Saints Row IV
In the world of Saints Row, there’s no such thing as ‘too much’ or ‘restraint.’ It’s that quality that has separated the series from its contemporaries, proudly blazing a path of over-the-top insanity with things like dildo bats and mascot massacres in a sandbox structure that has plenty of diversions beyond the main campaign. Improbable as it sounds, Saints Row IV somehow manages to up the ante once again with its ridiculous premise.
After going from street gang to media moguls, the Saints have ended up in the White House of all places and as the leaders of the free world. The perks of being a President are short-lived as aliens invade with the intent of enslaving/destroying all of humanity and the Saints end up locked in a virtual representation of Steelport. The Matrix and Independence Day serve as the main inspirations as well as a heavy dose of They Live with the alien menace lurking in every corner of the map.
Just like the setting, Saints Row IV has carried over much of what was in The Third with its mission structure, customization, and the various side quests scattered around the city. The inclusion of superpowers is what mainly differentiates SRIV from The Third, as early on players will be dashing at supersonic speeds and jumping over entire blocks of Steelport. Other powers include telekinesis, buffs, ground pounds, fireballs and iceballs, and some other elements once enough challenges have been completed.
The powers are mostly to be used in conjunction with the main arsenal, and with the exception of telekinesis, are rarely enough to defeat enemies on their own. While the standard cadre of weaponry is in tow, a whole host of alien weaponry becomes available that provides huge entertainment value.
In keeping with the sci-fi theme, there’s a gun that inflates enemies and civilians’ heads to the size of medicine balls before their eyes pop out and they explode, a dubstep gun that delivers death by dance, a singularity gun blasting black holes, and a variety of lasers to choose from. There’s an overload of new destructive toys to play with, each one satisfying to use in their own right, and an abundance of ways to customize them.
With so many ways to dish out punishment, it largely removes any challenge the game might’ve had. Previous titles had players starting out relatively weak and gradually getting stronger, but Saints Row IV has them overpowered right out of the gate. Enemies once again try to overcome their lack of tact with sheer numbers and all players need to get out of a dicey situation is to simply power-jump or speed away. The justification for the powers is flimsy as is. They’re standbys taken from other titles that serve as another means to damage enemies rather than adding any real strategy to the firefights, and only become integral once enemies and mini-bosses start using shields.
The superpowers also diminish the need to call for backup or even use any of the game’s vehicles. Why bother with a car (even if it does something cool like launch them out of a cannon) when it’s way more expedient to run in a quarter of the time it would take to reach the destination? Saints Row IV feels like a superhero game that paved over its gang-based sandbox origins to get there, trying to strike a balance between the GTA formula and the power-heavy antics of Prototype without really satisfying the fans in either camp.
Another disappointment is the lack of memorable moments within the main campaign. There are a few standout moments to be had, like rampaging through a golly-gosh ’50s sitcom and taking on a skyscraper-sized energy drink mascot, but overall the mundane missions outweigh the interesting ones. Objectives are typically playing defense, taking out generators, and of course being the pointman on a convoy. The lack of many substantial missions highlights Saints Row IV‘s origins as DLC for The Third that was eventually stretched out to become a sequel in name only.
Even so, there’s still plenty of content that’ll keep players busy. Sprinkled through the city are collectibles like audio logs, data clusters used to upgrade powers, and statues to be destroyed along with an extensive number of diversions. Classics like tank mayhem and insurance fraud return along with twists to the formula like mech suit rampages, blazing on foot, and some new games like Professor Genki’s Mind over Murder and tower climbing. The new diversions feel like busywork with the worst offender being the tedious hacking mini-game.
Saints Row IV doesn’t play like a sequel so much as an expansion pack, substituting huge quantities of diversions and weaponry for an engaging campaign. With Steelport recycled and the lack of challenge, it doesn’t offer much beyond short-lived thrills through wanton destruction and the occasionally humorous moment wrapped in science fiction tropes. The fun is mostly derived from the amount of mayhem one can cause, but with many of the elements missing from the sandbox experience like empire-building and gradually gaining more power, it all feels rather hollow in comparison to the experience in previous Saints Row titles.