Saints Row 4: review

  • Format: PS3 (version reviewed), 360, PC
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Deep Silver
  • Developer: Volition, Inc.
  • Players: 1-2
  • Site:

Anyone even thinking of damning Saints Row 4 because it’s not GTA V can leave the room now; you’re an idiot and we hope your next bag of crisps is full of nothing but salty, crushed-up bits. The truth is, whilst Saints Row started off in a very similar vein, it is now a completely different beast and definitely worth marking on its own merits.

Let’s set the scene. You play the newly appointed president of the United States, curing cancer with the flick of a wrist, punching political opponents in the ‘nads and being the most badass leader of the free world since Harrison Ford vented Gary Oldman from Air Force One. All of a sudden, aliens invade and – despite your best efforts to blast them off of the Whitehouse lawn – capture you and your closest associates. You’re then placed in a virtual simulation of Steelport and left to be tormented by the invading overlords. It’s a slightly twisted take on Saints Row does the Matrix and Volition relish in this, queuing up parody and pop culture references at every corner. It’s stupid, but gut-bustlingly brilliant.

Saints Row 4 - Zin

Things have moved slightly beyond rival gang squabbles

And it’s not just the Matrix in the firing line. Mass Effect, Metal Gear, Tron, Streets of Rage, text adventures and countless others all get nods and, in some cases, even gameplay tributes; each one seasoned with the Saints’ familiar brand of swear intensive, immature, punch-in-the-groin style of humour. But the most obvious external gameplay influence might surprise you, and it’s not even thrown in as a joke.

As the majority of the game is set within a virtual simulation, your computer savvy comrades are able to hack the world and give you superpowers. At its most basic level this grants you super sprinting and mega jumps, both of which make the game feel very similar to Prototype. Whatever your views are on the ultra-violent anti-hero series, it works incredibly well in Saints Row 4. Leaping buildings in a single bound and sprinting down the street faster than a greased, jet-propelled cheetah is insanely fun, especially when mixed with a diverse arsenal of guns, fireballs, ice blasts and more.

Basic open world gameplay mechanics you’d expect from a Saints Row game are completely reshaped with this addition. You’re no longer tied to roads for navigation, making cross-city treks to objective markers an absolute cinch, whilst opening up a new vertical world of rooftop events and collectibles. If you do choose to step into a car, they all handle in a familiarly arcade-like way that’s perfectly functional, but a little redundant. You’ll probably stay away from the driver’s seat completely unless it’s for a mission or enhanced armour and weapons. Fortunately, Volition had the sense to move the radio to your inventory, meaning you can still have tracks like Song 2 and Lump (or 107 others) as your own superhero soundtrack whilst not behind a wheel.

Saints Row 4 - Super sprinting

For the first time ever, it’s usually preferable to run rather than drive

This is a huge change that obviously affects everything. Random events are back, but now have a much larger focus on your new found powers. Instead of trailblazing on a quad bike, you now super-sprint courses on foot, and whilst there are still carnage events involving vehicles, some just leave you to wreak havoc with your powers. It has completely transformed the nature of the game, whilst staying comfortably in the Saints’ own neighbourhood of fun and mayhem. It fits perfectly.

With the game taking place in a simulation, it also acts as a very handy plot device to occasionally shift the setting and environment. Certain missions will take you to new areas, some of them with a completely different feel and look to them. This keeps major missions fresh, and not simply rehashed tours of ground you’ve already covered. Unfortunately the same can’t be said about the majority of side missions. These take you to several instances of the same open world events on the map that can be completed in any order, even without the mission being active. They’re not terrible as such, but just start to get a little repetitive after a while and are not a spot on the primary missions.

If you’re into co-op, then everything can be experienced with an equally superpowered friend as well, with all collectibles, mission progress and character upgrades saved to both player profiles. Alien infested Steelport is fun enough to tear up by yourself, and becomes even more fun with another player causing bouts of heroic havoc all around you.

Saints Row 4 - Super powers

Super hero violence is just too much fun

It’s safe to say that you can dismiss any fears that this is just a rehashed version of the elusive Enter the Dominatrix DLC. Whilst the game’s origins are clearly set in Saints Row 3, the story, gameplay and so much more feel like a completely new game. You’ll probably spend more time in the air and on rooftops than you will on the ground, making Steelport a different kind of playground to explore. You simply won’t take the time to stop and scrutinise re-used areas, as traversing the city is quicker than it has ever been. It’s debatable, but we’d even go as far to say that your superpowers are more efficient than any warp based travel system would be.

Saints Row 4 may not be perfect or as finely polished as other games, but it never relents on the fun, something we feel that more modern games need to bear in mind. Sure, it’s rough around the edges in places, but this is for gamers who want to tear around in a nitrous powered monster truck that shoots fire wherever it goes, rather than those who want to admire the latest in precision engineering in a lifelike city environment. Whether you’re kicking cars up in the wake of a super-sprint, stomping around in a giant mech suit or making a strip club full of people dance to death with the dub step gun, any flaws you come across will just melt away behind a massive grin on your face.

Critical Hit

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Written by Anthony H

Anthony has been playing games for far too much of his life, starting with the MS-DOS classic Mario is Missing. Since then his tastes have evolved to include just about anything, but his soft spot lies with shooters and the odd strategy game. Anthony will inspire you with his prose, uplift you with his wit and lie to you in his biography.

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