Review: Saints Row IV (PS3)

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Title: Saints Row 4
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (6.8 GB)
Release Date: August 20, 2013
Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: Volition, Inc.
Original MSRP: $59.99 / Super Dangerous Wub Wub Edition $99.99
ESRB Rating: M
Saints Row IV is also available on Xbox 360 and PC.
The PlayStation 3 Blu-ray version was used for this review.

** This will be a completely spoiler-free review. All screen shots have been carefully selected so as not to give anything away. **

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 332 of the podcast.

Gameplay:
Saints Row started as a competitor to the Grand Theft Auto series, but since then, it’s slowly been headed down a different path. Ask anyone what their favorite part of GTA: San Andreas was and more often than not, you’ll hear about skydiving and jetpacks. But whereas that series has stayed (mostly) grounded in reality, the Saints Row franchise has been edging further and further down the rabbit hole of pure unadulterated fun, and it’s on full display in Saints Row IV.

Several years have passed since the craziness of Saints Row: The Third and the popularity of the Third Street Saints is at an all-time high as the leader of the Saints has been elected President of The United States. The goings-on at the White Crib have been remade, Saints-style, and for the most part things are going well… until the alien invasion of course.

Emperor Zinyak has come to take over the world and enslave humanity with an unstoppable force. Everyone is quickly kidnapped and you wake up in a simulated Steelport. It’s here that your torment begins as Zinyak’s sole purpose in all of this seems to be in making you feel like you’re drinking donkey beer while climbing satan’s ladder. Actually, he tends to leave you alone most of the time, letting his troops and Wardens do most of the dirty work, but he will pop in when he feels it’s necessary, so be ready.

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You’ll start by customizing you character (the wackier the better) with a surprisingly deep system. If you’ve played Saints Row: The Third, you’ve already had a taste of it as it’s nearly the same system here. The nice thing is that you can also bring your character over from that game and update it for Saints Row IV.

If you’d like to (or need to) start from scratch, you can download the Inauguration Station (1.2 GB) right now from the PlayStation Store and create a character so you’re ready to just import them when the game releases. You can go male or female with three different voices for each gender along with the additional choice of Nolan North and nearly every conceivable setup is available for your character (including fully nude, of course).

Once you’re in the simulation, the real open-world, sandbox type stuff begins. Because it’s essentially a computer program, you can bend some rules and flat out break others, kinda like The Matrix. This is really the heart of this game and the point where people will either love it or hate it. Saints Row has been pushing the boundaries further with each game and this time they’ve gone completely over the top. In any other franchise it wouldn’t work, but here it’s damn near perfect. The entirely ludicrous situation you find yourself in and all the wacky powers and upgrades are there for one reason only… because they’re fun. The Story Missions, the Side Quests, the powers, the enemies, the clothing choices, even the environment itself, it’s all designed to give you the craziest sandbox experience you’ve ever had.

More than eighteen hours in and I have yet to hit a dud in terms of Story or Side Missions. Every single one has been a joy and I’ve laughed out loud more times than I can count at this point. The mini-boss Wardens can be a pain in the ass at times but this is why you need to carefully level up your character and buy the right upgrades early on.

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Upgrading your health, combat abilities etc. requires you to spend the in-game currency ‘Cache’. Cache is earned through missions, taking over stores, causing destruction and so on. Upgrading your superpowers, on the other hand, require you to find data clusters (kind of like a big fat group of shards from inFAMOUS) and use them as currency. It’s a big job considering that there are over 1200?!? Data Clusters scattered throughout the city, but it’s not really as scary as it sounds. I’d estimate that about 85% or so are right out in the open. It’s definitely in your best interest to grab as many as you can whenever you see them because your superpowers are critical here.

The great thing here is the sheer variety in the missions. Yes, there are quite a few challenges within the city that repeat, but unless you play all of those at once (which you obviously don’t need to do), they can become a familiar distraction when stepping away from the main Story Missions. Now the story, hooo boy the story. Just when I thought I had seen pretty much all that Virtual Steelport had to offer me, I hit a Story Mission that busted things wide open and opened the game up on a whole new level. Yes, it’s really that good, and from that point on, the missions get funnier and even more interesting.

