“You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.”
Saints Row IV is so filled with brilliant, insane, balls-to-the-walls silly chaos that the dancing star it has birthed struts across the gaming landscape burning at degrees so hot and bright that modern technology is unable to truly capture its magnificence. I’m happy to report Saint’s Row is in safe hands with Volition, Inc., who found a way to increase the pure lunacy of the game while still making it fun and accessible.
The formula is basically the same: an open-world action game structured around story missions and side quests with a myriad of activities your wholly customizable avatar is able to do at any point. Baked with a script riddled with puns, references, and insults, Saints Row 4 is the funniest game of the year. A loose plot involving an alien invasion ties it all together, but the focus isn’t on the Zin or the big bad of the game, Zinyak. It’s exploring the newly infested version of Steelport and using your new upgradeable super powers to do so.
And it’s these powers that change everything. You’re no longer bound to the streets of Steelport. Traveling through the city is now half the entertainment the game delivers. While driving your wholly customizable vehicle is still tight and arcade-y, leaping over buildings like the Hulk, sprinting at blindingly fast speeds and knocking over cars in your wake, and soaring through the skies is much more entertaining. Steelport is at your fingertips, and the mission dynamics are now completely changed.
Most of the mission styles from past Saints Row games are still intact. Including the typical combat missions (kill everyone in this area), racing (now on foot!), mayhem (on foot or in-vehicle destruction derby measuring your wave of mayhem by dollars), and my favorite activity in the Saints Row series, insurance fraud, which is basically ragdolling your character into traffic and ranking up cash per bone broken. This hilarious act of insanity is multiplied tenfold due to the fact you can now run at super speed, ragdoll into an oncoming truck and be sent flying halfway across the city. It’s hilarious and never gets old.
A new activity in Saints Row 4 that utilizes super powers well is the Tower Climbing sections of the game. There are major Zin towers occupying Steelport and climbing each is an incredibly fun and deliberate practice in platforming and precision. It’s not as easy as running up the side — you have to carefully observe your surroundings and place your super jumps carefully, because one slip up will send you careening to the ground hundreds of feet below. You’re rewarded with cash, experience, and a beautiful view of the city, hundreds and hundreds of feet high. Remember that moment in the Spider-Man 2 game where you climbed the tallest building in Manhattan then jumped off and watched Spidey break in half upon hitting the ground? It’s that same rush, except The President is a hundred times tougher than Mr. Parker.
And this leads me to the one nitpick I’d have with Saints Row 4. Your character is basically a god, and the gunfights and combat are all easily conquered. And if you did somehow manage to approach death, the fights are one super jump away from escape. And while the guns are all still fun and should be the basis of combat, I found that the powers exclusively gave me the biggest edge. Simply using your ice powers to freeze enemies, than using super speed to crash into and shatter them to pieces, or super speed to a one-hit kill melee attack is how I defeated most big groups.
Granted, the guns are still insane fun to use. You still have your typical pistols, machine guns, and shotguns, which are all upgradeable at resident gun depot Friendly Fire. And there are specialty heavy weapons that are interesting for a while. For example, the black hole launcher shoots… a black hole. It’s valuable during mayhem activities, but during regular combat fails to be more entertaining than your powers. The ‘MERICA weapon is also incredibly fun to use and is basically death incarnate. And the talked-about Dubstep gun is fun once. Then it’s useless.
It’s a small nitpick that makes the game a bit too easy but does not at all detriment the fun factor of it. Saint’s Row 4 also extends the game lengthwith a huge amount of collecting and destruction side missions. To upgrade your powers you collect the over one-thousand glowing data orbs that are scattered around Steelport. Me, being the obsessive-compulsive type had to collect as many as I could, but gave up after upgrading my initial powers completely within a few hours. It seems like a cheap way to extend playtime, but it’s still damn fun running around the city looking for these orbs and a million times better than feather collecting.
Also, I was kind of annoyed that the new Steelport doesn’t have a day/night cycle. I got really tired of the city being at a constant state of night. But that only garnered my attention when I wasn’t jumping tall buildings in a single bound or whacking aliens with a tentacle bat. Which wasn’t often. Also, visually the game isn’t the greatest. It’s actually incredibly pixelated and certain textures are blurry, but with the sheer amount of things happening on screen and the way you can customize your avatar, it’s an easily forgivable offense.
I had an indescribable amount of fun with the cast of Saint’s Row IV and my French, busty, red-headed, suit-and-trenchcoat sporting female President. I won’t spoil anything, but the game has a massive focus on character interaction that doesn’t effect the game in any way beside purely cosmetic, but is still entertaining. Familiar voices by the likes of Keith David, Terrance Carson, Natalie Lander, Troy Baker, and even Rob Van Dam return as well as a few new that I’ll let you discover. The parodic nature of SR allows these actors and actresses complete free range to not only make us laugh, but deliver poignant statements about the gaming industry directly from inside the studio, especially lines delivered by Keith David. There’s a certain amount of truth buried between the dialogue in Saints Row 4 that was as entertaining as the game itself.
I don’t think there’s been a game this year that’s been more entertaining. While some people may say that Volition gives you too many powers too fast, making everything a lot less special… to that I say this: fuck it. The game is fun and I believe half the challenge is limiting yourself, like actual superheroes must do. There isn’t a better open world game out there right now, and the tons of hours you will spend doing the myriad of activities in Saint’s Row IV including the combat, platforming, minigames, upgrading, item collecting and playing dress-us is well worth the price of admission.
Saints Row IV is easily the best game of the year and one that I will continue to play well after this review has been written.
You can buy Saints Row IV at Amazon for $59.99.