What do you get when you mix up a successful open world game, blend it together with Prototype, sprinkle in some Infamous and then develop a whole new gooey layer of goodness on top of that? Only one of the most fun games of 2013.
Originally developed as downloadable content for Saints Row: The Third, Saints Row IV expands upon the original ideas of the DLC pack and incorporates a selection of new gameplay elements into the Saints Row universe. What are these elements? Awesome superpowers, of course!
There’s literally nothing developer Volition could have done to make this game better. The superpowers of SRIV work incredibly well with the established Saints Row insane formula, making the experience feel fresh, engaging, witty and just generally brilliant all the way through. It brings up new gameplay options throughout the entire title, whether it’s leaping over buildings, running over water or leaping hundreds of feet into the air then slamming back down to earth and causing a nuclear explosion.
Of course this makes vehicles utterly and totally redundant for the majority of the game. Whereas it was definitely awesome to fly jets in SR3 and crash into things while cheats were activated, it seems simply pointless in comparison to leaping over a building while dressed as a superhero. The option to get in vehicles is still there if you want it, but I honestly wouldn’t bother. At times during the narrative you are forced for various reasons to enter vehicles, and it is at these points you long to simply leap out and throw things around using the power of your mind.
Saints Row IV takes place in a combined environment that’s part Matrix spoof, part spoof of everything else. Is that a reference to Mass Effect? Of course it is. The world of SRIV is packed full of gags, hilarity and spoofs of other mediums and I’m extremely happy to report that this isn’t a crappy effort like something like Scary Movie; instead its a generally laugh-out-loud adventure with a rather excellent narrative considering how crazy this game is.
After the events of Saints Row The Third, the Saints found themselves as international celebrities. After that, they then found themselves in charge of the entire United States after your character – the Boss – is elected President. They’re living the high life, curing cancer, punching dicks in the head and generally causing a bit of madness throughout the world. Then come the Zin. A fearsome alien race with a surprisingly eloquent leader, the Zin promptly kidnap most of the humans of earth, place them inside a simulation and force the Saints out of power.
This simulation is what gives you your powers. After a couple of initial conventional missions that play like Saints Row 3, the experience changes dramatically as you start tinkering with code and unlocking your character’s superpowers. This brings about a fundamental shift in gameplay and – even though its the same city of Steelport we visited in The Third – the city of Saints Row IV feels inherently different thanks to the emphasis on vertically, super-powered missions and oppressive alien atmosphere.
Is it too easy with superpowers? Probably. I don’t consider this a particularly big deal though; the Saints Row series has dramatically shifted from its starting point as a GTA clone all those years ago, and I consider it merely a massive playbox to live your dreams through. A friend of mine expressed disdain at the lack of challenge in the title, but for me that’s just another reason to feel awesome when using superpowers.
In many ways the Saints Row IV experience reminds me of every superhero game I’ve ever played. It’s a blend of Crackdown, InFamous, Prototype and a whole load of other stuff into one big, open world package and for the most part, the experience is excellent. The weakest parts of the game in my opinion are the rare missions that strip you of your superpowers and force you to regress to Saints Row 3 tactics; when you’ve been awesome for all the game, having them stripped away feels like a violation.
When you aren’t playing through the story of Saints Row, IV continues the series’ tradition of having loads to do outside of the main narrative. Side missions are dotted all over the Steelport map and only continue to multiply as time goes on; several of these are returning things such as Insurance Fraud, while several are brand new such as rampaging in a mech or super sprinting through checkpoints in a race against time. Insurance Fraud with superpowers is perhaps the most hilarious of the bunch, allowing you to fling yourself literally across the entire map if you’re good enough and rack up ridiculously-massive insurance bills in the process.
Unfortunately not all is rosy in the world of Steelport. The engine used to power the game isn’t exactly brilliant-looking, and I experienced some significant slowdown during my rampages when playing on PS3. Some of the missions might get quite boring quickly for some people as well, as a lot of the time you’re just basically fighting the same enemies over and over again. The new superpowers keep the experience alive at all times though, and its really hard not to have fun in Saints Row IV.
The fun is doubled when you join up with a friend. Co-op gameplay remains a big part of the Saints Row experience and I’d highly recommend you grab a friend to experience this title.
Saints Row IV is great fun, but is let down by a dated engine, some graphical problems and a few repetitive missions. It’s still a great experience that you should definitely try, but don’t expect a challenge.