The Saints Row series has been a current-gen highlight for about seven years now.
It’s evolved from a GTA knockoff for the first two entries into forging its own identity for the third and now fourth installments.
Instead of relying on the gangland setting, things went towards just being completely crazy.
The third game let you know that things were completely different immediately with an insane plane-jumping mission to START the adventure. It had more twists and turns than many sandbox games did in any mission, and was a clear sign that this was going to be completely unlike anything you’ve played before.
In Saints Row IV, you’re the president of the United States and it’s up to you to conquer a virtual world and free the planet from being enslaved by aliens.
It’s a silly plot, but one that gives you an excuse to partake in tons of silly missions.
Saints Row has retained its crazy sense of humor, but turned the most insane missions from being optional into the core missions you’ll need to complete to finish the game. This shift is welcome if you enjoyed them, which I did, but can be irksome if they weren’t to your liking since they’re all over the place.
Ironically, the more traditional “beat up X amount of foes/save person Y” missions have been made optional – so if you enjoyed those, you’ll have to knock out at least a few story missions to unlock more of them. If you want mission variety, you’ll get it with SR IV. There’s a healthy mix of gameplay styles, so if you’d like to tackle races, combat-heavy sections, target aiming with Professor Genki’s missions, or even take on a Streets of Rage/Final Fight mini-game, you can.
While the missions are all-new, there’s a lot of recycled content here – perhaps too much for a product that costs $60.
Given that this game was originally planned to be DLC and just expanded exponentially when that project was shelved due to THQ’s death, it’s easy to forgive the menus being largely identical to SR 2.
What isn’t so easy to overlook is that the graphics are as well – it would appear that they just re-used as many art assets as they could and just kept everything at night so you might not notice. There are even a few jokes referencing this kind of thing being done.
This game’s shift towards giving you superpowers means it now feels like the Hulk open-world games, the Prototype series, Crackdown, and Infamous.
This leaves you with a new entry in a series that started as a rip-off of one thing, went in a completely different direction to where it bore little resemblance to that, and is now back to being a bit of a knock-off – just of the superhero sandbox sub-genre instead of sandbox games as a whole. The powers themselves are implemented fairly well, although a lot of buildings were clearly re-used and not optimized for being able to jump really high in the air since you’ll be stopped dead in your tracks by a simple awning instead of just going right through them like you’d kind of expect to be able to.
It’s definitely a strange direction for the series, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad game. It’s got a lot of rough edges though. Slowdown is an issue on every platform it’s released on – so even if you have a high-powered PC, you can expect to run into some problems.
It’s a puzzling issue since boxed press copies have been out for weeks and one would naturally expect for these issues to be fixed by the time the general release came out, but that didn’t happen. There are times when you’ll play and everything just stops. It’s jarring and gets in the way of having fun. Getting stuck in the environment is also far more common now than it was before, and the whole game feels like a rushjob from a quality assurance standpoint.
At $60 on consoles and $50 on PC, it’s really hard to recommend SR 4 – especially with SR 3 being available for next to nothing in two Humble Bundles. If you’re new the franchise, it’s impossible to justify buying this first, and if you haven’t beaten SR 3, wait until then to buy this.
By the time you do that, this might be down to $40 on consoles or $30 on PC, and that feels like a better price point. While there is a lot of content here, so many things feel patched together that it rarely feels like a full-fledged product.
Given that it was originally planned to be a stand-alone expansion pack, that makes sense to some degree, but it’s still disappointing.
Let us know what you think in the comments section below – and be sure to subscribe to my email alerts for more like this!