Saints Row IV Review: Crazy. Hollow. Fun.
Guys, I'll be honest. I am a huge Saints Row fan. I've played all four games and after the second one I considered the series better than GTA (especially after GTA IV let me down so hard). Going into Saints Row IV I had crazy expectations. Every video I saw for the game looked amazing. I picked up the game release night and even did an unboxing video. Having finished the main story I can safely say this game is crazy fun. The story is amazingly hollow for a AAA title release but simply running around and creating chaos is enough for me to recommend everyone play Saints IV.
(Reviewed on Xbox 360)
Let's get the bad right out of the way. The story is probably the weakest link in the game. Basically, without getting to spoiler-y, Zinyak, an alien that invades earth, kidnaps the president of the United States (your character) and your Presidential cabinet (all living characters from previous games). Zinyak tries to control the humans in a fictional Matrix-like world (which obviously fails) and the game is spent trying to take revenge on Zinyak and an endless army of aliens.
I have several problems with the story. First of all, this is The Matrix. Volition is well aware of this (as shown by one of Benjamin Kings outfits after his Loyalty Mission) but it is nothing you haven't seen before. The majority of the story revolves around you trying to find all of your friends that have been abducted and then helping them gain super powers through "Loyalty Missions" (I'll delve more into them later). It felt like there are only 25-30 Main Missions that revolve around actual vengeance against Zinyak.
The writing is very funny. Characters bicker like siblings and say some very laugh out loud lines. One of my favorites:
(Pierce and Asha are being abducted by aliens)
ASHA: Get out of here! Save yourself!
PIERCE: F*ck That! Save me!
Some moments literally shocked me (one major event I didn't even believed happened until the end when it was confirmed), but overall the story felt hollow. In prior games, you met several gangs, their leader and seconds-in-command and slowly destroyed the gang until they weren't around anymore. In this game there is simply the omnipresent Zinyak who appears every so often to spew Shakespeare quotes and tell you: "You'll never win" (SPOILER ALERT: You win).
***"You Will Never Win, hahaha" - Mortal Kom...Zinyak***
What everyone has been talking about is the super powers. They are amazing. Running with the super speed is probably the fastest I've ever felt in a video game. Likewise, flying is liberating. It is by far the easiest way to traverse faux-Steelport. There are also blue collectible lights on top of buildings that are a blast to collect (I know this is a rip off of Crackdown... but it's still super fun) that you use to upgrade your powers. The list of super powers also includes: telekinesis, freeze bombs, nuclear drops from space, etc.. that are all really fun to play around with. The biggest problem with the powers is it actually eliminates big portions of the game by being so superior. I never entered a car. Ever. Not a tank, not a jet, nothing. Flying and speed-running eliminated that aspect of the game. Not a deal breaker but whenever a mission asked me to drive a Genki-Mobile across town I just asked "Why? I CAN FLY!"
Here is my biggest issue with this game: Most missions aren't real missions. All side missions are various characters asking you to complete activities in the game. Activities you would complete anyway if you enjoy the game. For example, Matt Miller needs your help tearing down "The Matrix" by creating chaos within the game. So, you go complete a Mayhem mission, a Telekinesis Destruction, a Genki Bowl, and Insurance Fraud. The problem is you can do those things without Matt asking you to do it. If you finish those activities before you talk to Matt you just enter a dialogue prompt twice and you'll clear the mission from your list. THAT ISN'T A MISSION. There are at least 3 of these 'missions' per character and it just feels like a time killer.
There are missions called "Loyalty" missions that are basically your friends overcoming their fears and gaining similar super powers that you have. These missions are fun because they spoof various other games. My favorite was Asha's, whose Loyalty mission was an ironic take on Metal Gear Solid games. My character couldn't understand why shooting out the lights was so important.
Also, it's worth noting, whenever you're not 'jacked in' to Steelport you spend your time on a ship talking to everyone. This basically amounts to a hub-world. It's annoying to have to jump in and out of Steelport to complete missions. It's worse when missions are based on the ship and you have no powers, no vehicles, and no where to go. I understand its purpose in the narrative but it was an unnecessary obstacle (you talk to the same characters while in "The Matrix" all the time, why can't they just call me with missions?).
***Guys, just call me when you want me to do something***
The graphics don't look any different from Saints Row: The Third. So, nothing else to mention here.
The Music is Amazing. They define some missions. I won't give away specific songs but the first mission (which wasn't fantastic) is made fantastic by the soundtrack.
The Saints Row series has always had technical glitches. Voice syncing is pretty atrocious, even in cut scenes. Falling off the map, attacking an NPC that disappears halfway through etc... I always thought of these glitches as part of the fun of the game. If you expected them to disappear from the previous games... they don't.
Volition had announced, prior to this games release, it would be the last for this set of characters. As such, the entire game feels like a nostalgic gift to fans of the series. You meet many characters from prior games that have long since been dead (it's a simulation after all). I just wish the games story was better and missions were actually missions.
Bottom Line: This game is fun. It's a lot of fun flying around and doing activities. It's great playing as the leader of the 3rd Street Saints again (and hopefully not the last time) even if everything isn't as epic as Volition promised it would be. The story is probably one of the worst in the series but I give credit to Volition for trying something different. If you remember, one of the complaints of Saint 3 was how familiar it felt to the prior games. Saints IV took the series in a different direction, it just doesn't hit all the chords it wanted to.
Ultimately, I'd suggest you play this game. This isn't the best game in the series (Saints Row: The Third wins that) but it's absolutely a great entry in the series and I'm glad I played it.
***They all die the same way***
What do you guys think? Love, Like, or hate Saints Row IV?