Review: Saints Row IV

After Saints Row: The Third, one would think that things couldn’t get crazier. Fortunately, Volition proved everyone wrong and created possibly the best game in the Saints Row series.

Development on Saints Row IV started almost immediately after the release of Saints Row: The Third. The upcoming title was simply titled Saints Row: Part Four, the game would take place sometime after the events of Saints Row 3 and features familiar gameplay. In the meantime, a standalone expansion Enter The Dominatrix, despite being announced as an April Fool’s Joke, still went into development. The expansion pack would focus on an alien invasion and superpowers and superhero tropes.
With the THQ experiencing financial problems, Jason Rubin (THQ President) encouraged Volition to expand the expansion pack into a full game.
After THQ’s bankruptcy, Volition was sold to Koch Media and became their first internal studio. Saints Row IV was announced shortly after and was published by Deep Silver (a brand of Koch Media).

The plot and the overall atmosphere of Saints Row IV is so over the top and reminds me of action comedy movies from the 90s and 00s, and it manages to create a fun, action experience.
The game opens with you defeating Cyrus Temple, and saving Washington D.C. from a nuclear strike. Five years later, you have been elected the President of the United Saints, and the other Saints, along with Keith David and Benjamin King (former leader of Vice Kings from SR1), act as your cabinet.
While on your way to a press conference, you are suddenly warned about the suspected alien invasion. As soon as you are informed the alien invasion begins, being led by the alien emperor Zinyak, who manages to capture you and your entire cabinet.
Zinyak puts you in a simulation in order to break your will. Fortunately, you are saved by Kinzie and Keith David in a stolen alien ship. From here on in you must rescue your friends, overload the simulation and stop Zinyak.

The game and the simulation are set in Stillport, which is a clever way for Volition to reuse assets, from the previous game. However, there are changes in the scenery. For one there are huge alien ships in the sky, your gang hideout and safehouse are destroyed, and there are aliens (Zin) everywhere.
Kinzie also introduces you to a huge gamechanger in order to stop Zinyak and escape the simulation; superpowers. Because you are stuck in the simulation, Kinzie manages to hack into the simulation and give you superpowers (in one huge reference to Matrix). You start with simple superpowers, such as super sprint, super jump and will eventually unlock telekinesis, blast, stomp and many others.
Every superpower can be upgraded by collecting energy clusters, scattered throughout the city. Once you collect enough, you can upgrade them, or their elements. Certain superpowers such as Blast, have multiple elements that you can choose from, such as freeze, fire, mind control, blast, and bling.
Upgrades and elements can be unlocked by completing the story and side quests. Usually, they will give you a quicker recharge, or other upgrades related to the selected superpower.

In addition to superpowers, you can also upgrade or customize your character, weapons, vehicles and your gang members. The upgrade system is for the most part same as it was in Saints Row 3, such as upgrading your health, ammo capacity, bonuses, etc. Following the Saints Row tradition, the game still has detailed character customization. As a bonus, you can also suggest Nolan North as the voice for your character, which adds a lot more humor to the game (and I highly recommend it for your first playthrough).
The problem with the game is that a lot of upgrades don’t matter in the game. The only upgrades that really matter are the health, weapon and money upgrades. The vehicle customization is still available, but kinda redundant, given that you can sprint anywhere (and later glide), and also access the radio at any moment. The vehicle handling is still good, but you will only use vehicles in certain missions, or if you get bored of sprinting around. Once you unlock wall running and increase your super jump, you will use the vehicles even less. Also, all of the race challenges in the game are completed by sprinting and collecting speed boosts.

Yes, the challenges return in Saints Row 4, and Volition added more side activities, challenges and of course collectibles. The new ones are TK Mayhem (destroy stuff with Telekinesis), UFO Mayhem, Mech Suit Mayhem, Platform Rift, Speed Rift, Telekinesis Rift, Super Powered Fight Club and of course Professor Genki’s Mind Over Murder (where you throw stuff into colored rings). Upgrades can be unlocked by completing activities with a Silver or Gold medals.
In addition to side activities, Saints Row IV also offers you diversions for you to complete. Gang Operation has been renamed “Flashpoint”, where you must defeat Zin soldiers to gain control of the area. Survival and Vehicle Theft are now called “Virus Injection” and “Virus Collection”, and Assassination is now “Security Deletion”. New diversions are, “Hotspot” where you must disable all shield generations to take control of an area, and “Tower” where you must climb a really tall tower and collect energy clusters along the way. Store Hacking is also available and completing them will make the stores usable.

One of the best things about Saints Row IV is its humor and over the top action. Excellent voice acting and writing only add to the experience, and the game never takes itself too seriously. Even the main villain Zinyak, is one of the funniest video game villains ever, and will from time to time taunt you, and interrupt your mission making them harder. The games supporting cast is also excellently written and even their side quests make sense in the story, as they focus on the character and their personality. Each member of your team has loyalty missions and completing them will give them superpowers as well. Every loyalty mission is unique and funny in their own way, and of course full of references to other games, movies, and tv shows. Completing loyalty missions gives you the option of calling characters (such as villains) to join you in the simulation and help you out.
In certain story and loyalty missions, you won’t be able to use superpowers and will play out like the previous Saints Row games. Gunplay is, for the most part, serviceable, and there isn’t any noticeable improvement compared to the previous games.

After you are done completing missions or side activities, you have the option of exiting the simulation and returning to your ship. Here you can talk to other members of your team, view collectibles and explore the backstory. You also have the option of romancing other characters. This is obviously a parody of BioWare games, and while it’s clearly a joke, it also some of the funniest moments in the game.

The game is not without problems, but fortunately, these are usually minor bugs and glitches. During my playthrough, the game crashed once, and I had to lower the resolution on two different occasions while playing, in order to complete two missions (one while escaping the ship, and another time in the DLC). Other than these minor annoyances, the game runs fine and without too many bugs.

Volition also released two DLC mission packs, Enter The Dominatrix and How The Saints Save Christmas. Enter The Dominatrix is the alternative story about the Zin invasion and Volition’s clever way of presenting the cut content. The DLC frequently breaks the fourth wall and features some of the funniest writing. It also introduces new weapons, vehicles, and characters to help you out.
The second DLC mission pack, How The Saints Save Christmas, focuses on the Saints rescuing Santa from the simulation and restoring Christmas and the holiday spirit. It’s full of Christmas movie references and cliches. It too adds, new weapons, vehicles, and characters to help you out.

In conclusion, if you like good comedy, over the top action, or want a game that will make you laugh, give Saints Row IV a try. It’s one of the funniest games and has an almost perfect mix of comedy and action. It’s available on both Steam and GOG and is frequently on sale. It’s also one of the best superhero games on the market, and you should not miss out on it.

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