Things are going pretty damn well for the Saints thanks to a black ops mission given to them by Matt Miller and MI6. The heroic performance by the Boss on that mission leads to the Boss winning the highest office in America. It has been a crazy journey for the Saints going from lovable ultra post-modern celebrities to Leaders of the Free World, but now that the Boss is the President of the United States; it is as the saying goes, mo’ money, mo’ problems. Being the President ain’t all it is cracked up to be as the Boss finds out when he learns that his approval rating is in the pits, rival Senators want his head and despite being for the greater good, he/she has to choose between a bill to cure cancer or end world hunger. Then to top it all off, an alien invasion happens…typical.
The President sees the White House fall to pieces around him/her as he/she tries valiantly to fight off the invading Zin and their malicious leader Zinyak. Unfortunately, it is for naught as the Zin manage to capture the Boss and the best and brightest the Earth has to offer. Once captured the Boss and the other Saints are trapped in their own personal hells, subject to the torturous whims of Zinyak. This does not sit well with the Boss and thanks to Kinzie, he/she manages to break free of his/her prison. The Boss goes from one prison to another, a bizarro Steelport simulation, where the only means of escape is by causing massive destruction and chaos, luckily that is what the Boss does best. Now it is up to the Boss to break out of the simulation, rescue the rest of his/her crew from their prisons, save the human race and kill Zinyak. NBD.
Saints Row 4’s writing is excellent. After Saints the Third, stakes were high for this game in terms of sheer lunacy and Volition answers them admirably. If gamers are concerned about how this game could top some of the moments from the last game, they should not worry because Saints Row 4 does that and more. In many ways it shows the evolution of the studio from the nascent beginnings as a simple GTA clone to gaining its own voice to defying expectations of what the series is capable of to the heights of madness that SR4 climbs. The series has always had a great sense of humor, a task often difficult to pull of in video games, but the series has always done the job adeptly. That is no different here, Saints Row 4 features some hilarious jokes and moments. The plot moves well and even the crazier moments work within the new virtual world of bizarro Steelport and the Zin.
Gameplay in Saints Row 4 is not hugely different from Saints the Third. Gunplay is much the same, aim and shoot enemies, except that the guns are a bit crazier and the customization is more robust. Now players can change the look of guns at a Friendly Fire thus changing how the gun functions to a degree, in addition to upgrading the fire power, reload time, etc. The main special weapon Saints Row 4 has promoted is the dubstep gun, and it is in there that gun customization is easiest to see. By changing the skin of the gun, the song that fires out of the gun changes from the standard dubstep song to one of two other dubstep variations. As well, the useful wrestling melee moves make a return. Driving is similar to previous games, but as it tends to happen in games with driving, it is tweaked a bit for slightly better control (but still not great control). It is alright though because driving will not be a big thing in the game.
What makes gameplay in Saints Row 4 so addicting and dynamic is the inclusion of super powers. Yeah, that’s right, the Boss is the POTUS and can outrun cars and leap over tall buildings like a G and shoot freeze blasts. The Boss is kind of a big deal. The super powers are hugely fun to use in the game and keeps combat fresh. Whereas the gunplay in previous titles wore out its welcome near the end of the story, the super powers never lose their luster. Running around bizarro Steelport faster than a car, jumping over sky scrapers and gliding off them like a flying squirrel is always a childlike spectacle. While super speed and super jump might have been enough to add some extra shades to gamplay, Volition included several other powers unlocked through story and side missions that give the player plenty of options when taking out Zin. Super powers much like guns and the perks can be upgraded to make them more powerful. Unlike perks and guns they do not use cache to upgrade, but rather players have to hunt down errant data clusters scattered around the simulation, which rewards players for exploring the large replication of Steelport.
While running around the sandbox causing destruction with super powers and elaborate guns is fun, it gets stale after a while. Like prior Saints Row games, it is the story missions that are the best part of the game. Saints Row 4 features some incredible story missions that revolve around the Boss rescuing the other Saints trapped in their own person prisons within the simulation. This structure allows Volition to get creative and bizarre with the types, structure and look of missions. Most relate directly to the character’s deepest fear, so things get weird, drinking donkey beer on satan’s ladder weird. But it is the uniqueness of these missions that makes the game shine.
Graphics and Sound
Saints the Third saw a huge leap in graphics quality from previous Saints Row games. Saints Row 4 does not feature such a stark jump in quality, it is more of a refinement from the last game. The character models look good and the level design is great in the game. Bizarro Steelport has a great sense of place and feels huge especially considering how easy super powers makes it traverse. The story missions all look great too. The thing that kills the game is largely that the current generation of consoles are pushed to their limits with the size of the game. There are often obvious texture issues and because the game is processing so much it sometimes results in some weird glitches. That said, it does not look bad by any means, but as with Saints the Third, the console versions are not going to be the best visual representations of the game.
The music in Saints Row 4 is pretty great. There is a huge variety to the radio stations in the game giving a nice selection of genres for players to select from. The biggest musical accomplishment in the game is the Mad Decent station that has MTV’s RiFF RaFF aka JODY HiGHROLLER hosting it and features several of his jams. Sadly he does not have a codeine meltdown during his hosting duties that requires him to listen to some Diplo to center himself, but he does have a track celebrating beer, beer, beer in the game. Additionally, the radio stations feature some great tracks from Killer Mike and El-P and classics from the Pharcyde and Biz Markie. There is also a Macklemore track if you do not like good music. While the music for the radio stations is excellent, the actual game score is great too and works well to give variety from the static playlists of the radio.
Saints Row 4 is a fantastic game. As the current generation comes to a close, gamers are getting a chance to play some killer games that push the limits of what is possible with the current tech. These games have offered plenty exemplary experiences and stories. However, none have been as fun as Saints Row 4. Not only does the gameplay offer the player a delightful play experience, the story is wonderfully absurd and full of some memorable character moments. Killing people with the power of dubstep and telekinesis is a special moment that Saints Row 4 offers the player, but is not content with simply giving them that type of destruction and keeps giving more. Despite whatever minor graphical flaws the game has, it is highly recommended. Gamers should play this; it is well worth their time.