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Saints Row IV – magnificent moments of madness


Though now five games strong, the Saints Row series has struggled to stand out. That is especially true within its own genre as the open-world third-person-shooter has long been dominated by heavy hitters such as Grand Theft Auto.

It wasn’t until its fourth entry when it finally made a name for itself. We had hints of the series taking itself less seriously in 2011’s Saints Row The Third, but those were dialled-up in Saints Row IV, which first hit the shelves back in 2013.

saints row iv keyart
Ah, the Saints – magnificent moments of madness!

An initial Xbox 360 release

An Xbox 360 title, Saints Row IV was met with good reviews; the most successful of the series to date. But it still wasn’t able to quite meet the audience that it needed or deserved. Further, troubled times behind the scenes saw a change in publishers following the bankruptcy of THQ in early 2013. This meant uneasy times for the Saints Row series.

It wouldn’t be until 2022 when another Saints Row instalment came to light, rebooting the series, taking things in a more serious direction, throwing out what could have become the USP of the series which SRIV had laid groundwork for that never would be expanded on.

Playing up how games like Grand Theft Auto were becoming more OTT thanks to new capabilities of the sixth generation consoles, the fourth Saints Row goes one step further in being a full-on parody of the genre. The final result being rough around the edges but a truly unique experience. 

The Boss!

Like the preceding entries, players control The Boss, the customizable leader of the eponymous crime gang, except this time the Saints are not just causing trouble on the streets. After the opening tutorial, where you save the world from a nuclear missile set to Aerosmith’s “Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing”, you become President of the United States and have to make policy decisions on the way to the next mission, which leads into a recreation of a wholesome sixties sitcom. 

This is how the game begins.

In truth, Saints Row IV can’t keep up that momentum for long, and subsequent missions feel more pedestrian. Fortunately there is still enough originality and comedy to sustain the main campaign. Moments such as a parody of Metal Gear Solid, a giant rampaging drinks can called Paul and a sing-a-long to Paula Abdul’s “Opposites Attract” are worth wading through its lesser moments. 

Ah, those superpowers…

saints row iv superpowers
The superpowers of Saints Row IV

SRIV further distinguishes itself with the inclusion of superpowers – the game taking place in a simulation of the Saints’ home town of Steelport allowing for their inclusion. Powers such as super speed, telekinesis and the ability to free and burn enemies aid The Boss as he attempts to reclaim Steelport from an invading alien race known as the Zin, who use it as a base to begin their plot for world domination.

Outside of the main story are side-missions such as reclaiming territory and completing time trials; standard stuff which the game could have dressed up but end up feeling uninteresting diversions as a result. 

Going down this route means Saints Row IV starts to resemble Crackdown, but frequent sassy and self-referential dialogue keep it feeling like a rehash of old ideas. More so are the inclusion of elements such as the Dubstep Cannon, which incapacitates enemies by forcing them to dance.

It has to be said that if not for these elements, SRIV could have been wholly unremarkable. The game plays just like any other third-person shooter and graphically is workable but fairly basic. When play intensifies cracks begin to appear in the visuals (sometimes literally). Particularly during action sequences, when noticeable drops in the frame rate and rougher models somewhat spoil the illusion.

Saints Row IV may well be a case where the parts are greater than the whole, but it’s those parts that make the game what it is. Even with all its flaws, it still plays perfectly well and its best moments are worth the price of admission alone. 

You can still play Saints Row IV on Xbox

saints row iv weapons
And the craaaaazy weapons…

The original 360 version of Saints Row IV can be found for cheap in all the usual places (Amazon probably being your best bet but there’s still an Xbox 360 Store listing too). An HD remake, Saints Row IV: Re-Elected, was released for the newer Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S consoles. You can grab that from the Xbox Store.

Even if you have not played a Saints Row game before, the fourth entry is definitely worth seeking out, as in key moments it truly has to be seen to be believed.

What are your memories of Saints Row IV? Let us know in the comments below. 

Saints Row IV initially released in 2013 on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.

Jack Ford
Jack Ford
Jack Ford is from Somerset, where there's nothing to do except play video games and write. His works has appeared on Battle Royale With Cheese, Gender and the City, Flickside and SnookerHQ among others.
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