Saints Row IV (PC) Review/Comparison
Title: Saints Row IV
Publisher: Deep Silver
Rated: M for Mature
Saints Row 4 is just about pure bliss when it comes to open-world games. The abilities you have, the story it sets up, the characters you interact with, all serve to heighten the experience. But really, the game is distilled into an almost perfect package, but a few things crop up a little.
The story of the game has been explained elsewhere namely here with Adam’s rundown. The story melds at least 5 or 6 pop culture movies/games/stories together into a cohesive narrative. It borrows elements from the Matrix, Terminator 2, Prototype, Crackdown, Fallout 3, even the prior games in its own series; bring back characters like Tanya, Maero, an DJ Veteran Child. There’s even a call back to a particular movie featuring the (in game) Vice President and a certain kilt wearing wrestler. The story is gloriously self-referential/deprecating but takes itself completely seriously which adds to the jokes immensely.
The basic gunplay/driving aspects are largely unchanged from SR3. You have more choices with weapons, and things are a little different, no grenades but super powers, but if you were comfortable with SR3’s combat, this will seem like old hat to you. There are three big changes that this game makes over SR3; health pick-ups, super powers, and gun upgrades. You don’t regenerate health in this game, for the most part. Instead, you have to kill enemies (or other people) and they drop health pickups for you to collect.
The gun upgrading is largely the same as in SR3, you buy upgrades at a Friendly Fire to make your weaponry better. However in SR3 you just upgraded them on a level system going from 1 to 4 which increased their stats. At level 4, their specific weapon bonus would unlock and it would be fully upgraded. In SR4, each weapon has different attributes you can level up (up from 1 to 5), as well as a bonus attribute like explosive/acid ammo, or taking less damage when using the weapon, or so on. It gives you a lot more flexibility when using the weapons, because you can dictate what you want to unlock first. My advice? Go with the SWAT/Heavy SMG’s acidic ammo, it will serve you in good stead.
The super powers are what drastically changes the game up and makes it so joyful. I outlined the ones I had in access to in the preview, super speed, super jump, and a freeze blast, they’re all in here, and work great. However the other powers are also interesting; telekinesis, stomp, buff, “Death From Above”, and a “force shield”.
Telekinesis lets you move things (obviously) with your mind. You can pick up almost anything that isn’t bolted to the game world and use it as a weapon. Stomp lets you either jump down and stomp or just stomp from ground level, which damages enemies near you. Buff gives you certain elemental bonuses and a proximity field of a certain type of element. Death From Above stops you in midair and lets you select with precision where you want to land, as well as doing damage to things around you. And finally, Force Shield gives you a shield while dashing around, and also helps mitigate power-dampening grenades that are used against you late in the game.
Aside from the base powers, some of them have special elemental or special modifiers you can attach to them. Buff has a lightning, fire and freeze option you can use with it. You can use blast to either freeze, set fire to, or mind control enemies, etc. You double tap on the d-pad which modifier you want, or you can just select from the weapon wheel. Some of the modifiers are a bit superfluous, but each can have their use in the right situation.
You can upgrade the powers by finding “clusters” (floating orbs) in the city. Not all of them can be collected from the start; certain ones will need powers for you to get the harder to get ones. The upgrades typically fall under the classes of increasing the power duration, decreasing the stamina they use up, or increasing the power/destruction they can dish out. Unlike most games, it’s actually a lot of fun to collect the clusters, and once you get a certain HUD upgrade, it makes finding them a snap. Another tip? You can scroll down on the city map (using the d-pad), which lets you filter out collectibles, stores, and etc. I found this partially by accident but it is vital later on when you’re trying to hunt down the last few. It’s also baffling that the game doesn’t explicitly tell you this, since it’s a very useful feature.
The mission structure of the game is generalized but due to the enhancements of the player, makes them pretty easy to complete. Most missions break down into either defending an area, killing a large group of enemies (or just one), or driving/flying around, and doing the same thing. It doesn’t break a lot of new ground, but it still is a lot of fun seeing a group of enemies spawn, freezing them, and just shattering them one by one.
The side missions are all reasonably linked to your powers, some are new, and some are returning from prior games. Insurance Fraud, general racing, and wave-based gang warfare (Flashpoints in this game) return, but have some different attributes. Meanwhile there are new mini-games like fight club, rifts, hacking and telekinetic mayhem which are different but riffs on already established ideas. So instead of racing in a car like in SR3, in here you race on foot, collecting green power orbs to speed you up or freeze the timer and avoiding the red firewalls which slow you down.
