……Saints Row IV.
The Saints have come a long way since their humble street gang beginnings of 2006. The original Saints Row was a decent affair, hitting the sandbox genre right where it hurts they came from out of nowhere to mount a challenge to the big hitting Grand Theft Auto. The sequel, Saints Row 2 took all that was good with the first game and threw in a number of new decent additions without really setting the world on fire. And then we had a little break whilst Volition started work on Saints Row 3. By now the Saints had moved up a gear, were a worldwide crime gang and things took a turn for the um, well downright crazy. The Third became renowned for being the first (and possibly the last) game to allow melee attacks using large pink sex toys and the suchlike.
So we move on to Saints Row 4. Firmly established as one of the big hitters in the gaming world, SR4 has got a lot to live up to. Volition had a choice to make. Go straight, return to their original roots and make a game that will go up against the great but sometimes bland GTA series, or continue from where they left off with SR3 and throw even more madness into the works.
I’m happy to say they’ve gone the way of the latter. Big time!
The story goes that the Saints leader has become the president of the United States Of America. Unfortunately the world has been overrun by aliens and whilst the game is still set in the same city that gave us so many laughs last time out, Steelport, most of the action is now centred around an alien simulation of said city. Being president is no laughing matter and the game sees the Saints fighting against the aliens, their own worst fears and some of the gangs from the past. And not a single second of it is straight laced!
But if you’re thinking this is just a bit more of Saints Row The Third then you’d be wrong. Yes, this was originally touted as a standalone expansion to The Third but there’s so much more to it than just a rehash. Possibly the most noticeable addition is that of superpowers. Bringing the game much more in line with Crackdown and Prototype than your usual bogstandard sandbox, you can now run faster than a speeding bullet, jump higher than the tallest tower or glide around like an eagle high on life. These powers change the whole openworld game mechanic and what was once a case of ‘find the nearest car’ to get around, now sees you disposing of the vehicles in exchange for enjoying a Superman lifestyle. Whilst these powers are obviously borrowed from the superb Crackdown series, everything has been laced with a massive hit of overthetopness. It wouldn’t be Saints Row otherwise would it!
Another feature heavily influenced by Crackdown is the addition of clusters (read those blasted Crackdown Orbs). The collection of these give you the ability to upgrade your speed, jumping, telekinesis powers etc… and with over 1200 to collect the feeling of ‘orb hunting’ has hit hard once again. Much like in Crackdown, the clusters merrily buzz away to themselves when you get within their vicinity, begging to be harvested. Many a mission has been aborted whilst we stop everything to go cluster hunting. Throw in a load of collectable audio logs and you’ll find yourself wasting a good few hour wandering around searching for items.
Obviously as is par for the course with any sandbox game worth its salt, you’ll find numerous secondary activities running alongside the main mission structure. These can be attempted at any time and feature gold, silver and bronze medals dependant on how well you have done. The old favourites from Saints Row of the past are back and no matter how often you attempt a mayhem or fraud activity, they never get boring. The vehicle race activities have been replaced with running/jumping races to take full advantage of the new superpowers and these also work brilliantly, as do the latest ‘hacking’ and ‘rift’ minigames.
Another signature Saints Row feature are the crazy-ass weapons. Aliens need to be killed in SR4 and there’s no better way of doing so than with some of the new arsenal we have been given by Volition. The Dubstep Gun is a particular favourite, mainly due to the fact that watching people dance their way to death has always been high on my personal bucketlist. Add in a Blackhole launcher and a huge array of alien weaponry and you’ll be finding new ways to dispatch foes forever more. You must also try battering someone round the head with a Tentacle Bat. It’s a joy to behold. All weapons are fully upgradeable as long as you’ve earned the required dosh and there is also a fair bit of visual customisation allowed.
But your level of weapon changes are a whole load less than you can hit your main character with. The good old plastic surgeon is back in 4 and I’m pretty certain the level of change has been turned up to 1000 and subsequently gone through the roof. There are literally hundreds of costumes, tattoos and accessories available to bling up your guy or gal with and the option of downloading other gamers ‘creations’ from the official Saints Row site or by using the Inauguration Station (downloadable from the Xbox Live Marketplace), it throws other games customisation options right out of the window.
And whilst things are great fun on your own, team up with a friend and the fun never stops. Saints Row 4 allows a full on 2 player co-op mode so taking down those darn aliens never gets tiresome.
So should you buy Saints Row 4? Of course you bloody well should. Whether you’re a Saints veteran or a relative newcomer to the series, you really need to be getting yourself a copy of the game asap. The first half hour or so is a little slow in comparison with the rest of the outing and if you’ve gone in blind you WILL be confused as to what’s going on, but get through that period and Saints Row 4 is an immense game. The graphics could have been crisper and a little lag here and there (mostly while autosaving) is occasionally a pain but with a good 30+ hours of gameplay in Steelport, plenty of easyish achievements to pickup and more fun than you can shake a massive stick at, the lag and visuals pale into insignificance.
Don’t expect it to be a GTA killer though, it’s a whole different game……..Possibly the maddest game on the planet!
What we like:
- The over the top weapons
- The over the top customisation
- The over the top overthetopness
What we don’t like:
- Slight lag whilst autosaving
- Not quite up there with the greatest ever graphics
- Any comparison with GTA