Developers: Volition Inc
Publishers: Deep Silver
Plot: The Earth is threatened by aliens and the Head of the Saints is thrown into a simulation. However, with the help of hacker, Kinzie, he soon turns his prison into a weapon against the alien invaders.
I have never played a Saints Row game before, but there was so much hype in the air about the fourth one that I had to give it a go. The end result was a very mixed bag.
Let’s start with the good. This game hits you from the get-go, being both unpredictable and fun. After a quick tutorial mission, you are elected President. After a few moments of being President, you are attacked by aliens and thrown into a simulation. Needless to say, newcomers will only get lost with the smaller character plot points, as the actual story brushes away any on-going storylines in favour for alien carnage. The story is so random and nonsensical; the best thing you can do is take everything with a pinch of salt. Much like ‘Duke Nukem’, this game doesn’t take itself too seriously (as proven as soon as you unlock the Dubstep Gun) and if you are going to get some enjoyment out of this game, you better get into the same mind-set that Saints Row is on sharpish. Thankfully, the fun that the developers are having is so infectious that this isn’t particularly hard to get into.
Saints Row IV is first and foremost a parody game, therefore do not expect too much originality here. The best description you can give this game is a cross between Grand Theft Auto and Prototype, with several other games referenced along the way. You are given an open world to play with, much like the other instalments of this franchise, but this time you are granted god-like powers to play with. There are many cars to choose from, but seeing as, within an hour of playtime, you get the power to run faster than any vehicle, they become more scenery than an effective tool. Enemies are helpless the moment you unlock special destructive powers. It also embraces the crazy that made Fallout and Grand Theft Auto so fun. During a firefight, a car is likely to collide with the enemy troops in a completely unrelated incident. On the way to a mission, you are likely to see a man in a giant cat mask slaughtering civilians, like a twisted serial killer. This is the kind of game where the core of the game is easy, but the tricky parts come from the more irritating factors. Stray bullets ruining a combo, an explosion erupting too near you: while fun at first, being immortal gets old fast.
Other games are parodied too to amazing effect. There is an element of Assassin’s Creed with the simulation theme of the game. Also, it starts with some Mass Effect style choices that mean little more than seeing where an opponent gets punched. On top of that, there is a spoof on the way games let you have relationships with characters in the game. Go up to any of the supporting cast in your free time and you are given the option to ‘romance’ them. The results are often terrifically amusing. As you progress through the main mission, other games are satirised, even old-timey arcade games. Nothing is sacred in Saints Row IV and that is the way it should be. Not that it is just parody that earns the laughs. The dialogue is fantastic too, creating fun characters to help the player in his missions. You often have the smart-ass Kinzie matching you quip for quip and other times, when you have two allies fighting with you, they will strike up a conversation, which is usually pretty amusing.
Sadly before long the positive factors come to a grinding halt. The side missions let the game down. They are often the same style of bonus level but given a flimsy reason to re-tread old ground. Each ally will ask you to partake in the same missions again and again, whether it is eliminating alien checkpoints to racing around the city to simply blowing stuff up. Don’t get me wrong – some of these side quests are interesting, but they simply get done to death so early on. At first, it is fun, but when you realise that the game isn’t going to be giving you anything new, the side quests become frustrating rather than satisfying. For a game that was looking very innovative, it gets lazy when it comes to the fundamental nature of a game. Also, something I found when playing this game is the fact that, in parodying other games, Saints Rows IV is constantly highlighting itself as a flawed game. It sticks so tightly to the Grand Theft Auto model that I cannot help but think about how much I cannot wait for Grand Theft Auto V to come out. I hear Keith David’s voice acting and I want to play Mass Effect. Saint Rows IV is a welcome distraction, but it never feels much more than something to entertain yourself with, while waiting for the bigger, better games to get released.
On a bonus note, there is one touching moment in the game. If you wait until the very end of the credits, the cast get together and start singing ‘Just A Friend’, a song brought up earlier in the game. It fades onto the late Michael Clarke Duncan, who died midway through acting in the game as Ben King (later placed by Terry Crews from the Expendables). As he closes the song, it is surprisingly emotional and a good farewell to the great actor. A nice touch by Deep Silver.
Final Verdict: Big, loud fun, yet it is majorly lacking in other areas. Too repetitive to be a great game.