These mini-games might actually represent my biggest problem with the game. Some of them either aren’t explained well, or just feel slapdash, particularly involving anything with telekinesis. Two mini-games use TK, Mayhem and Rifts. In Mayhem, you have to pick up certain objects and throw them into hoops in the area. In the rifts, you have to catch different colored exploding soccer balls and throw them back at these targets which have the corresponding colors. The TK system though isn’t very refined, so a lot of the times (especially in Mayhem) you’ll latch onto the wrong thing, or else you’ll fire the object and it will miss the small hole it needs to go through. Another rift mini-game involves you running on a track almost like Crash Bandicoot as you collect orbs, avoiding obstacles and jumping over pits. The controls in this section are pretty laggy, so the pinpoint precision you need isn’t there.
All the mini-games tie into the side missions that the other characters give you. Every character on your ship will give tasks to complete which will result in an upgrade, costume, or weapon. The “cache” (cash) and experience systems are largely the same, as you rank up you unlock more abilities to buy under a plethora of subsets, which can help you tailor how you want to play. One really nice thing is that the side missions can be completed at any time. If Kinzie tells you to hack 5 stores, but you already hacked 3 of them as you played, then the three will be crossed off the list, and you only need to do the remaining two. It’s a clever way of dealing wide side content in open-world games. There are also loyalty missions which can net you variants of your normal crew, only this time they are super powered, and look awesome. Pierce’s super homie costume, basically Kung Lao from Mortal Kombat, is great.
Here is where the PC comparison comes into play:
That’s about it, really. Graphically, it is so much better on the PC than on the 360 or PS3. On my machine, cranked up as high as it could go, the game looks pristine. But the amount of destruction I was able to pull off, while the game kept steady, was very impressive. The current consoles can’t hope to replicate this, and they don’t. The 360 version faring worse, with some fps hitches and frequent mini-freezing during the auto saves.
Audio is good, but it’s where I ran into my only real bug of the game. First, the music is all fits into the theme of the games, with some special music popping up during cinematic moments. There are a few new sing-a-long sequences, which are sublime. The sound effects all fit and sound good. As usual, the voice acting is the best thing. Keith David, Natalie Lander, Nolan goddamn North, Roddy Piper, Neil Patrick Harris, Michael Dorn, and Yuri Lowenthall. The only thing missing to me was Tara Platt. The two standouts are Keith David and Natalie Lander. There are some great in-jokes about David’s acting and how he voiced an earlier character in the game. And Ms. Lander is stunning in her vocal work in the game. The only negative about it is that she doesn’t get to sing much, which is a shame.
The audio bug I encountered is weird, nothing game-breaking, but noticeable. When I first start the game, get to the menu, and chose continue or load, it will start to do so, but then start playing Kinzie’s third audio log, without me doing anything. It would only do this once (at the start), but would happen every time at the start. Even if I manually saved after the log played, quit the game, reloaded it, the log would play again. Later on, once I collected Keith David’s third audio log, it started playing that one instead. It continues to do this, actually. A friend on the 360 mentioned this to me, but said it only occurred with the last audio log he picked up. Also, the problem on his version eventually went away. Mine hasn’t yet. Like I said, it’s nothing serious, but can be a bit annoying.
Replay factor here is a bit weird. The mini-games have medals associated with them to keep score. The two big draws are a co-op mode (online) that you can play the game with, and do missions with. It can make the game even easier but it’s more chaotic and fun. The other thing is that are 7 different voices for the President for you to choose form. You may not beat the game 7 times, but it is certainly worth hearing some of the story with each of the different voices.
Saints Row 4 is the most fun experience I’ve had with a game this year. It takes the already great foundation of Saints Row 3, super charges it (quite literally) and lets the player have almost infinite freedom in how they want to tackle missions. It has the most minor of problems, but the game so mind-bending fantastic at being a power fantasy that you will overcome them completely. You need to play this game this year.
|Graphics||9.0||The game is awash in neon glow, Matrix glitches and a superb sense of speed. There is also some great visual gags as well.|
|Gameplay||10.0||I found it to be just about perfect. The way your new powers interact with the world is astounding, as is all the ways you can deal with typical open-world situations|
|Sound||9.5||The voice acting is one of the best things about the game. The music is varied and has some good moments (with Pierce). I only miss Tara Platt.|
|Lasting Appeal||9.0||A good co-op mode for another friend to cause havoc in your game. Medals for mini-games and other main character voice actors makes you want to play again.|
|Fun Factor||10.0||For as much fun as Saints Row 3 is, this game amps it up even further. Giant Saints Flow cans, 1950’s Americana, Neil Patrick Harris, two Shaundi’s, text adventures and Rowdy Roddy Piper.|
|Overall||9.5 [ Amazing ] legend|