Saint’s Row IV – Back On The Streets

The streets of Steelport. Home to gangs, mascots, The Third Street Saints and now, the Zim. Aliens have hit the streets of Steelport and you, leader of the Saints and now the President of the world the United States of America, are charged with restoring peace to the Earth. Well, if the Zim hadn’t have blown it up.

As a follow up to 2011’s Saint’s Row the Third, and as a sort of swansong of the last generation of consoles (the Xbox 360 and PS3), Saints Row IV has you move from head of the Third Street Saints, to President of The United States of America all the way to Saviour of Humanity in the space of a few hours of gameplay. With no presumptions with knowledge of previous games, SR4 launches you into the action with it’s prologue. The mini-prologue presents some memorable sequences, as is common with Saints Row games. Is climbing a missile whilst disconnecting various bits to the tune of Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” and the goodbyes of your teammates heart-rendering enough? Fade to black (and purple), and all of a sudden you’re alive and well and feeling very awkward about all those goodbyes while sitting in the Oval Office. Are we surprised? Of course not, this is Saint’s Row.

Beginning the main game with a sequence that has you choosing between fixing world hunger or curing cancer, punching reporters and politicians and prancing your way to a press conference,  Saints Row begins it’s usual parodies and mickey-takes early on. The game points to the binary (and often meaningless) choices presented to you in the Mass Effect series before you even get to the games tutorial, as well as the always hilarious reporter punching seen throughout the games.

In fact, links to games old and new are abound throughout Saint’s Row IV, from the Tron-esque bridges and motorbikes, to the War Games quest titles and achievements. Do these detract from the game? In short, no they don’t. The long answer is no they don’t, but the developers could probably have spent more time on the rest of the game than high-fiving each other after cramming another jibe at gaming in.

Ok, so how does it play?
Really, not any different to Saint’s Row 3. Simply add superpowers and bosh, you’re done. Plot wise it’s a little iffy, especially the further in you go. It’s actually fairly hard to explain without too many spoilers, but the aforementioned aliens end up throwing you in a simulation of Steelport.
Yes, the same old Steelport from Saints Row 3.
All your favourite locations from the Broken Shillelagh to Kinzie’s Hideout are there. Well, were. Everything else that isn’t a major place in 3 is there. Through the game you rescue several characters from their personal hell, and regroup the team. They all want to return the favour to the aliens, and encourage you to help them by “showing them what to do”. Basically, do the same three or four things to complete quests. It’s hardly taxing, and the plot leaves a lot to be desired when all you seem to do is rescue your gang members again and again.
Well hold your horses. You don’t just have to rescue them. You can romance them! Yes, the compulsory, but in this case parody, romances. You, as head honcho, can romance (and by romance I, of course, mean have meaningless sex with) any and all of your teammates with no repercussions. In fact, doing so will help with getting achievements. Playing a bisexual character with no particular feelings towards anyone (especially since Matt Miller had major surgery on his skull), I naturally slept with them all; each to his or her own. The conversations during the cutscenes leading up to the act are quite amusing, particularly Matt and Kinzie’s scenes, who wish to be called NightBlayde and punch you respectively.

The superpowers, however, are the main source of entertainment. Want to watch as you stomp on things and send them flying? Go for it. Prefer to freeze the alien invasion and shatter them into a million pieces? You can do that too. Mind control? Yup.
There’s a wide range of powers available at the touch of a button – questing is often necessary to attain them all, but that’s par for the course. You begin with super sprint (running much faster than most other things in the game) and super jump. As fun as these two core skills are, they pretty much eradicate the need for cars, bikes, planes and trains in the game. In fact, the only time you’ll really use cars in the game is when you’re forced to as part of either:

  • The now pretty redundant car-jacking quest (“disrupting the system”)
  • As part of a quest that isn’t car-jacking
  • By accident

Otherwise, you are presented with no reason to get in any of the many vehicles that are available for your hijacking pleasure. Even the radio stations, previously only heard in vehicles, are now accessible through your weapons menu.

Sadly, the inclusion of superpowers means the more fun parts of Saints Row get thrown aside – carjacking,flying a plane at high speeds between skyscrapers and church towers, and wielding a million different types of weapons, including that purple dildo. There’s no reason to do any of it – even guns become pretty useless once you get a grenade or rocket launcher, and have upgraded your offensive powers.

That’s not to say have superpowers isn’t fun, and boy do they play out well on screen. There’s only minor lagging issues on the Xbox 360 edition, and that’s only when there’s a lot of action on the screen. I’m talking tens of enemies and explosions. I tend to stick to a few powers – hulk smash and flames galore mostly, but there’s a fair range to choose from. And each time you get an upgrade, there’s a tutorial.
I do get a little mixed up with the controls, particularly with the ‘tap the D Pad many times to change between subpowers’. One tap gives you “elemental power – freeze”, two gives you “elemental power – fire” and three gives you “elemental power – mind control”. Too many times I froze my enemies when I meant to explode them.

The world of simulated Steelport is a funny one, even without the superpowers. At its heart, it’s still Saints Row 3 Steelport, just without the various factions. You have appearances from old enemies – mascots, the cops, MorningStar and even groups from older Saints Row games.
There’s no real threat from the alien invasion, and certainly not from almost all of their various types of enemy. In fact, the best part of the game world now is directly linked to the fact it’s a simulation. The world blinks and glitches, as though the game itself is glitched (in fact, I thought it was at one point). Holes in the walls of the simulations (known as rifts) lead to characters and NPCs close by to exhibit strange and freakish behaviour and appearances. Overly large heads, super long arms and floating across the roads are but some of the ‘issues’ I’ve seen. I’ve commented to a few people that it almost feels like the reason for the simulation is so the developers don’t have to do so much bug testing!

Get too close to the rip in time/space and see this freak show.

Sadly, as interesting as Saints Row can be, and despite the giggles I occasionally got, I haven’t really enjoyed myself. Maybe I burned myself out on it. Maybe it’s not as good as I hoped it would be. But at the end of the day, I got bored doing the same two or three quests over and over again, and flying around the city trying to find the items needed to upgrade powers, and the few other collectables.
I don’t feel like a President trying to save Earth. I feel like a troubled and outnumbered gang leader who’s last hope at power is to defeat a weak alien threat. Saints Row 4 hasn’t the novelty of 3, nor the connections with the characters. It’s not a terrible game, but it’s not one I will be coming back to.

And look, not one mention of the Dubstep Gun. oh. Well, it’s not that good, or fun.

 

Khinjarsi has returned from the simulation and from throwing fireballs at innocent bystanders. She has only this to say in response to punching the reporter in the White House: “All images were found through Google Images and belong to their rightful owners”

Advertisements