Saints Row IV Review: The President, Keith David, and an Alien Emperor walk into a bar

When I played the original Saints Row I thought it was an enjoyable game, albeit admittedly seeing it as a Grand Theft Auto “imitator.” While the game showed promise and had some neat mechanics (wearing purple to boost your rep), I felt that it too closely resembled GTA. When Saints Row: The Third came out, developer Volition completely threw that notion out the window. Big, grandiose, and wacky, Saints Row: The Third was like nothing else on the market.

Quickly after the release of Saints Row: The Third, Volition got to work on the game’s DLC. One of these add-ons was titled “Enter the Dominatrix” and it was set to give the player super powers. Unfortunately, the original DLC never saw the light of day (don’t worry though, the directors cut of the content will be out soon as DLC for SRIV). It later was discovered that Enter the Dominatrix was being used as the groundwork for Saints Row IV. Well, Saints Row IV is set to come out on August 20; does it live up to the lofty expectations set by its predecessor? And more importantly, does it have big, purple dildo bats?

Story

Easily my favorite part of the game, Saints Row IV’s story is awesome. It’s over-the-top, hilarious, and a blast to play through. You play as the President of the United States. That’s right, you’re the President of the United-freakin’-States. After aliens abduct your cabinet members and their evil leader Zinyak works you over a bit, you wake up in a virtual Steelpor after first escaping your own worst nightmare/ One of the main hooks in Saints Row IV is that you’re able to use super powers. This means that you’ll be able to run at super fast speeds, leap over tall buildings, and incinerate bad guys at your leisure — among a bunch of other neat powers.

From there, you’ll have to rescue each one of your “homies,” formulate a plan, and stop Zinyack. This is done by going into each one of your friend’s “nightmares.” Whether it’s fighting Saints marketing materials, riding a light cycle in a Tron-inspired prison, or just reliving old times, these nightmares are easily the highlights of Saints Row IV. However, I would’ve liked to see more of these story missions. I just don’t think there were enough of these included in the game.

Once you rescue a specific homie, you’ll be able to go on a loyalty mission with them. These missions usually expand on that homie’s nightmare. More often than not, you’ll have to track down a bad guy and kill them. However, one of the more extravagant loyalty missions has you fighting off hordes of zombies in a fictional superhero’s (Nyte Blayde) nightmare.

Of course, when you’re not saving the world or fighting off zombies, you’ll be able to partake in a variety of activities. There’s everything from “racing” to scaling alien towers, to the tradition mayhem, insurance fraud, and assassination missions that you know and love. No matter what your fancy, there’s plenty to do in virtual Steelport.

Saints Row IV also features a cooperative mode. This mode allows you to partake in any of the activities I mentioned above (sans story missions) and play them with a friend. It’s super fun racing your friend to the top of an alien tower, or just running around town, creating havoc, and listening to classical music. There’s also a battle mode which pits you against your friend. If each one of you has the whole arsenal of super powers available then it can get real intense. Running around the city and scaling skyscrapers as we shot fireballs at one another was incredible.

Gameplay

Saints Row IV is a third-person, open-world, action-adventure game. As stated earlier, you’ll be tasked to take on various missions throughout the game. To help you on those missions, you’ll have a huge array of both weapons and super powers at your disposal. Saints Row IV has some incredibly unique weapons. My personal favorite would have to be the dub-step gun. It’s devastatingly strong, and whenever you shoot people with it, dub-step starts playing and people begin to dance (before being obliterated). Along with the dub-step gun, there are a variety of other weapons. You have the standard lot (SMGs, shotguns, pistols), but you also have recharging alien versions of them as well. Each weapon plays differently, and you should definitely play around until you find your favorite combo. Me? I went around beating everybody up with a giant purple dildo. Oh, Saints Row IV.

Virtual Steelport also grants you a slew of super powers. These are what make the game get really out of control. You’ll be able to run at lightning fast speeds, make skyscraper-sized jumps, and (eventually) be able to fly around Steelport. These powers are for more than just traversal though. You’ll be able to shoot fireballs/ice, pick objects/people up with telekinesis, and perform devastating ground pounds on unsuspecting civilians below. Each one of the powers is unique and a lot of fun to toy around with.

Everything I just mentioned, along with specific bonuses for both you and your homies, can be upgraded. Throughout the course of the game, you’ll earn “reputation.” This reputation will level up and unlock purchasable upgrades. Some of these upgrades are minor, like more ammo for your SMG, or 25% more health. On the other hand, buying an upgrade like infinite sprinting, is a game changer. Of course you can just activate cheats and bypass all of this money/reputation nonsense (ya filthy cheating McCheater).

Saints Row IV is not a hard game; nor should it be. On the Normal difficulty setting, I breezed through and it took me about nine hours to complete the main campaign missions. However, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you only play that and bypass the plethora of side-missions the game has to offer. Saints Row IV is at its best when you’re roaming the city enjoying yourself. In short, game length is not an issue. At the time of this review, I have 16 hours clocked in and my game progress says 73%.

With great super powers, comes great developer responsibility. Often times throughout Saints Row IV, I broke the game. This mainly happened in story missions. I would get so far ahead of the game scripting that I would have to sit there and wait for the game to play catch-up. Now, this was only a problem on missions where you were allowed to use your powers. My game also crashed a few times. Sometimes it was during a loading screen, while others it was in the middle of a mission. One particular mission kept freezing at a specific instance over and over again. I found out later that V-sync was to blame.

Presentation

Saints Row IV is not a particularly great-looking game. Some of the textures (mountains in the opening cut scene, I’m looking at you) are really bland. The character models are not too incredibly detailed either. This is a small gripe though, especially in a game of this size/scale. The music however, is incredible. The soundtrack in Saints Row IV is is simply a feast for your ears. Volition are masters at using licensed music at just the right time. Not only that, but the music available on the radio stations is stellar. This being virtual Steelport, you don’t even have to be in your car to listen to music. I was able to listen (and sing along) to Biz Markie’s You Got What I Need over and over again.

Saints-Row-3
You’ll be meeting plenty of foes, both old and new

Overall

From its opening mission to its closing “twist,” Saints Row IV is a wild ride. It’s fun to play, hilarious, and a good bang for your buck. What I think the game lacks in story-based missions, it makes up for it with the hours of side-quests and things to do around the city. Running/flying around the city and using your super powers is an absolute blast and never feels old.

Now if you’ll excuse me, vice president Keith David and I have to go drink some Donkey Beer over at Satan’s Ladder and discuss Saints Row V……playa.

Final Verdict: 8.5/10 (Buy it If you were a fan of Saints Row: The Third, or are just itching to get your hands on a funny, open-world adventure game. I mean, you’re the president after all.)