August 14, 2013
Just to clarify in case you might be confused, Saints Row IV is not just the previously cancelled expansion called Saints Row The Third: Enter The Dominatrix. Saints Row IV and Enter The Dominatrix were being developed at the same time. Saints Row IV ended up taking a lot of the ideas from Enter The Dominatrix and Volition ended up making a brand new game out of it. Enter The Dominatrix will still be released, but now as DLC for Saints Row IV after release.
Five Years after the events of Saints Row: The Third, the Saints leader (you) has saved the world and has been elected President of the United States of America. On the eve of a major press conference for you, an alien army known as the Zin invade planet earth out of nowhere. Most of your crew, including yourself, are abducted and imprisoned inside of a virtual simulation of Steelport.
The opening of Saints Row IV has you saving the world from a nuclear missile and is surprisingly generic. You get this sense that the developers are trying to take a knock against the super serious military shooters that continue to flood the market in today’s most popular video games. What ends up happening is a very bland section of shooting down enemies corridor after corridor. A saving grace comes at the end of the opening mission where the ridiculous nature of a real Saints Row mission finally breaks through.
Once you finally take your seat as the President, Saints Row IV comes into its element. The story never seems to slow down a bit and this is definitely not a bad thing. This installment adds so much variety in terms of missions, it's like waking up to find out Christmas lasts a whole week. Every time you start up a new story mission you never know what you are going to have to do and they almost never follows a similar pattern. Without giving away any of the game’s story, any mission that revolves around you rescuing a homie from your crew in the simulation are the games highest moments.
The size of your group is actually a lot smaller than previous games. Instead of having over 15 homies you barely got to know outside of a short cutscene, you now have a very tight story around your 7 homies. In case you are wondering what happened to all of the other homies from Saints Row: The Third, well an alien abduction really helps to sort the men out from the boys.
The gameplay in Saints Row IV seems to be largely unchanged from Saints Row: The Third in the first hour of the game. That is until you are introduced to superpowers, which take over the slot previously reserved for the almost always ignored grenades. The inclusion of these superpowers not only changes the combat of Saints Row IV, but how you play the game entirely.
Super sprint and super jump are unlocked at the beginning and immediately will make you never want to ride a car ever again. Powers can range from sliding around Steelport, running on water, shooting different elemental blasts from your hands, giving your character telekinesis, and much more. Being able to upgrade many different aspects of your superpowers allows you to make your character an incredible force.
Including ridiculously awesome and powerful superpowers is fun, but making the game's battles still challenging is where the game shines. It doesn't just throw countless enemies at you in battle to make things more challenging. Instead, it introduces new aliens/robots to test your brand new powers. No matter how strong your character is, the story missions will still challenge you.
While superpowers are easily one of the coolest additions to Saints Row IV, the game is still a shooter when it comes down to how you take down most of your foes. The guns this time are a great mixture of traditional and alien guns that are equally ridiculous to anything you could imagine. Some personally stand-outs have to be the Violator (the Penetrator has been one upped), the Dubstep Gun, and having all new ways to customize, not only how my gun is upgraded, but looks as well.
Saints Row: The Third was a stepping stone for what Saints Row IV would ultimately become and lacked features most take for granted in most open world titles released. Things such as large character customization options, plenty of collectibles, and so many side quests/activities to participate in that you literally feel spoiled by how much the game is offering. Volition heard these complaints and not only fixed these problems, but went above and beyond what most developers would do.
Character customization has got a lot more options right off the bat in terms of what kind of person you want to play as. Saints Row has always been good at letting the player pick exactly how they want their character to look and this continues to be the case with Saints Row IV. Not only can you be male, female, trans, and even alien, but along with the standard six voices your character can choose from, Nolan North is literally an option to choose from. The man who voiced in almost every video game after Uncharted/Assassin’s Creed launched has definitely become a household name for gamers.
Collectables in the last game were there, but there was no incentive to actively search for them besides a trophy/achievement. Now Saints Row IV has over 1,600 collectables and a majority of them are these bright blue clusters scattered all throughout Steelport. These clusters are extremely easy to spot out when traveling around the city and are used to upgrade your superpowers. Be ready to collect over 1,000 clusters if you hope to get them all.
The mini-map in Saints Row IV always has something nearby to challenge yourself or just entertain yourself with when exploring the simulation in between missions. These range from platforming challenges, causing as much mayhem as possible, throwing yourself into traffic for insurance fraud money, and even a superpower fight club to name a few stand-outs. Saints Row IV also takes some of the most fun parts of exploring Far Cry 3’s open world and works it into the universe with it’s own twist. Clearing out sectors and climbing massive towers never seem to get old when you can take on these activities whenever you want.
As stated earlier, the game does a great job at creating memorable missions with your homies, but this is only sort of the case when it comes to side missions given to you by your homies. This is a bit of a nitpick, but besides your homies loyalty mission, almost every other side-quest just simply asks you to complete a certain number of activities around Steelport. While this is a good way to get people to try new things they might not have tried to play otherwise, having so many missions follow the same formula just seems like lazy game design. And with so much else on offer, it stands out a bit.
Saints Row IV takes many different jabs at video game design, but sometimes seems to forget that they themselves are guilty of the jokes they are making. You can’t just have someone pull off a ton of Quick Time Events and then make a joke in the next level about how stupid and pointless they are when your game is heavily reliant on them in certain sections.
The world of Steelport has not changed too drastically visually from the last game, but it does look more polished. Besides the game's obvious texture glitches to sell you on the simulation you are in, Steelport has never felt more alive inside this simulation. Constant people, cars, and much more are no longer popping in right in from you after looking ahead a few feet.
As if you didn’t have enough reasons to explore Steelport, Saints Row IV lets you finally listen to any radio station on foot and not just in cars like many other games. The radio features 7 different stations and there are 100 songs to listen to. You can also still create your own mix-tape featuring as many songs from the games library in whatever order you desire.
Saints Row IV is bigger in all meanings of the word and just seems to keep giving no matter how much time you invest into the game. This is one of those games you will not want to rush to the finish line and beat before the weekend is gone. Countless of hours can be had by just exploring the world and testing out what you can do in this open world. Getting lost in this game is the best way to appreciate Saints Row IV for all it has to offer.
When it comes down to it, Saints Row IV uses a lot small changes and improvements to make the best Saints Row game to date. It's the perfect video game sequel if you not only like Saints Row, but fun video games with tons of replay value. There's a fantastic blend of customisation, audacity and gameplay which makes for a fantastic sandbox experience that shouldn't be missed.Editor's Choice
Saints Row IV was reviewed on the PS3. You can read more about GamingUnion.net's scoring policy here.