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Saints Row 4 review

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Summary

Our Score

8/10

Pros

  • Bizarre and entertaining storyline
  • OTT super-powered mayhem
  • Almost as funny as it thinks it is

Cons

  • Dated and disappointing graphics
  • Some very mundane missions
  • Over-extended combat missions

Review Price £40.00

Available on Xbox 360, PS3 (reviewed), PC

The further Saints Row gets away from both reality and Grand Theft Auto, the better it gets. The first was a mediocre GTA clone saved by a brilliant strain of frat-boy humour. The second was the same, but less inspired, less interesting, less polished. With Saints Row: The Third the series finally found its own identity: one that majored on parody and adolescent humour to the exclusion of almost everything else. It was so ridiculous and so offensive that it was equally ridiculous to be offended by it, though missions involving killer prostitutes and sex trafficking might have tempted you to try. Provided you were happy to play a game that confirmed every mainstream media cliché about the interests, ethics and IQ of the average gamer, Saints Row: The Third was brilliant fun.

Saints Row 4

Saints Row 4 is even better. Reality has now been thrown clean out of the window and the GTA influence has now been replaced by, well, the influence of just about everything else. Saints Row 4 is part open-world crime caper, part superhero game and part third-person shooter, with nods to everything from Halo to Prototype to Mass Effect. It’s both impressively smart and wantonly dumb, as you might expect from any game that finds common ground between The Matrix, Scarface, South Park and Inception. It’s hard to believe that it works, yet it does.

Saints Row 4 Plot and Structure

Saints Row IV sets its stall from the off, with a bravura opening sequence that sees The Third Street Saints, heroically led by your good self, fighting to destroy a nuclear missile before it can hit US soil. Before you know it, your protagonist is the President and the world is at your feet. The good times can’t last, and they don’t. Aliens attack the white house and imprison you and the surviving members of the human race in a Matrix-like virtual Steelport. This you escape, with the aid of ex-FBI agent Kinzie Kensington, and begin a campaign of subversion, attacking the construct from within while trying to rescue the remaining Saints from without.

Saints Row 4

Saints Row 4 Missions and Activities

This disruption includes a whole range of activities. You might be asked to destroy alien strongholds, or conquer alien towers. You might take to the streets with a range of overpowered weaponry and cause as much mayhem as you can, or you might simply hurl yourself over and over again into oncoming traffic for points. You could be hacking stores and infiltrating alien facilities one minute, and wrecking your way through waves of killer robots the next. Occasionally there are more narrative-led story missions, which have you chasing down and attacking specific targets or rescuing one of the gang.

Saints Row 4

What really makes the difference is that this time you’re doing it with superpowers. Thanks to a combination of Kinzie’s hacking prowess and vulnerabilities in the alien computers, you can run faster than most cars can drive, bound your way up and over buildings and freeze your enemies with elemental blasts. Earn upgrades through missions and collect glowing data clusters, and you’ll find yourself running up skyscrapers, gliding from the rooftops, sending shockwaves through the ground and picking up trucks and throwing them around. In this respect Saints Row 4 is the bastard child of Crackdown and inFamous, but hyper-charged and played for laughs.

Saints Row 4: Humour and Mayhem

Somehow it all comes together. The Matrix-like setting makes for a world where morality is inconsequential, and where you’re free to cause as much carnage as you like. The superpowers then make that carnage more chaotic and spectacular than they’ve ever been before. Saints Row 4 is a game that doesn’t just let you indulge every daft power fantasy that you might have, but comes up with a few new ones you probably have never thought of. It turns out that black hole guns and explosive alien weaponry cause a lot more damage than conventional arms, and that a speeding superhuman with a wobbling tentacle bat can take out armies of alien cops if they set their tiny mind to it. This, it turns out, is a whole heap of chuckles.

Saints Row 4

Needless to say, it can be painfully juvenile. Even this level of mayhem can be repetitive at length, and Saints Row 4 has a tiresome habit of mixing the mundane with the magnificent, throwing in missions that focus more on gunplay than superheroics, or forcing you to customise cars and buy ammo when you’d rather be leaping over tall buildings and laying the smack-down on the alien scum. But there are some really brilliant touches here, ranging from ingenious parodies of Splinter Cell and Mass Effect to fourth-wall shattering gags.

Even the character creation screen is in the right spirit, enabling crazy combinations of movie star styles and period fashions, and a choice of voices that covers east-end tough-guy British and the inimitable Nolan North. Saints Row 4 knows that having the voice of Uncharted’s Nathan Drake dish out potty-mouthed epithets is funny in and of itself, and that the right cheesy nineties hit can be the perfect soundtrack for that big cinematic moment. If nothing else, Saints Row 4 has a cracking soundtrack.

Saints Row 4

Saints Row 4: Setting and Style

Let’s not get too carried away, though. Some of Saints Row’s biggest issues still remain. These include an urban setting that’s nowhere near as distinctive or believable as those you’ll find in other open-world games, and a population that’s little more than a delivery mechanism for a stream of weak side-gags. It’s easy to believe that Virtual Steelport is a construct, because nothing about it seems atmospheric or real. There’s also a tendency in later stages to confuse making a game more challenging with simply throwing on more enemies and making them ridiculously tough. It doesn’t. It just makes the odd mission infuriating.