Now, what if you’ve never played a Saints Row game before this one? Rest assured, you can step right in and have a fantastic time. You won’t get all the references and in-jokes within the world, but it does a good job of giving backstory where necessary so you should be fine. For fans of the games however, this one is filled to the brim with fanservice and you’ll have a much deeper and more rewarding experience having played the other games.

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Beyond all the missions available to you, some of the greatest fun in the game lies in running around, exploring and just messing things up as in every other sandbox game. The big difference here is that you have crazy, over the top superpowers at your fingertips and that just amps up the fun. And if you get bored with that, just go have sex with your homies. No distinctions are made for whatever gender you or they happen to be, leading to some hilarious dialogue and situations.

Visuals:
If you’ve played Saints Row: The Third, you should feel right at home in Virtual Steelport. Since it’s a simulation, you’ll notice the obvious differences and this is where Volition was really able to play around. The city itself is in a kind of perpetual twilight so don’t expect day/night cycles and weather. This game is more about what you can do in and around the city rather than realism.

You’ll see the individual pixels of objects break apart and re-form, reminding you of where you are. Between that and the blazing speed effects as you upgrade your character, there’s some really cool design work going on in here. Buildings will be familiar, yet alien (in every sense of the word) as they’ll be covered in Zin slogans and logos. Alien troops look awesome and fight with ever greater numbers since they can open a portal wherever you are and keep spawning in. There’s so much more going on in a number of the Side Missions visually but I won’t spoil any of it here, you’ll definitely enjoy it though.

As a Saints Row game, crazy outfits and weapons are demanded and Volition really delivers here. You’ve all seen the Dubstep gun, which I will say is very powerful and even more fun than you’d think, but here are a ton of alien weapons available which can change things up considerably. The outfits are even more insane than before and you can easily swap them out or mix and match a ton of different pieces, making your character truly your own.

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All the vehicles, including the new alien ones, look and play fantastic and the NPCs have a great variety to them. I did run into the occasional graphic hiccup “in the real world”, but taken into consideration within the massive scope of the game, it was very negligible and took nothing away from the overall experience.

Audio:
Voice acting is really strong for all the characters even though you’ll get some repetition in certain missions. You can of course choose a male voice for your female character or vice-versa or simply choose Nolan North and be done with it.

The sound effects are fantastic as well considering they had to supply an entire alien army this time around. Voices, weapons, vehicles, every last little sound had to be added and sound wild, and alien while still fitting in with the world and story and it works great. The guns (alien or otherwise) all sound awesome as well, particularly the Dubstep gun (of course). Try changing the look of your guns by the way, just sayin’…..

A vast, and excellent, music selection is available to you at all times as you can switch between multiple radio stations or create your own mix tape of whichever songs you like from the soundtrack.

Online/Multiplayer:
Online co-op is available for the entire campaign but the game requires an online pass and the codes apparently won’t activate until the game releases so I wasn’t able to try any of this.

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Conclusion:
While Saints Row IV may seem like a somewhat natural evolution of the series, I can’t help but feel that it may be too much for some people. This could end up being a divisive game as some may think they’ve gone too far. I don’t think that’s the case here as Volition has taken the next step in over the top gameplay and then took about ten more for good measure.

There’s no way you can look at this franchise and consider it a knockoff of Grand Theft Auto anymore. The two have become as different as Gran Turismo and Twisted Metal and Saints Row shines because of it.

When I’m not playing, I’m thinking about it and wanting to get back to it as soon as I can. This game is pure blissful, laugh out loud, fun which we just don’t get enough of anymore.

Score:
9.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Roxio Game Capture HD Pro screen capture feature.

 

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Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 25 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation – minus the Switch.

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  • Nice review Josh. Looks like another game I got to play before next gen.

  • MJC

    I’ve been counting the days till release and I’m happy to see the reviews have been mostly positive.

  • YoyoMcDingdong

    Good to see volition are keeping up the standards from S.R.3,although I wont be getting this,seems too similiar to 3 for me,Im saving my dough for GTAV.

  • BrianC6234

    Where’s the episode 332 podcast mentioned in this review?

    • MJC

      I believe the episode is out on Friday due to some editing issues.

      • BrianC6234

        Thanks.

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