Saints Row IV Review: Hilariously awesome

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saints row iv

Title: Saints Row IV
Price: $59.99
System(s): PS3 (Also available for Xbox 360, PC)
Release Date: August 20, 2013
Publisher (Developer): Deep Silver (Volition)
ESRB Rating: “Mature” for Blood, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Content, Strong Language, and Use of Drugs

I am terrible at open world games. By which I mean, I always abandon the storyline. I never follow it, instead preferring to explore the city itself, seeing what I can do and get away with. The result is, my characters never really advance, I’m usually broke, and sometimes I never even get to see areas that are locked away until the campaign is advanced. (i.e., Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas) When it came to deciding whether I should get a used copy of Saints Row IV or Grand Theft Auto V this past weekend, I thought about it, and figured Saints Row IV would be best. I reasoned I’d never complete the story, and Saints Row IV would be more lenient when it came recklessly exploring a virtual Steelport.

It turned out to be one of my best, recent, gaming decisions. Saints Row IV has proven that, if an open world game is good enough, I can do whatever I want and profit from it, yet still feel compelled to actually complete the main campaign. I’m having more fun with my super-powered, Saint in Saints Row IV, than I had with my courier in Fallout: New Vegas or with Niko in GTA IV.

saints row iv

From the White House, to the Matrix.

The 3rd Saints have it all. They started as a small time gang in Stilwater, and have gone on to become mass media icons. They’re everywhere. They even have their own drink, Saints Flow. And, as Saints Row IV begins, the group is acting as a SWAT team to take out a terrorist threat.

Which goes pretty awesome, except at the end, a nuclear missile launches. The leader of the Saints jumps on the missile, disarming it as Aerosmith’s “Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” plays in the background. He (or she) disarms it in time, and crashes through the White House roof to land in the president’s chair.

Thanks to the save, the leader of the Saints is elected president. He or she is in the fifth year of office, just getting ready to deal with a massive popularity drop, when aliens invade. The Zin, lead by Zinyak, abduct everyone in the White House, as well as all of the most promising humans from the world’s major cities. Naturally, the Saints are among the abductees.

The leader of the Saints finds him or herself trapped in a 1950’s, Pleasantville style simulation, which Kinzie helps tries to break him or her out of, and then ends up in a virtual version of Steelport. Kinzie and Vice President Keith David then spring the avatar and bring him or her back into the real world, just in time to see Zinyak destroy Earth and everyone still left on it. It’s up to the Saints to head back into virtual Steelport and mess with the simulation enough to somehow topple the Zin empire.

saints row iv

Imagine GTA, inFamous, and Mass Effect 2 mashed into a single game.

I never complete the storyline missions for open world games. Not for Fallout: New Vegas, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, inFamous, or Grand Theft Auto IV. It just doesn’t happen. I get distracted by side-quests and other diversions, and the main campaign just can’t hold my attention. Which should speak worlds for Saints Row IV, because I’m racing to complete every story and main character related sidequest. The storyline, characters, and script are so outrageously awesome. I can’t look away. I have to hear what the people are going to say next, or see what twist is coming up. The dialogue is incredible and I can’t look away.

Which is only coupled by fantastic gameplay. It’s easy to jump right in and do whatever you want in Saints Row IV. Nothing is held back. Getting too notorious is no big deal, because your character is always bigger and better than the cops and Zin forces. And, while it is possible to get overwhelmed early on, that’s okay. Getting wiped out is very rare, thanks to plentiful health drops, and eventually players can call on generic backup Saints, Homies, and super versions of Homies to join the fray. Even saved vehicles and aircraft can materialize with a phonecall, making Saints Row IV a pure, indulgent, fantasy world.

Granted, most of the Saints Row IV extracurricular activities center around the character’s new super powers, or causing problems in the Zin simulation of Steelport. You won’t be playing golf, enjoying a video game, or scuba diving. Instead, you’ll be using telekinesis to throw people, cars and mascot heads through rings with Professor Genki’s M.O.M., sending your character flying around like a ragdoll in Insurance Fraud, racing around the city, or causing general Mayhem. Still, each diversion is quite entertaining and the gradual increase in difficulty makes it even better.

Not to mention, players get plenty of variety in Saints Row IV. There are a number of avatar customization options, meaning your character is guaranteed to look unique. Tattoos, clothing, custom cars, and custom guns complete the ensemble. Even earned money can be spent on upgrades, as your character levels up from various puckish rogue endeavors, and each player has the ultimate choice in how to improve their avatar. Granted, after about level 30, you start running out of general upgrades to choose from and every avatar’s abilities are about the same, but still.

Oodles of time will even be spent on the collectibles. There is data scattered throughout Saints Row IV that can be used to upgrade the avatar’s super powers. They’re everywhere, and grabbing each one is addictive. Not to mention there are other, minor objectives, like destroying Zinyak statues when you find them for a reward.

Though, my favorite past time was interacting with the homies. Players can eventually rescue their Saints allies from their simulation prisons, bringing them into virtual Steelport and onto the Saints’ commandered Zin ship. These allies will provide side quests, Mass Effect 2 style loyalty missions, and even a little romance. It’s icing on an already delightful cake.

There are only two ways in which Saints Row IV failed me. The first is with the control mechanics for aircraft. It isn’t as precise, or fast, as driving. It can be convenient, for a time, but I tended to avoid it unless I absolutely had to hijack a helicopter or UFO for a mission. Fortunately, a player’s avatar eventually gets the jump super power upgraded to a point where he or she could just fly everyone, and that works much better.

The other thing is, sometimes Saints Row IV will freeze. I’ve played over 20 hours, and had it happen twice before I patched the game. Both times were during fairly intense, Mayhem missions, where the goal was to cause as much monetary damage as possible within a short period of time. As I’ve said though, the most recent patches fixed that problem, so it shouldn’t be an issue if a player keeps the game updated.

saints row iv

Saints Row IV is hilariously awesome.

I bought Saints Row IV instead of Grand Theft Auto V, and I couldn’t be more pleased with my decision. Saints Row IV is a fantastic, hilarious adventure filled with plenty of laugh out loud moments and personality. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and must admit that this is the first open world game where I actually felt compelled to finish the storyline, because the missions were so entertaining, the characters so cool, and the dialogue so utterly charming. Saints Row IV is the best installment in the series.

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