Saints Row IV – Review

Like The Third before it, Saints Row IV is a game that makes sure you’re having fun every step of the way. The developers at Volition have become ravenously obsessed with making sure whatever they bring to the table is as engaging as possible. It basks in the adolescent part of ourselves that grins when we think about movies from the 80s, it reminisces about life before the brooding super hero. But most importantly, it remembers–oh-so clearly–that once upon a time we used to have fun.

You play as the newly elected President of the United States of America who’s been charged with saving the planet from intergalactic annihilation using some newly found super powers. It’s one part Team America, one part The Matrix, and borrows structurally from Mass Effect’s team building escapades. For all of the lunacy that the game dishes out, its sense of farce is well handled and most of the jokes land without being obnoxiously referential or dead on arrival.

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If I had one major criticism it’s that the city is in a state of constant darkness, which I found tiresome by the end of the game. It’s also basically the same map as The Third, but really, since you spend all your time above the buildings–thanks again to super powers–it’s hardly recognizable.

There is plenty of variety in the missions themselves. It’s always exciting to find out what the Saints will be up to next; one minute The President will be fighting a gargantuan energy drink, and the next paying homage to classic video games.

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What strikes me the most is the way the game challenges the power fantasy.

Remember before it was all about cracking bones, or dope head-shots? Remember when it was about jumping high, and running fast?

It seems so obvious in retrospect, that with the exception of Batman and MacGyver, the character that would best represent this power fantasy would rely on their limitless capabilities, not limited resources. Saints Row IV doesn’t burden The President with finite power-juice, it empowers the character with a portable radio and motivational music.

The game stands in complete defiance to quarter-poppin’ design. It’s consistently funny, and I think you should play it.

5stars


Review Notes:

  • The narrative in The Third felt like a collection of kooky side-missions; this one is strung together better.

  • The soundtrack – oh gawd the soundtrack.

  • Blows Crackdown out the water. What I always wanted from Crackdown was super-villain fights — this has’em.

  • Locomotion is (somehow) even more fun that Arkham City.

  • Saints Row has seemingly escaped my criticism of ‘too much shooting’ by making all the guns so powerful you may as well not have to aim.

  • Good-bye driving, was nice knowing you.

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