The Saints are back and bigger than ever in Saints Row 4. In the latest installment of the Saints Row franchise, you get nothing less than pure, off-the-wall, fun, excitement and action, something the series builds upon each game. More than just celebrities, the Saints now run the United States as they land in the President’s office, and given the way the Saints run things, it’s only a matter of time before they make enemies…
In Saints Row 4, Volition really stepped up the narrative from Saints Row: The Third. Dialogue is now more than inappropriate one-liners and the overall plot has been
given much improvement. With many twists and turns along the way, the story has been woven into a compelling sequence that can stir emotions and keep you invested.
The game starts off with The Boss, Pierce and Shaundi on a mission to kill Cyrus Temple and stop him from launching a nuclear missile. With the help of a new character, Asha, and an old enemy, Matt Miller, you end up hitching a ride on the nuke and disabling it in the air. When it seems like it’s the end for The Boss, he lands in the Oval Office, claiming the presidential position. The Saints couldn’t be more powerful. Life can only get better from them, right?
5 Years later, after curing cancer or ending world hunger, extra terrestrials attack out of the blue, and take over earth. After being abducted by the Zin Empire’s leader, Zinyak, you wake up in a 1950’s television situation comedy “Leave it to The Saints”. After classically strutting downstairs to eat breakfast, you get in your car and drive down to the diner. Upon entering the diner, is when things start to go abnormal. The world starts glitching out and you have to escape. At that moment, Kinzie contacts you and guides you through the escape.
Zinyak then comes and drops you into a new simulation, “Simulation 31”. Now you are back in Steelport, and begin your quest of revenge on Zinyak. Across the main story you encounter old friends and foes alike. Building up your team and forming a resistance to take on Zinyak and mark a win for Humanity. The story is very well written and dialogue is fantastic. Banter by the british-voiced, classic literature-loving alien master leader is clever and makes it all the more satisfying. The Saints are no longer just potty-mouthed, immature celebrities. Dialogue is much more mature and fluid then before, making conversations interesting. The narrative is much improved over The Third and deserves credit.
When you first start playing Saints Row 4, the gameplay is exactly the same as Saints Row: The Third, with no changes. Standard third-person shooting through linear corridors, with the occasional cinematic or quick-time event (which there are a lot of throughout the game). It’s when you enter the Simulation that the gameplay drastically changes. Shortly after entering the code-based recreation of Steelport, you obtain super-powers. Crazy, right? Who would have thought The Saints would get this outlandish? But given the narrative, it makes perfect sense, just as it does in The Matrix, and just like in The Matrix, you don’t have powers in the real-world. It is these portions of the game where you find the problems with the mission design.
Being that aliens have come, we get to use their technology, and the main attraction is the Simulation. The virtual recreation of Steelport has it’s advantages; you get super powers. There are a total of 8 powers, but most have multiple elements and numerous upgrades. For example, the “Blast” power can be switched to throw ice, fire or mind control. This does add variety, and upgrading the recharge time and efficiency of these powers can make you feel very over-powered, which is a hindrance. The game is very easy on normal mode, despite the annoyances, and a higher difficulty is recommended. Once all of these powers are fully upgraded and your loadout is comprised of all special and alien weaponry, not much can stop you from killing every living and non-living thing in your way.
Which brings up another point; regular guns are practically worthless once you obtain all of the powers. Once I got Fire Blast and Gravity Stomp, I only used one standard weapon, and that was the alien pistol. Aside from that I only used super-powers and special weapons, like the Dubstep Gun. When your powers are upgraded to recharge in seconds, you don’t need to shoot all that much, and when you do shoot your bullets are buffed with flames, so enemies aside from bosses don’t last long enough for guns to be used very often. The same goes for vehicles. Once you enter the simulation you get both Super Sprint and Super Jump, and once you have these, driving becomes awkward and much slower than if you were to jump and fly across the city. Calling in Homies to fight along side you is something that is not used much anymore either. I went through the whole game with only calling in homies once, and even then I barely noticed they were there. The addition of super-powers has rendered many previously existing features almost useless, and when you are required to use them, it get can get pretty frustrating.
