a kid and do use it as my avatar on forums. Mind I got the DVD's here lol

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Posts: 2702

It's not for everyone. But I thoroughly enjoyed it at Expo.

One for all and all for one
Musekhounds are always ready

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Posts: 166

I am kinda look forward to this game, but I am unsure about the direction in which they taking it due to all the stuff you can do. I mean super powers like jumping high it should be fun. I am going to keep an open mind on it.

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Posts: 2702

@Stunt: That I'm not so sure about. But I'm certain they'll find some way of continuing. The franchise is too popular to let it die

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Posts: 1500

@Bobfish - didnt they say something similar about SR4, that there will be no more?

Anyway I am very excited and very sad that I cant play it today (because internet repentantly has fucking oceans) :(

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Posts: 2702

@Shep: Sadly, the fanbase they now have mostly came in at the third game. Anything after this will just be even more batshit insane. Though, when I was talking to Jim Boone he did say it was unlikely there would even be any more Saints Row. So who knows? Maybe the next project will go back to the roots

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Posts: 10

The super powers are the biggest reason i want to play this game.
Anyway,it sounds like it is an improvement over 3(it has new activities for example).
For me the ideal sequel would be a game similar to 2,not 3.