Saints Row has always garnered negative criticism for being perceived by the masses as a cheaper alternative to Rockstar's hit franchise Grand Theft Auto. Some people may even say that Volition is riding on the coat tails of Rockstar's success in the sandbox crime genre by imitating their style. Blasphemy. Despite what the haters are saying, Saints Row IV is breaking, and literally smashing, new ground with their amazing sequel—a sequel that honours its own legacy and offers plenty of variation when compared to its market competitors.
The Saints Row crew have risen from petty street thuggery to running the American government. Yes, the Saints have become a global superpower and you get to play as the President of the United States.
As President you have important decisions to make as you walk to the podium: Do you sign off on a cure for cancer or ensure food famine is history? Which Saints Row member do you want to party with after your speech? Do you want to punch a random guy in the face or kick him in the crotch? The humour in Saints Row IV constantly shifts from benign to crass to stupid. The jokes throughout the short 6-8 hour campaign are consistently hilarious. You could argue that there is quality over quantity here.
The massive game changer in Saints Row IV is the alien invasion. This is no ordinary attack though. The leader of the aliens, Zinyak, decrees that In order for him to truly conquer the world he must break the will of Earth's strongest warriors. Zinyak subjugates the President and forces him/her to submit to a dodgy simulation that plays out like a corny 50s commercial full of smiles and no worries.
Fortunately, the President has friends like Kinzie (clever former FBI agent) who manages to hack the simulation and allows the player to gain super powers that break the rules of the system.
Before you know it the game becomes a parody of The Matrix where you break out of a pod and escape on a spaceship. You are now a free President, however, it is your duty to liberate all of the people who are loyal to the Saints and are still plugged into the simulations.
When you re-enter the simulated Steelport you gradually learn new skills like telekinesis and how to glide through the air. Soon you will only drive shiny cars for the sake of completing missions. Pierce's loyalty mission, for example, involves a sing-along of Paula Abdul's 'Opposites Attract' and Biz Markie's 'Just a Friend'. Park the car if you want to listen to the whole segment.
Fans of Saints Row: The Third will notice, aside from the cosmetic changes, that the map is almost identical. I had only recently finished the third game when number four came out. Personally, I liked the sense of familiar places and knowing where everything is. Gamers who were seeking a whole new environment to wreak havoc in may be disappointed as a result.
As the Saints destabilise the simulation and take control of the fake Steelport you earn credits to purchase ammunition and weapons and you continue to unlock ridiculous abilities. Despite becoming the next Neo, the aliens are effectively the police and they will escalate in terms of strength, numbers and tactics to match your level.
One of the most useless weapons to stock in your arsenal is the dubstep gun (unless you upgrade it for more potent wubs). Pull the trigger and the strange stereo thing will belt out the Kroll Show theme and coerce bystanders to dance. Another special weapon is the 'Merica that boasts a flamer, gatling gun and fireworks. This death machine is worth packing for mobs of hostile aliens.
Standard fare for guns includes pistols, submachine guns, assault rifles and so on. All of which can be upgraded at the gun store. And then there are the lasers …
Towards the second half of the story you meet an old friend in the form of a retro platformer. The actual game loads up an old school beat-em-up which skims over the plot of the original Saints Row, Double Dragon style. Unfortunately, the pimp with the autotune microphone—Zimos—from the previous game does not make an appearance.
To say much more about this game will spoil the fun and the surprises. Enjoy it for what it is.
The charm of Saints Row IV is that it does not take itself too seriously (see the dance off the end). If you want light hearted fun, silly action and the odd zinger to crack you up then you need Saints Row IV in your life.
Now available via Steam (digital download) for $69.99. Note: price subject to change.