Most of the main story missions require you to do something outside of the simulation, which takes super-powers away, and this is completely understandable and makes logical sense, but even in missions inside the Simulation, your powers are still taken or restricted. This gets annoying very fast. You spend so much time jumping over skyscrapers and gliding across the city, then start a mission just to find that you can only sprint and hop over fences, and your only means of offense is shooting rather than blasting. Why? The whole premis behind the simulation is super powers, so why take them away so often, when there is no need?
Aside from these common frustrations, mission structure doesn’t vary as much as it did in Saints Row: The Third. Missions such as the opening bank heist and “Party Time” stand out, with their unique segments and structure, but there are almost none of these in Saints Row 4. After the opening mission, “Zero Saints Thirty”, which even made me cry, most missions have you completing activities, defending a position, escorting drones or just plain killing aliens. It can get pretty repetitive, but there are a few unique missions that do stand out. For example, when reuniting with a long time friend, and the most dangerous man on Earth, you fall into an 16-bit side-scrolling beat ’em up titled “Saints of Rage”, which is basically a replica of “Streets of Rage” for the Sega Genesis. The three levels of this were very fun and refreshing to play, and the unexpected reference made it even better. There are more missions like this that change up gameplay, and these are the highlights of the game.
There is quite a bit of content in Saints Row 4. Aside from main story missions, there are many side-missions, activities and collectibles for you to spend hours completing. Many side-missions have you running to different spots just to kill enemies, but there are “Loyalty Missions” for each character you recruit, as reference to Mass Effect 2. In these loyalty missions, you take that character out and help them complete with a problem they have, and the reward for the mission gives that homie super-powers, just like you. While this is a very interesting thing, never calling in your homies gives little purpose to this feature.
There are a variety of activities in the game, and a lot are returning from past installments of the franchise. Favorites such as Mayhem and Insurance Fraud make a return, but there are a few new ones like “Professor Genki’s Super Ethical Reality Climax”. These are fun the first couple times you do them, but after that they get pretty old and boring. Though there hasn’t been much improvement in the way of activities, Collectibles are done very well and give strong purpose for getting them all. The main collectibles are “Data Clusters”, which there are over 1200 of throughout Steelport. Most are found on rooftops, but there are many that require the use of one of your powers to get to them. These data clusters are important, as they are the currency used to upgrade your powers. There are also audio logs spread out across the city, giving more backstory to characters like Kieth David, Matt Miller and even Cyrus Temple. In collectibles alone you can spend hours of your time having a blast.
My playthrough took a little over 13 hours, completing 69% of the game. Being about the same length as Saints Row: The Third, it is a decent amount of content to keep you busy for an entire weekend.
Graphically, Saints Row 4 hasn’t seen much improvement over Saints Row: The Third. The same graphical style is used, and details are almost the same. On consoles, render distance is quite far, which it should be given that you could cross and entire island in only two jumps. Texture resolutions and polygon count are on par with it’s predecessor, though pop-in is still a major issue, but they go about this in a unique way. When first entering the simulation, or after tracking long distances, the world while shimmer and digitize, in a way that would make sense given that you are inside of technology. It is a smart and unique way to cover up graphical bugs and pop-in. Also, just as Saints Row: The Third did, you have the option to enable or disable vertical-sync on consoles, which can decrease screen tearing but lower performance when enabled. Overall, Saints Row 4 looks great, and does a unique job covering up issues it has. You will not be disappointed in Saints Row 4’s stylish visuals.
Music and Sound
Saints Row 4’s soundtrack is nothing less than it’s ever been. Including some awesome original tracks and classic licensed songs, they give missions much style and give nice atmosphere to the world. With Aerosmith’s “I don’t wanna miss a thing” playing during the opening mission, it makes you feel much like a badass, while making the scene emotional as well. The in-game soundtrack also consists of some nice beats appropriate for any situation. Also, during gameplay, you have the option to turn the radio on wherever and whenever you want, similar to Saints Row 1’s MP3 player. This can make collecting data clusters less boring and can spice up combat. It is a nice addition and also makes sense in the world. Sound effects are detailed as well. From the pew pews of alien weaponry to the radiation of hovercrafts, sounds are immersive and make you feel the science fiction. Even the small things like the sound it makes whenever you super jump or glide enhance the depth of gameplay.
- Collectibles Done Right
- Fantastic Soundtrack
- Interesting Plot & Comical Dialogue
- Special Powers Taken Away Too Often
- Previously Existed Features Now Useless
- Over Powered Abilities