Although I came late to the party that was Saints Row: The Third and only played it last year, by the end of it I was wondering just how they could top it, and somehow, they managed to do so with Saints Row IV. Saints Row IV continues off of Saints Row: The Third’s open world format, but amps it up greatly. Instead of driving around in cars or piloting helicopters and VTOLs, you run around the city at super speeds and leap over buildings, making the open world travel even more of a blast than it was in the previous game. However, the open world travel isn’t the only place where Saints Row IV amps it up massively from the previous game; the story does so just as much, if not more—and within the first twenty minutes, too.
The game opens up with a rather simple first mission to get you back into your character, the leader of the Saints, Shaundi, and Pierce, alongside new characters, and with the mission ending in an absolutely perfect music cue of Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”, it quickly became apparent just what I was getting into with Saints Row IV; a lot more of what I got from Saints Row: The Third, but more bombastic than ever, and I absolutely loved that. After the fantastic first mission, the game skips forward about five years, and it turns out from the events of that first mission, you become the president of the United States, with your crew from the Saints and old friends (as well as Keith David) running all of the important positions under you. The honeymoon of being president is short-lived, however, as Zinyak, head of the Zin Empire, invades Earth, kidnapping you and your friends, and trapping you in his ship, and from there, the game takes a strange turn to an almost parody of science fiction, but it still works, doesn’t feel overdone, and retains that same Saints Row style and humor.
Playing through Saints Row Iv, I almost feel like it was similar in some ways to a Mass Effect game—and definitely takes some nods to Mass Effect 2 and 3, between the invasion of Earth and loyalty missions. However, Saints Row IV is so much more than just drawing a comparison between two similar things that both games have done. Saints Row IV, if it were to be compared to a movie, would be most comparable to Spaceballs. While both of these pieces of entertainment are meant to be parodies of the particular genres that they’re portraying, they also stand incredibly well on their own as hilarious and solid things. The game is not without its humor, and only very few times did I not laugh at a joke or find myself shaking my head at what was happening. The music cues that happen with different story beats is absolutely perfect and fitting, and seems to be an almost specialty of Volition at this point.
The controls for Saints Row IV are mostly fine on the PC. I say mostly only because I had some minor trouble with a somewhat small keyboard and a small space where my keyboard is held in my desk, makes swapping between powers a bit of a pain at times, but overall, it isn’t too bad. The controls are solid on a mouse and keyboard without a doubt, if not a bit of annoyance with power swapping—though that’s a negligible complaint.
The combat in Saints Row IV is also incredibly solid. The addition of powers not only adds to offensive capabilities, but also mobility, with powers like the super speed and super jump allowing for ease of maneuvering in a firefight. While powers are a great addition to the game, guns are still just as big a part of combat, and with new guns like the Singularity Gun and the Dubstep Gun, there’s a lot of new variety where you don’t need to stick exclusively to an assault rifle, a pistol, and an SMG (though, admittedly, I did most of the time). However, towards the end of the game, it almost feels like the combat gets a bit *too* chaotic, even if we are looking at a Saints Row game. With so many enemies on screen, so many explosions, thins can get overwhelming in a sense, with explosions knocking you around, fires causing you to lose control of your character, and just overall mayhem—it’s a good and a bad thing, though at times it tends to lean more into the bad side.
The missions themselves have definite variety, and between story missions, side missions, and loyalty missions, and overall, at least compared to Saints Row: The Third, gave me a lot more variety and a lot more to do throughout the course of the game. Some missions are, without a doubt, better than others, especially when it comes to Loyalty missions, but overall, the missions are all fantastic, especially when it comes to looking at all the characters that have been around the past few games (and for myself, learning about a few of the characters from earlier Saints Row games).
While the game is overall fantastic, that’s not to say there aren’t any technical issues with the game, because there definitely are. While I played on a mostly high-end PC, and therefore cannot comment on console performance, I haven’t exactly heard good things about it, and would probably add to the recommendation of playing Saints Row IV on the PC if possible. I was able to run it on Ultra settings with not hiccups or hitches in frame rate.
The technical issues I encountered though tended to be broken scripting leading to having to restart checkpoints in missions multiple times. There would be points in multiple missions (not every mission, but it did tend to happen somewhat frequently and did leave me rather annoyed) where a certain enemy or NPC would stop on their path, where the radar would lead me 3000 meters away, or an enemy would just be unkillable. The issues that this game had aren’t exactly excusable, and while I’m sure (or at least I hope) that they’ll get better with time; it makes the whole game feel a bit rushed and unpolished as a result of experiencing these issues.
In all, however, Saints Row IV is a very solid game marred by issues that range from minor to decently annoying. It’s a great open world experience that suffers a lot of problems that most open world games have: bugginess. Despite that, the presentation makes up for most of it, without a doubt, as well as incredibly solid gameplay and missions—as well as an almost surprisingly solid story. I had questioned where they could go with Saints Row IV after Saints Row: The Third, thinking it couldn’t get any better or over the top. Finishing Saints Row IV, I find myself thinking the same thing, wondering if Saints Row 5 could be any better or more over the top than the previous incarnation. And, if Saints Row IV is the final story before a change in characters and setting, then it is definitely a fantastic note to end the story of the Saints on.