Saints Row 4: The Best Superhero Game I've Played in Ages
I've been looking forward to Saints Row IV ever since it was originally announced as a DLC for Saints Row III. The balls-to-the-wall insanity of the third game was already great; adding super powers to the mix could only make the game even more amazing. So did the DLC-turned-sequel manage to live up to the hype? Let's take a look.
Since the conclusion of Saints Row III, you, leader of the 3rd Street Saints, have somehow managed to get yourself elected President of the United States. You've smashed terrorism, defeated the national budget, and even cured cancer (or ended world hunger, your choice).
But what's this? Aliens? Oh, they messed with the wrong planet this time. It's up to you to fight off the alien horde, save your crew, and keep humanity from being extinguished.
Saints Row IV looks nearly identical to Saints Row III. This is mostly due to the fact that the majority of assets used in the game are taken from its predecessor. It's not a graphically stunning game, but it doesn't look awful.
I love the original songs that were produced for the game. Most of them kick in during missions and provide an awesome background track. The radio tracks are pretty good, but not as good as in previous Saints Row games. Of course, this wasn't much of a problem since I barely used the radio in the game (more on that later).
There are some awesome moments in the game that make use of licensed music, like a duet between the main character and Pierce Washington of Paula Abdul's "Opposites Attract". Saints Row IV also uses Stan Bush's "The Touch" (you may remember it from the 80's Transformers movie). I won't spoil the mission, but suffice to say, it's sufficiently epic.
Most of the mechanics from previous Saints Row titles make a reappearance. You can call in partners or gang members to help you in fights, upgrade your guns, hijack cars, and generally cause mayhem all over the city of Steelport.
The biggest gameplay change, of course, is the addition of super powers. You can jump super high, glide (in a manner almost identical to Prototype), lift things and throw them with telekinesis, shoot ice and fire from your hands, and much more. The list of powers is surprisingly large and every single one is insanely fun to use.
The superpowers are without a doubt the highlight of the game. Saints Row IV is the best superhero game I've played since Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. Traversing the city with your super jump and glide is easy fun. Switching powers on the fly and laying waste to large numbers of enemies is more fun than ever. With a push of a button I can freeze a whole group of aliens, then jump in the air and smash them all to pieces with a ground pound. I can't imagine how much of my total playtime was spent picking fights with aliens just so I could find different ways of combining my powers to cause maximum damage.
The new weapons are also a joy to use. Volition clearly went all out when designing the new guns and there are more of them than ever. Some of my favorites were the Inflato Ray (causes enemies to expand until they explode), the 'Merica Gun (a minigun with a flamethrower, shotgun, rocket launcher, and knife attached), and, of course, the Dubstep Gun.
Drop the bass!
Saints Row IV's writing is genuinely funny and charming. The voice actors did a phenomenal job providing voices for their characters. All the characters are dripping in personality.
Volition's decision to reuse their old assets and spend that time working on making the superpowers and weapons as fun to use as possible was brilliant decision. Unfortunately, I think it might also be the source of some of the games problems.
Saints Row IV suffers from a bit of an identity crisis. Many of the mechanics in the game are only in the game because it is a Saints Row title. For example, car jacking is almost completely useless. Why would I want to get in a car and navigate the streets of Steelport when I can run faster than any car on the street? I can run up walls, jump from roof to roof, and glide across the city. Why would I restrict myself to a car? The only times I ever hijacked a car was at the beginning, when I had no powers, and whenever the mission required me to.
This also applies to the gang aspect of the game. I hardly ever called in gang members to help me in a fight (excluding the supporting cast, since they eventually get superpowers too). Most of the time my footsoldiers would just get caught in the blast radius of most of my attacks and get killed. Luckily, the game is so fun that these shortcomings are easily ignored.
I also suffered a few glitches in my time playing (for the record, I was playing the Xbox 360 version). I got stuck in the HUB menu a couple times, forcing me to restart the game (luckily auto-saves are more frequent than in previous titles). My camera also got stuck twice when I was exiting a store. I was free to run around, but the camera was locked in one place. This was easily fixed by saving and reloading the game. Hopefully issues like these will be hammered out soon.
Saints Row IV is well worth your time if you are a fan of the other Saints Row games, superhero games, or open world games. It is available for Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC via Steam.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have more aliens to kill... with the power of dubstep.