As a series well known for it’s tongue in cheek, rambunctious styling’s of blowing anything and everything up in spectacular fashion, has it finally grown up or are we still surrounded by insanity?
Judging by the opening sequence, the latter is vastly apt! In typical Saint’s fashion, an elaborate introduction sets the stage for your spectacular inauguration into presidency. After a daring sequence involving such over the top action that perhaps even Michael Bay may not consider, the real plotline emerges with the introduction of the seemingly almighty Zinyak and his army of Zin. Once again, after some more ensued hilarity, you are let free to roam your fictitious, Matrix-esque broken home.
A lot’s (inevitably) changed since the invasion; even though the incursion has indeed spread about the world, your attention as the POTUS is understandably fixed on home soil. That’s not to say that there aren’t enough demanding issues in your immediate surroundings however. Once a couple of mandatory missions are complete, you are free to explore at your whim, not long after that, you get a taste of the fabled super powers.
Starting you off gentle with super sprinting and jumping, mainly helps you navigate the cityscapes with minimum effort. Before long however, you’ll literally be leaping buildings in a simple bound; with some of the stamina upgrades and infinite sprint, you’ll covet those speedy cars no more! The one issue being that, L2, functions as both sprint and the ‘awesome button’ meaning if you wish to dive through a windshield, hoping for a quick getaway, more often than not, you’ll simply barge into the car, sending it skywards and often in a ball of flames. Pretty much the exact scenario also occurs when attempting an ‘awesome style’ melee attack.
Still, it’s not all just running and jumping, there’s a city to free from the evil clutches of the overlord so it’s best to get some activities complete, out of the way and under your utility belt. Anyone who’s played the previous title will know what to expect here, mayhem missions are back and tougher than ever, the hilarious insurance fraud events make their shattering return as do many others. Some new distractions rear their challenging heads; keeping in the theme of your super abilities, include foot races, which are not nearly as slow as you might imagine! Accurate platforming is also put to the test along with others that rely upon some later powers, of which I won’t go into for the obvious spoiler issues!
Customisation runs rampant throughout the Saints Row saga, getting more extreme with each offering. Once more, this is no exception, you may suit up as a gimp with your favourite er, ‘baseball bat’ or you could probably dress normally if you insist! Guns are plentiful and occasionally very unique; along with the usual machine guns and ridiculously satisfying shotguns, the inexorable plethora of special weapons are ever present. Perhaps you fancy simply erasing your otherworldly foes from existence altogether or maybe just casually creating a portable, mini black hole, either way you’re catered for! Not only can the majority of weapons be individually upgraded with larger magazines, higher damage thresholds and the like, but often a bonus upgrade such as armour piercing rounds which often alter the gun entirely. On top of this, certain skins can also be applied, they may not have any real world statistical effects, but stylistically, the difference is high. You can turn your ‘boring’ old shotgun into an old school Blunderbuss or a pistol into a steam-punk Mauser; best of all, they’re all free.
Cars can be modified and customised to a degree which brings out your inner child and random cars off the street can also be instantly stored without the need for a garage via a simple press of the down button. All, ultimately futile as before too long, the speed of your on-foot antics will vastly outshine any sports car in terms of performance.
A cheeky get-out clause on Saints Row 4 is that, due to the scientifically, fictitious environment you inhabit, all the free-roam amenities you may crave are still there. A radio whilst wandering on foot is available as is the ability to literally spawn cars out of nowhere. Maybe it’s not so bad being controlled by a facetious, alien dictator after all?
Upon completion of essentially, any mission on the game, you are greatly rewarded, whether it be cold hard cash or another daft weapon to play with, the feeling of progression is unparalleled. The choice to either complete some random activities to raise your hourly income, or perhaps progress down the main narrative to potentially unlock something a little special is a constant minor battle; inevitably, the ‘just one more go’ ethos applies like no other. With more missions than you can shake a phallic bat at, there’s plenty to keep you going.
So the gameplays great, we’ve established that, how about the presentation side of things? Unfortunately, this is where Saints Row 4 let’s itself down a little. Originally planned as DLC for Saints Row 3 before getting bumped up to a full standalone title, it’s wrinkles are showing. The graphics and general fidelity seem largely, if not entirely, unchanged from the third iteration; it’s not like it looks offensive, just a little old is all. Sound effects generally sound good although there are some discrepancies every now and again. Menus are slick and speedy; along with the relatively non-intrusive HUD, speeding your way across town via GPS is a sleek experience.
Essentially, if like me and many, many others, you enjoyed the previous game, you’ll instantly fall into place with SR4. Despite the immediate feeling of an upgraded DLC, there is a lot of fun to be had here for a long time. If you want to experience the majority of what this game has to offer you can easily sink 40 hours in, and that’s without the co-op. Some more lines of clothes and different tattoo parlours with more designs would be nice along with a little spit and polish on the graphics. But having said that, the frame rate rarely drops; when navigating the city at such speed, that’s a true blessing. At the end of the day, you’ve got super powers, seamless co-op and a free roam city, what can’t be great about that?
Reviewed on PS3, also available on Xbox 360 and PC.