Saints Row 4 Review: Perverts Of The World, Unite And Take Over
So What Doesn’t Work?
Saints Row IV does a great job of varying gameplay between story missions and open-world play, but the two styles never feel that well combined. The actions that move the story along – rescuing your friends from Zinyak or taking steps to defeat him – tend to happen in stand-alone segments. These moments are great, and frequent. But the open world segments which largely consist of glorified excuses to force you to do side activities in order to level up contrast poorly.
In order to increase your powers, you have to complete side activities to unlock them, then collect in-game items in order to purchase upgrades to those powers. In order to increase your basic attributes like health or ammo capacity, you need to level up by… completing side activities and collecting in-game items. The activities, ranging from races and platforming puzzles to fight club battles and ‘hacking,’ are plenty of fun, and the addition of completion tiers give you more to do with them. But even those activities carried over from previous games feel more like a distraction than an asset.
Think about it like this: You love the strip club. And you love booze. But what if you were at the strip club and every time you wanted a drink you needed to walk down the street, order a drink, drink it, then walk back? It’ll get old eventually, even if the strippers will kindly wait for you to return before resuming. Might as well just stay at the strip club. Except you need to buy drinks in order to unlock more stripper routines.
Ok, this metaphor completely fell apart, but the point remains: the side activities, while fun, feel superfluous. But they take up a mandatory 50% or so of the game, making them feel like chores. This is especially apparent when compared to the actual story missions.
The story itself is so well told – wallowing in cliches and fanservice in equal measure, designed to provide one ‘holy shit’ moment after another – that it’s a shame the open world aspects keep you from it. Likewise, the story missions that take place outside of the sandbox are fun, varied, and in service to a really fun story. But they’re abysmally linear, with a few exceptions.
This is no doubt a legacy of the original concept for Saints Row IV, a stand-alone expansion to Saints Row: The Third that would have been half the size. I suspect that expansion is still the core of Saints Row IV, with the non-Steelport sections created to pad out the game into a full length game. It’s not low budget by any measure, but I wish they’d found a way to put more truly scripted content in the open world sections, and make the story missions feel more open.
Co-op was also a mess, though it’s worth pointing out this was only with other journalists weeks before the game comes out. Volition has been patching SRIV pretty regularly since sending out press builds and no doubt the glitches seen in co-op will be fixed. But be warned, the game at least right now has a tendency to freeze up when you play with other people, especially annoying during gameplay missions.
But these are small things, considering how much fun this thing is. Midway through the game, one characters asks The Boss “you’re easily bored, aren’t you?”, to which the boss says “I don’t know, I’m too busy being awesome to notice.” Saints Row IV is all at once puerile, profane and touching, but mainly, it’s too busy being awesome for you to ever get bored. Seriously, buy this f*cking game.
- Great story that rewards long time players and newcomers alike
- Extremely well-chosen soundtrack, excellent voice talent
- Gorgeous graphics, easy on lower end PCs and great on high end rigs
- Varied gameplay
- Designed to be as fun as possible
- Open world elements are somewhat distracting from the story
- co-op issues during the review period
Final Score: 93/100
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1) A process that really started when the SR2 DLC made it clear that Red Faction takes place in the same universe.