Thanks to Deep Silver, the fine folks at Volition managed to survive the implosion of THQ, which is a good thing for all of us, because it allowed them to complete what may be the most purely fun game of the new decade. Saints Row IV continues the crazy antics of everyone’s favorite street gang since Doughboy shot Ferris in a Fatburger parking lot, and takes the “Puckish Rogues” into territory never dreamed of by even the most smoked out gang banger. The result is a game that will make you smile like a kid on Christmas morning, while sometimes making you cry like that same kid when he realizes that every present is a pair of socks.
In the spirit of full disclosure, here are my in-game stats. I completed the single player story in just under 28 hours with a completion rate of 92% on normal difficulty. I finished at the max level of 50. I haven’t touched the co-op play, as I focused on completing the story first.
What do Roddy Piper, a nude Jane Austen, a sexually hungry probe droid and Keith David dancing the Robot have in common? In a sane world the answer is “nothing”, but in the bat-shit crazy world of Saints Row IV, they’re just everyday scenery. The first Saints Row was developed with the goal of being a serious rival to the GTA games, but the series quickly evolved into a far less serious and more fun loving answer to Rockstar’s sandbox juggernaut. By the end of Saints Row: The Third most players probably felt that they did everything that could be done in an open world game. We wondered how Volition could top what came before. The answer is that they threw everything from the first three games in a blender, removed reality altogether and let every idea from the development whiteboard become a feature.
The story exists not so much to drive the gameplay, but more to give Volition an excuse to let you do whatever you want. Your Saint’s Row: The Third character is now president of the U.S., Keith David (yes, THAT Keith David) is your VP and the rest of the Saints comprise your cabinet. When a Shakespeare quoting alien overlord invades, takes everyone you know (as well as a large percentage of Earth’s population) hostage and jacks you all into a Matrix-like simulation, it’s up to you and your homies to break free and get revenge.
The gunplay in the game is as tight as ever, but is evolved by the addition of an array of superpowers that would make you a match for the Avengers. Sprint through the streets and up the side of buildings at super speed, dragging pedestrians and vehicles in your wake, or jump high into the air and glide across half the city to get in place above a group enemies before dropping on them with the force of a small nuke. Small army of enemies giving you trouble? Freeze them solid with a blast of your freeze ray and then smash them with your tentacle bat (a hentai tinged replacement for the last game’s “Penetrator” dildo bat) or shrink them to the size of action figures and express your inner Godzilla. After upgrading your powers a few levels, the game’s battles become almost laughably easy, but the same powers are so much fun to use that you never get bored using them to decimate the enemy forces.
This game is the finest example of fan service ever pressed into a DVD. No developer has ever given their fans as much to get excited about through the course of a game as Volition has here. Almost every character from the first three games makes a return (though I did miss The Third’s auto-tuned pimp Zimos) to rehash and close out old plot threads, most of them voiced by the original actors (Terry Crews does a good job replacing Michael Clarke Duncan in the role of Benjamin King). You even get to complete one mission with both versions of Shaundi (part 2’s stoner party girl is the current version) as your backup. The script is written with skill and the banter between your homies does a good job of replacing the radio programs from the previous games, which is a good thing since your superpowers make vehicles almost worthless.
This game is so much fun that GTAV will have to be something special to measure up, and it’s a good thing it is, because Saints Row IV has some bugs that are hard to ignore. Graphical glitches are common (both intended and otherwise). For example, after getting the ability to dual wield sub machine guns, one of my guns never displayed. My character held a complete SMG in her right hand but just a grip and clip in her left. There are also some clipping issues, especially in cinematics. Though you won’t use them much after getting your powers, the cars still have an impressive selection of radio stations and music to listen to while driving, but unless I turned the radio off before exiting the car, the music kept playing as I walked around. I also got to hear one of Keith David’s collectible audio clips every time I loaded the game. It plays as the game world loads….every single time.
None of these bugs were game breaking, but there’s one that is. Sometimes (not every time, but enough to be more than annoying), when I tried to enter the missions menu, the game would freeze, requiring me to return to the dashboard and reload it to continue playing (Yay! I get to hear Keith David again!).
Bugs aside, the only other complaint I have with the game is that some of its activities become repetitive. You must complete these challenges to gain most of your power upgrades, and they just get old fairly quickly. Also, to whichever Volition team member came up with Speed Rifts, you are a horrible person, and there is a special level of Hell for people like you.
I can’t recommend this game enough. If you enjoyed any of the other games in the series, it’s a no brainer, but even if you never played the other installments, this game should be in your library. No other game has ever made me set down my controller and stand up to pump my fist in the air. This game made me do that…..twice. There’s more “Oh Hell no!” moments in this game than in every other game in my collection combined, and I’m honestly rushing through this review so that I can get back to playing some more. Buy this game!