Saints Row IV Review
Posted by PlayDevil.com Staff on Sep 17, 2013 13:42
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Written by: Ian
With development going through the troubles and turmoil of the THQ meltdown, and moving from expansion pack to full-fledged box release, can "Saints Row IV" possibly reach the highs of the magnificent 3rd game in the series? There’s clearly been an amount of scrimping in order to get the game out ahead of GTA V and the new consoles, but will this affect the overall quality of the game.
So, yeah, aliens. If the storyline of SR3 wasn’t over-the-top enough for you, Volition have just gone all out crazy. After saving the world and becoming president, you get abducted and put into a Matrix style simulation where you get super-powers.
Off you then go on a ten hour quest to hack the simulation, break your friends out of it, and defeat the evil alien overlord. There’s a pretty huge amount of storyline ripped from late 90’s sci-fi movies, so anyone under the age of 25 probably won’t get many of the references and humour; but for those that do, this is possibly the funniest game in the series yet.
It’s certainly the most ambitious, with Ben King and Keith David ripping it up, Johnny Gat returning, and even some lesser-known characters from the first two games making an appearance. Sometimes it’s almost too much to keep up with, but generally Volition have succeeded in creating a story which you can’t help but want to play through.
In the same way as the storyline, so has the gameplay escalated, turning it more away from GTA and towards to world of Prototype, Infamous and Crackdown. In fact, the open-world part of the game probably most closely resembles crackdown, as you collect
orbs clusters to upgrade your powers, and have a number of abilities such as telekinesis, a stomp, super jump, and super sprint, rendering travelling around the city by car or plane almost useless.
The super-powers are actually really fun to use, although you will need to collect a fair amount of clusters in order to upgrade them to the point where they feel significantly more useful than your guns. Speaking of which, the guns have been given a serious overhaul, adding in a number of alien weapons, which are mostly cool, but also a number of experimental pieces of tech, which are both fun and hilarious.
The dubstep gun kills through it’s ‘beats’, whilst the abduction gun creates a bright light and whisks enemies upwards to a quick death, and the black hole gun kind of does what it says on the tin, drawing all mass into the hole before exploding out, causing massive damage. Just ‘doing’ the open world sandbox stuff is inherently more fun because of the huge range of weaponry and powers at your disposal.
However, the amount of content in the game is probably down a little on previous instalments. Most of the side quests just involve you doing the various activities in order, although doing so will give you a number of bonuses which are well-worth getting, along with a better ending. But, if you just completed the story missions, you could definitely get through the game in under ten hours, which feels a little light for this kind of game.
However, the overall structure, especially if you do embark on the side-quests, feels very tight and structured, giving you an actual reason to mop everything up beyond seeing a completion stat rise. And with plenty to do in terms of activities, if you do complete the quests and ‘romance’ options for your sidekicks, you’ll easily rack up around 20 hours of gameplay, which is certainly a decent chunk.
And most importantly, you’ll always be busy doing something – there’s very little of the mindless plodding around a giant environment you sometimes get in this kind of game.
You may find that Saints Row 4 looks quite a bit like the third game. And you wouldn’t be wrong – the core engine is the same, and the game also still takes place in Steelport, so the layout remains unchanged. However, when you’re in the simulation, there are a number of changes to make the game feel more like a sim than a real city. Some of these changes work, but others are more suspect.
Some items pixelate and flash in and out of reality, which is pretty cool; however the standard technique of mosaicking some of the textures just looks like the game is unfinished. The game also suffers from some terrible performance issues.
The last game wasn’t the best performing game out there, but adding in the super-powers has some horrendous frame-rate implications. Installing the game made a significant difference, but then the game had a tendency to hitch up, sometimes freezing for as long as 5 seconds, whilst auto saving.
When it comes to the audio though, there’s no such worry. The soundtrack is excellently picked, as ever, and the voice cast is just brilliant. There’s a new option of ‘Nolan North’ as a voice, which was probably unnecessary, but otherwise everyone is on top form.
There are some particularly brilliant moments, such as Pierce and your character singing karaoke in the car to Paula Abdul’s ‘Opposites Attract’. The use of music in the missions is also superb, starting off with ‘I don’t want to miss a thing’ in the very first mission, Robert Palmer’s ‘Simply Irresistible’ whilst you pole dance, and Stan Bush’s ‘The Touch’ blazing out of car radios everywhere.
Saints Row 4 also offers a number of co-op activities, which can only be played with a friend. But you can also invite a buddy into the main game, playing through the storyline or other activities. Free-roam is much more enticing than before thanks to the super-powers, turning the city into a playground as you stomp, jump and fly through the environment.
For a game made in a mere 18 months, "Saints Row 4" is remarkably complete. Not all of the new activities are brilliant, but at least Volition hasn’t just rehashed previous gameplay content. Saints Row 4 may be mostly a set of incremental improvements over the last game, and suffer from crushing performance issues at times, but for the vast majority of the game you get a tight, focused sandbox game which focuses on making sure you have as much fun as possible. And in that respect, it’s an uproarious success.
+ More over the top than ever before
+ Tight & focused for a sandbox game
- Some texture issues
- Re-used assets