Saints Row IV Review: Sharky Goodness
Saints Row has made a name for itself by straying away from any sort of realistic depictions of street-crime or corporate espionage, and instead ventured into the bizarre, the hilarious and the ultraviolent. This marks the fourth installment to the franchise, and just like previous titles, this one pushes all of the pre-set limits even further.
Saints Row is a parody, a parody about videogames, and the public opinion on video games. In the past I’ve talk about how important a series like Saints Row is to the videogame industry, a series that takes animated violence and animated acts of vandalism and pushes them so far, that they are no longer realistic or threatening. In the end Saints Row developers, I feel, attempt to prove that violence isn’t the problem in video games, only how violence is presented to the player and they do so in a fantastically fun to play franchise.
I mention this because the violence is obscene, everything about the Saints Row is over-the-top. The sexualization, the violence, the money, the devastation and destruction, all of it is push so far that it actually becomes humorous. It’s easier to laugh about the violence and sexualization in Saints Row because it is so unrealistic. Yes parts of these acts actually happen in real life, but none of them happen in the scale or the animated-stylings that happen in this game. The violence in Saints Row is comparable to the violence in the original Looney Tunes cartoons, a shotgun blast at point-blank range to the face of a talking duck was hilarious because it just wasn’t realistic, but it was shocking, it was sudden and I remember laughing all the time.
I think if you’ve never played a Saints Row game, or if you going into Saints Row 4 a little naïve, it’s going to be even better. A lot of the punchlines and the over-the-top parodies are kind of recycled from previous games, but the developers did do a good job adding many new jokes and special moments to this title.
Saints Row IV picks up after Saints Row: The Third, and just like at the start of the previous game things are going fairly well and everything is about to fall apart. The boss of the Saints and his crew help and MI6 foil a terrorist plot, though it quickly became viral. Everyone now knows of The Saints and their crew. By doing this though, the Saints use the fame, notoriety and the public opinion of the Saints to bolster the boss into becoming president of United States. This is when everything takes a turn for the worse.
In almost no time at all the evil alien overlord of the Zin empire, named Zinyak, invades Earth, and basically declares war on the Saints. The boss is trapped in a 1950’s Steelport simulation made by the Alien abductors. Players will have to save the other Saints, and escape the simulation, switching from real-world to virtual-world during gameplay at times.
Many of the functions that made Saints Row a popular franchise are present in the fourth installment and they been improved since we’ve last seen them. Character customization is even more particular, you can create even more bizarre or gorgeous avatars to live your life through Saints Row. There are vehicle customizations, new abilities, terrific upgrades and the same ‘Saints Territory’ that players should remember from previous games.
Basically the fourth game improves a lot of the system’s features, but does not copy them directly. There are a lot of new gameplay moments that players will be able to take advantage of in this game. One of the most marketed features that has been added to this game is the option to have superpowers. You do not get these superpowers from an atomic spider or from radiation, they are the result of being trapped in the virtual-reality prison that your alien abductors have placed you in.
Superpowers were implemented into the game rather well, they don’t really interfere with the structure of the original series, they mostly make everything more convenient. There are eight superpowers that you can obtain, each one of the superpowers can be upgraded by collecting data cores that you will find in SteelPort. How you get each of the superpowers is very varied, challenge missions for example can unlock them if you can complete their objective. As you can imagine these superpowers not only make things more convenient, but the challenges offer a nice distraction from the original storyline, should you need a break.
The game isn’t all superspeed and superjumps, there is the traditional gunfights and driving around Steelport that you found in other games. Gameplay mechanics in the third-title were pretty solid and they carried over to the fourth game just as well. There are new weapons and new forces that are trying to kill you of course, all of this was designed remarkably well and the game was a blast the entire way through.
What makes the game fun is that you constantly have choices, everything about Saints Row is choices. Now you have superpowers that you can blast enemies with, you can storm into hideouts with dual pistols firing rapidly at anything that moves, or wedge your car into an alleyway with machine guns blasting out of the windows. It’s up to you, and you can switch up your style on the fly whenever you feel like you’re in a rut. I think players will really like the customization of weapons, it’s just another tiny choice that you can make that allows you to experiment with some of the items that you find, and it’s a nice distraction to keep things lively.
It’s almost as if whenever the gameplay started to stretch a little too long, something new pops up that allowed me to try something new for the first time, experiment with the first time, or just completely change my gameplay style. The story is over the top and it’s hilarious, it’s not just a backdrop or a framing device, it’s actually really great to listen to and it’s really fun to explore.
The story missions are exciting, and they create terrific moments with the cast. Humor in the Saints Row four is the best it’s ever been, the voice actors nailed their characters, and the animation and talent really created a seamless environment for great comedy.
When I first saw the trailers and the design for Saints Row 4, I honestly thought they jumped the shark. I thought that they were going to push it so far that none of the original series would be able to shine through. Instead, in true Saints Row fashion, they didn’t ignore the shark-jump or try and cover it up, they just ran with it. They gave the shark a giant alien probe, machinegun extensions and rocket-packs and let it explode with wonderful Sharky goodness. (sharky-goodness may or not be a trademark of the slanted)