Perhaps more worryingly, Saints Row 4’s engine seems to have improved little – if at all – since Saints Row: The Third, which wasn’t exactly cutting-edge. With its washy textures, overplayed, red-heavy lighting and dated effects, Saints Row 4 is a long way behind inFamous 2, Assassin’s Creed 3 or Sleeping Dogs when it comes to graphics, and with GTA 5 and next-gen games on the horizon this problem isn’t going to go away. Now, graphics aren’t everything, and we’d always rather have a game that played well over one that just looked good, but all the same – Saints Row 4 really doesn’t cut the mustard.

Saints Row 4

This is a shame, and if you stripped away the humour and the super-powered mayhem Saints Row 4 would be a thoroughly mediocre game. Yet with both in play it’s nigh-unstoppable. Whatever stick you use to beat this game, and whatever accusations you can level at it, it’s a riot – and we mean that in the best possible way, if not the best possible taste.

Verdict

We can turn a blind eye to the various technical and gameplay faults of Saints Row 4 because it’s the game that’s just too much fun to hate. No game has ever worked so hard to deliver so many stupid gags and shameless parodies or so much wince-inducing mayhem, and if it strays close to being the Scary Movie of video games, then at least it’s funny 99% of the time. You might not like it, and you might not like to admit it, but Saints Row 4 is the first Saints Row that’s as entertaining as it thinks it is. Only the most po-faced gamer would deny it its moment in the sun.

Our Score

8/10

Prem Halani

August 26, 2013, 10:22 am

awesomee game guyss....download its commander chief version from windroidblog

Dan Milne

August 26, 2013, 9:17 pm

8/10? The storyline of this is terrible, the game is just DLC of the previous iteration, biggest disappointed in gaming.

Chris Stevenson

August 26, 2013, 9:47 pm

Cons
Dated and disappointing graphics the game is set in a computer simulation fools thats why the graphics are like that. personally i fricken love it and cant stop playing it. the humour is brilliant and Johnny Gat is back which makes it more awesome

neincat

August 27, 2013, 2:02 am

Are you kidding me? saints row 2 was the best by far. This kid obviously has no idea what he's talking about and is just jumping on the volition bandwagon.

Congratulations on ruining the industry.

d3xt3r

August 27, 2013, 1:26 pm

Wasn't a big fan of the other Saints Row games purely because of the way i felt they tried to compete with GTA. (which they lost hands down) Now that Saints Row 4 has arrived i find the ludicrously far fetched spin on the game a very refreshing one. It really has been an enjoyable game to play, the fact that it doesn't take itself too seriously and the content within is a fresh change from the direction in which it was going. I'd happily give it 9/10 (always room for improvement) I would reccomend it to anyone waiting for GTA V to come out as it will provide a nice little releif from the realism that GTA is going to offer.

Great game!!

chris

August 27, 2013, 3:12 pm

saints 1 and 2 was by far the best saints 3 was ok but this was just crackdown with Prototype doesn't feel like a saints row game at all

Bob

August 27, 2013, 9:51 pm

freezes alot and seems to have been rushed to try get some cash before gta5 release

George Sumpner

August 29, 2013, 12:33 pm

Hardly the biggest disappointment in gaming. Having completed the game 3 days ago, i have to say the storyline isn't amazing, but that doesn't matter when the game is so much fun. The weapons are awesome, there is a ton of things to do, and if you seriously think this is just DLC rehash of the last game, then the 47 hours i spent playing the game must make this the best DLC ever and should get 10/10. I would give this a 9/10, as it is not the most polished game ever, but is still the most fun i have had in a game since, Saints Row 3.

James Oldfield

August 30, 2013, 4:44 am

^This. It froze on me near the end of one of the missions and I broke a controller over it :/

James Oldfield

August 30, 2013, 4:44 am

What? This game is utter horse shit! Saint's Row The Third was a far superior game in every conceivable way!!

DJ Jaybee

September 1, 2013, 10:20 pm

Saints Row 2 Rocked

rage925

September 2, 2013, 3:41 pm

and there's an annoying dot in the middle of my screen that i now cant get rid of anymore! it messes up everything

badsmel

September 5, 2013, 12:30 pm

Zombies in Saints row 3 was awesome tho. GTA needs that..

stonedwolf

September 11, 2013, 12:03 pm

Anyone who says SR2 was lacking but SR3 the series hit the stride is an idiot. And I mean a complete and utter idiot.

SR2 was the peak of the series and easily the best open-world sandbox game this planet has ever hosted.

stonedwolf

September 11, 2013, 12:04 pm

You've been downvoted by the guy who likes the darts-themed man-dates in GTA IV.

MAFIOSOnyc

September 19, 2013, 8:56 pm

saint row 1 the best especially on line better than 234

chauncy

December 30, 2013, 6:34 am

I don't understand why this game is getting high reviews, while it is hilarious and entertaining; the graphics , shooting and driving really hold the game back. These are fundamentals of gameplay. If I wanted to play a game that looks like it was released for ps1 and handles as awkwardly as poorly crafted mafia games, I certainly wouldn't buy it new or beleive the insane hype it receives. Seriously what's with all the high reviews? Most review sites are going at least 8/10, I find this strange.

Johnny cage

February 22, 2014, 4:28 pm

I agree it seems very rushed. The game play seems so weird. As im playing its so cliche and stupid. The game is not good. Im so disapointed. Its just like SR3 only difference is u dont hav to buy the superhero mode. They should hav waited and built it more. Rockstar has them beat

Johnny cage

February 22, 2014, 4:30 pm

Saint row 2 was the best story best everything. After sr2 its a tottaly different game. And i mean that in a bad way

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