When Saints Row the Third hit the shelves, no longer was the game revolving around a generally well written story but instead focused on the radical and outrageous antics of the Third Street Saints. The game opened with you robbing a bank with a TV star, then lead to a free fall from a plane trying to rescue Shaundi AND fighting off the new faces of your rival gangs. While the story was still there but not as compelling as Saints Row 2, it took a backseat to the hard hitting gameplay, ridiculous side missions, and the ability to beat your enemies with a massive purple floppy dildo bat. Some were upset while others bludgeoned random citizens of Steelport with phallic objects while dressed in furry suits. If you’re still sore about the lack of story in SR3, then get ready to still pout, but hey! You can still beat people with the Penetrator but now in festive holiday colors! Did I mention you’re the President of the United States AND have superpowers?
The game opens with the Saints tying up loose ends of one Cyrus Temple, one of the antagonists from SR3 that made his escape after you royally handed him his ass. The events from this leads to you becoming president and then a small jump to five years later, where The Protagonist is walking through the halls of the White House with Pierce and Benjamin King (who some might remember was the leader of the Vice Kings way back when) talking about the latest approval poll while on their way to a press conference. Then Satan’s ladder descends and all Hell breaks loose in the form of an alien attack by the Zin.
After a decent amount of fighting and watching your allies being abducted, you’re finally faced with the leader of the aliens attacking Earth, Zinyak, who likes to quote poetry during the game and even hosts the Classical channel 102.4 FM later on. Another fight scene, and despite being blown up, shot at, run over, attacked by Professor Genki, and other horrendous things that would have shattered the body and mind of a lesser person, you lose and things get weird from here on out. Welcome to Saints Row IV.
As previously mentioned, the big highlight of the game is the superpowers you obtain through collecting data on Zin technology, and with enough of these clusters, you can upgrade them to do more damage, decrease the time between usage, or add special effects to them. The first granted to you is Blast that freeze enemies and smaller vehicles, allowing you to shatter them with a simple hit. With upgrades, you can cause the freeze to last longer, have a greater area of effect, cause those who were frozen and then killed to shattered and deal damage to nearby enemies, or even change the element to fire or mind control. Other offensive abilities include Telekinesis (along with Lightning and Life Steal), Stomp (along with Gravity and Shrink), and Buff which, well, buffs your ammo with either fire, lightning, or ice. Passive abilities include Super Sprint (you’ll never need a car again), Super Jumping, and Force Shield. The final offensive ability you get is called Death from Above, which its one upgrade is one of the most ridiculous things in the game. Switching between your offensive abilities (the first four listed) is a mere button flick away, and double tapping the same button will change the element of that ability. Finding what you like the most is easy, and the Ice Blast became a personal favorite, especially once fully upgraded. While not needed for most of the game, the abilities give combat, travel, and the side missions a new twist though learning to control your character with both maxed out Super Sprint and Super Jump takes a good bit of time to get used to; be prepared to overshoot wherever you’re going many times.
When I said new twist, I was serious. Most of the side missions, including new ones and new alternatives to old ones, have you use your superpowers in some way, shape, or form. You still have your Fraud but being able to super jump into the air at great speeds and then ragdoll lets you easily wrack up the money you need for the medals. Blazin is no long on bikes but on foot; you’re faster than anything on two or four wheels, why not just run? Mayhem is now broken down into four versions: Mayhem, Tank Mayhem, Telekinesis Mayhem and Mech Suit Mayhem. All of them are pretty self explanatory except for the first one, which has you use either Stomp or some crazy alien weapons to do the damage. Instead of the Genki Bowl, there is now Professor Genki’s M.O.M, which stands for “Mind Over Murder”, where you use your Telekinesis to toss people, vehicles, and special mascot heads through specific rings, and yes, there are still mascots trying to kill you in the process. Two new ones to the game are Rift and Fight Club. The first is broken down into three versions: a race and collect type version call Speed (think Blazin with obstacles), a platform version where you try to hit the center of each platform aptly named Platforming, and lastly a Telekinesis one where you take colored balls and hit matching targets with the same name as the power. Fight Club is exactly what it sounds like except for one thing: Your enemies usually have superpowers too and usually don’t go down in one hit like most. Between all of these, there are thirty two activities to complete, almost all of them assigned to you as side missions by your allies as a way to unlock upgrades, be it for powers or weapons, and a good majority of said upgrades are only obtainable through this method. The last set of side missions are Targets, including a wave mode, Assassination, Car Theft, and two Co-op modes: Death Tag and Car & Mouse.
