I was never a huge fan of the Saints Row series. I had always viewed it as inferior to the Grand Theft Auto series and felt like I had no reason to play it. However, this mindset changed after I bought Saints Row: The Third during Steam’s summer sale. I absolutely loved the writing and overall silliness of the game and spent about three days straight playing the game until I finished it. Luckily for me, Saints Row IV would be released shortly after my completion of the previous title.
Saints Row IV, developed by Volition, Inc. was originally planned as a standalone expansion to Saints Row: The Third, but after the studio was purchased by Deep Silver following the bankruptcy of THQ, it was decided that it would be released as a full-fledged sequel instead. Do I think that Saints Row IV warrants the price of a full game rather than the pricing similar to that of expansions? Not quite.
Saints Row IV leaves off from the Save Shaundi ending of Saints Row: The Third. After being elected President of the United States, Earth is attacked by aliens, and The Boss must defeat them to save humanity after being captured and put into what is essentially The Matrix. Pretty generic stuff, right? Well the beauty of the game lies in the content underneath the premise of the game. Keith David voices your Vice President, who incidentally is Keith David. A new voice for The Boss is added to the game called the Nolan North voice where Nolan North voices The Boss. Choosing this leads to a few hilarious scenarios where Nolan North breaks the fourth wall to reference himself. The game as a whole parodies the Mass Effect series through stuff like having to do loyalty missions for your crew to unlock powers for them and being able to romance them through minimal dialogue. I really loved the dialogue and character interactions in the game because they were just as funny as back in Saints Row: The Third.
The gameplay is very similar to Saints Row: The Third with one exception: your character has superpowers. Since you’re in a simulation, The Boss is able to run around at super speed, leap over skyscrapers, and shoot fireballs out of his hands. This leads to a lot of wacky sandbox adventures where you can run along the side of buildings and fight waves of aliens using your super powers. SR4 is essentially a good superhero game as well as a good open-world third person shooter. The gameplay as a whole winds up feeling much tighter and smooth even with the addition of new mechanics like superpowers. There really isn’t much else to say about it.
Volition has done a very good job regarding the radio stations in the game. A lot of great artists made it into the radios, and the quality almost rivals that of the previous titles. Songs from artists like A$AP Rocky , Macklemore, Kendrick Lamar, Biz Markie, and Haddaway are available to the player. New to the series is the ability to listen to the radio on foot, so you can kill aliens and enemies while The Safety Dance plays in the background or glide through the air while The Boys are Back in Town is playing.
While I enjoyed the game very much, I do have criticisms for the game. The first criticism I have is that the game doesn’t feel like an actual sequel. Much of the assets in the game, whether it be map, environment, or animation assets, look like they were ripped straight off the previous game. If this was marketed as an expansion, I wouldn’t have an issue, but if a sequel uses the exact same assets of the previous game, it really cheapens the whole experience and doesn’t really make me feel like I paid for a new game.
An issue I have with the combat is that nearly all enemies have a way to throw your character into ragdoll mode. I didn’t have an issue with ragdolls in SR3, but in this game, enemies are stronger and superpowered to counter your own powers, and as a result they have a lot of abilities that send you flying. Seriously, I spent about half the game being unable to move my character because he kept getting ragdolled by enemy attacks. There’s an upgrade that prevents you from getting ragdolled, but you can only access it much later in the game, so it doesn’t prevent the frustration in the first 90% of the game. During one of the missions, turret balls would spawn over your characters head and land on you, and there was no way to prevent it from knocking you into ragdoll mode. I seriously don’t understand why the developers thought this would be fun to play against. It’s completely awful, and I hate it.
The game is fairly short even with a plethora of distractions in the game for you to do. I hacked every store and did nearly every sidequest to take over territory and I still wound up finishing the game at around 12 hours. Considering I got about 18 hours out of SR3, this game wound up feeling a lot shorter. Some of the main missions feel like sidequests too because they just make you do distraction missions under the guise of it being main quests, which I didn’t really like.
Due to the introduction of superpowers, using cars and homies is pretty pointless. Homies are unable to keep up with your sonic speed, and there’s no reason to use a car since you can leap over buildings to get around traffic. This isn’t a huge deal, but I really liked modding my car and having a crew follow me while I get into shenanigans in SR3.
My main problem with the game is that it lacks definitive “This game is great” moments from SR3. Saints Row: The Third had the mission where you jump out of a plane to take over an enemy building while Kanye West’s Power is playing, the luchadore match between Hulk Hogan and Killbane with You’re the Best Around playing in the background, or Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out for a Hero playing over the final mission. There were a lot of hilarious moments in SR4, but the only thing that was comparable to moments in SR3 was when I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing by Aerosmith plays while The Boss is scaling the missile in the beginning of the game or when Roddy Piper shows up.
SR4 is a really fun game despite its length and shortcomings. Would I pay $50 for it if I knew the total amount of content within? Probably not. It’s definitely on par with something like the Episodes from Liberty City expansions for GTA4 or Undead Nightmare for Red Dead Redemption, and there lies the whole issue with branding it as a sequel to SR3 because it really lacks the content needed for it to be considered an actual sequel. If you’re a person who wanted more of the same like I did, you’ll probably be satisfied with this game. If you’re a newcomer to the series or are unsure of if you want to purchase it, just wait for an inevitable price drop and season pass bundle.
Available on: PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3; Publisher: Deep Silver; Developer: Volitionc, Inc.; Players: 1-2; Released: August 19, 2013; ESRB: M; MSRP: $49.99; Official Site