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Review: Saints Row IV

August 23, 2013 • Reviews

The Saints Row franchise has always been somewhat tricky to categorise. It is serious whilst trying to be funny, and it is silly but tries to come across as serious. As a result, the game really falls somewhere in the middle. Just to add a touch more complexity to the scenario, more often than not, it leans toward the silly and humerous side.

A screenshot of Saints Row IV (image: Deep Silver)

A screenshot of Saints Row IV (image: Deep Silver)

If gamers ever wanted a title that combined elements of Grand Theft Auto with Crackdown and Infamous, then the fourth game in the series will be right up their dodgy alley. Like the franchise, Saints Row IV does not quite know where it wants to be and, as a result, players will experience a mixed bag of excitement and dull action.

Plot

As soon as players import a character from Saints Row the Third or create a new one, they will be placed in the shoes of the President of the USA – and that is where things start to go crazy. Before a press briefing is about to start, an alien race invades earth and makes it very clear that they are hell-bent on destroying the planet – starting with the city of Steelport.

With the typical America ‘can-do’ attitude and bravado, it will be up to the player and his team of Saints gang members to rid the planet from the invading species and save Earth.

What we like about it

That fact that it has remained a fairly expansive open-world game is always a good thing, but what brings it down is that the city has changed little from the third title. But with that said, players will still be able to completely customise their character in almost every way possible, even down to scars, ankle tattoos and facial hair for women.

Open-world titles are always fun, in the sense that they enable the character to do a variety of things that are not directly tied to the plot. To unlock the clothing stores, tattoo parlours and gun shops, players will have to complete a short hack by rearranging a type of circuit board. Once that is complete, the shop will be available for the player to use. It will also give them a bit more influence that area – which adds to the total domination of the city in order to retake it from the aliens.

The title also features a number of challenges, such as causing as much mayhem as possible or completing a foot race in a specific time, but they do tend to become a bit repetitive after a while. Also, some of the support characters will have a main mission for the player, which will consist of a number of these challenges. While they are optional, having them as part of a mission seems forced upon the player, and removes the choice in whether or not to complete them.

But with that said, the title will be enjoyed for the sheer chaos that gamers will be able to inflict on the aliens and their guardians. It is utter senseless violence and most of the characters have a foul mouth to go with that as well.

There are some missions that felt extremely rewarding, but for the most part they tend to be a bit on the bland side, with easy hack to get around most of the elements in the game. For example, there are challenges where players need to climb to the top of various towers and activate points during the course of their ascent. While physically climbing up can take a long time, just spawning a helicopter in mid-air and flying to each point is much easier.

But, there is nothing better than causing a huge explosion just because the player can – or using a completely inappropriate weapon.

The humour in Saints Row 4 is also on par with the third title and gamers would not settle for anything less. There are a number of choice one-liners spoken in the dialogue, but then again, the title does not have an R18 rating for handing out cookies!

What we do not like about it

The title has its action-driven missions and ridiculous, fun moments, however, there are also a number of factors that bring down the game. The fact that the radio stations are exactly the same as the previous game – with few established bands blaring through any device in the game that is capable of an audio signal, does little to improve the experience.

Although it has been accused of being a Grand Theft Auto clone, moving the setting into one populated by aliens affords the developers the liberty of pretty much doing whatever they feel like – which is not always a good thing.

While almost any car in the game can be hijacked and driven, the driving aspect of the title could have been handled a little better. Vehicles have an odd way of handling and some of the button combinations could have been remapped to others.

As a whole, the title really is a combination of incredible highs and lows, which ultimately leave the gamer slightly confused about where to actually place the title.

Playing Saints Row IV evokes a number of different emotions, but players will thoroughly enjoy roaming the streets in search of the next thing to blow up, hunting the various collectable and destroying the aliens outside of the main missions. Just in terms of this aspect, yes, it is a lot of fun…

Conclusion

Ultimately, when the dust settles and the smoke clears, players will realise that Saints Row IV is just (in essence) an expansion on the third title that was released a couple of years ago. While the vehicles and many other elements are exactly the same, there are some new features – which will entertain for many hours.

Saints Row IV leaves one feeling slightly spent, emotionally, having really enjoyed the fun parts, but feeling frustrated with that which is bland and repetitive. The Press Build version on Steam, handed to the media, was also riddled with bugs and glitches. Although these did not break up the game, they were incredibly annoying.

Fans of the franchise will find enjoyment in the fourth iteration for the sheer scale of destruction, foul-mouthed characters and fun things to do, but players should rather steer clear if this will be their first introduction to the series. For players who enjoy completely over-the-top aspects and cheap, cheesy jokes, this offering will be perfect for them.

Our score: a rather mixed 7.5/10

Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor

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