Besides knocking out side missions to reclaim Steelport and bring it under the control of the Saints, there are Flash Points to be cleared out, Shield Generators to be brought down, and Towers to be climbed. Flash Points are easy and are quickly done within ten seconds or so, with the body count ranging from anywhere from eight to twelve, though this draws attention and can quickly raise your notoriety to dangerous levels. Shield Generators come in a minimum of two and grow from there, surrounded by enemies, but once the generators are taken out, the main control hub can be disabled. Towers, on the other hand, take a bit longer, have no enemies, and usually offer a plethora of data clusters for upgrades. There are miniature checkpoints that you activate in case you fall and find yourself starting at the bottom again, and instead of having to climb all the way up, the base platform will teleport you to your last checkpoint.
The last bit to reclaiming Steelport and painting it purple is the shops; each shop must have their security hacked in order to take control. The minigame involved isn’t that difficult but a bit of creativity is useful when going about it. Ever play Pipedream? Same concept: start at point A, take the limited number of pipes you have, and connect to point B. Sometimes they give you too many just to throw you off, and some have multiple ways of completing them. Failing to hack the store before time is up will cause the authorities to be called down on you and you’ll have to drop your notoriety before you can try again. Thankfully, there are easy ways to do such a thing, such as killing a specific enemy or doing what most do and simply run and hide until it all stops
Now, what would a Saints Row game be without talking about the weapons, and sweet mother of mercy, there is a lot. When I say a lot, there are seven categories, not including your fists: melee, pistols, SMGs, shotguns, rifles, explosives, and special, each with a handful of options. Almost every single weapon has a secondary skin, and most have multiple skins, ranging anywhere from three to nine and more. Some skins are just cosmetic while others change the way the weapon sounds or reacts. One example that is easy to see is the Dubstep Gun. With three different skins, you get three different songs that come out of it, and to be honest, it is one of the best guns in the game, especially once fully powered up. Other ones that fall under the “broken but comical” category are the Inflato-Ray, Black Hole Launcher, and Abduction Gun. Surprisingly, there are no grenades. Who knows why.
There are a lot of little things that have been added to the game to make it that much better. Instead of driving a stolen vehicle to a Rim Jobs, simply hold down the designated key (default N on PC) and a copy of the vehicle is saved, allowing quick and easy grab and go when trying to collect different models. Also, the radio can be played at any time, not just in the car, so you’ll always have a soundtrack for your activities. The interactions between player and world have been increased, and there’s a couple of sing-a-longs just to tickle your side a bit. There are also a ton of references to other game, TV, and movie franchises, such as the Metal Gear series, roles Keith David has starred in, and Harry Potter just to name a few. There is a big poke at Mass Effect since you can pretty romance everyone in your crew; a harmless but entertaining reference. The one thing I’m disappointed in is that there wasn’t a certain Independence Day line that popped up at the beginning of the game.
One of the few problems I ran into with the game were the controls. At time my character would randomly stop or go in a different direction than I wanted them to and would get stuck going in said direction. It didn’t detract from the game that much but during certain side missions where tight turning and avoiding obstacles are necessary, it was a mild annoyance. After I had collected a sound file from one of the other characters, sometimes logging back into the game, the file would play. Not that I have anything against Keith David but if I have to hear him go on about how he thinks he can be a better president than The Protagonist, I might just abandon him in the middle of nowhere. The story was the other part of the game that felt a bit bland. Yes, I understand, it was just to see how crazy they can go after Saints Row the Third but I was hoping for a little more, maybe a taste of Saints Row 2’s feeling. Volition and Deep Silver did an amazing job with everything they gave, it was definitely a step above SR3′‘s craziness, but it might have just been me at the end of the day.
SUMMARY:Even if you were looking for a grand story, while you won’t find it here, I cannot stress how much fun I had with this game. Between the variety of side missions, the orgy of weapons and superpowers to play with, and the simple fact that it remembers that it’s a game and doesn’t take itself seriously, Saints Row IV is not a game to pass up. Grab it, toss back a donkey beer or whatever the hell you drink, and have fun for a few hours. Once I had finished the main story, I had 87% done with 100% of the side missions completed, stores unlocked, and the whole city under my control, and all of this in 36 hours. I didn’t fly through it but I didn’t lag about, leaving the game running; I was actively playing it for all of those hours and still have only half of the collectables, specifically the data clusters for the superpower upgrades. You’ll get your money’s worth and more, especially if you’re a bit like me and want to see 100% completion.
- THE GOOD: Ridiculous amounts of customization and choices, over the top gameplay, and everything you expect to top Saints Row the Third‘s craziness
- THE BAD: Controls freaked out sometimes and story falls a little flat
- THE UGLY: Hooooly cow, the people you can create…
Verdict: Buy it!
And the award for “Most Broken Superpower and Weapon Combo” goes to: Ice Blast and Dubstep Gun. Upgrade both of these bad boys first and watch everything shatter to the wub wubs.
(Originally posted 8/14/2013)