Saints Row. The games have always been Grand Theft Auto’s crazy twin brother. Or perhaps the drunk uncle that just can’t just up during wedding speeches. The guy who always has to push the limits, often taking it a bit too far. The fourth installment of the popular game franchise, conveniently titled Saints Row IV, takes place five years after the events of its predecessor. You, as the leader of the Third Street Saints, has been elected President of the United States, with several members of the Saints acting as cabinet.
With this as the backdrop for the game, and the Saint Row’s games habit of surprising their players, you can probably imagine that developer Volition really had to do a lot of experimental drugs during the design process to keep on surprising players through the game. And while playing, you will realize that they did do a lot of experimental and presumably home brewed substances. Too bad they totally overdid it.
Saints Row IV starts you off with the familiar character creation where you are pretty much free to do whatever you want. Want to give the United States of America their first Afro-American, female president? Now is your chance, but I should probably warn you that you won’t actually be spending much time as the President. Still, the character creation is great, and it gives you a massive amount of options, with the randomize everything button being the absolute highlight.
The game starts off well, with a lot of references to the previous games and a tons of nasty jokes and the kind of humor the Saints Row series is well-known for. On your way to a press conference, you meet a lot of familiar characters, like Oleg, and cure cancer - if that floats your boat. But at one point, things go from the kind of wacky Saints Row we all know and love to something that’s way, way over the top. There are suddenly aliens, space ships, planet-blowing-uping, and before you know it you’re back in a computer generated version of Steelport, the city featured in Saints Row: The Third.
For those of you who played Saints Row: The Third, this is a total bummer. The city is exactly the same, except it’s always night and there’s a lot of neon everywhere, presumably to give it a more Tron-like feel. If you know Steelport from the previous game, it’s easy to find your way around, which can be nice, but it totally ruins the fun of exploring. Imagine you pay $60 for a bus ride to go on vacation in another city, but it turns out it looks exactly like the one you grew up in. What a disaster.
Even though this is the fourth game in the Saint Row series, it still has the same issues that have annoyed me in the past: The camera is too close to the player, both inside a vehicle and while running around. Driving a vehicle feels ridiculously awkward at times. Oh, by the way, you can eliminate the need for driving a car pretty early in the game. If you prioritize your updates correctly, you can soon run much faster than you can drive any car, jump over buildings and run up wall. All this might sound a bit weird, but remember that you are playing a game set in a computer generated version of Steelport. Everything is possible! Some times I wasn’t sure if I played Prototype or Saints Row IV.
Like previous Saints Row games, there is a lot to do and if you’re tired of following the main story line, you can do a few side missions or play one of the many mini games. They range from insurance fraud to participating in game shows. One of activities is occupying huge alien towers located around the city. To take over a tower, you have to jump to the top through a kind of maze. I did this a few times and it felt like the most boring thing I’ve ever done in a computer game.
Saints Row IV feels more than a hallucinogenic DLC for Saints Row: The Third than a standalone game. I really want to like the game, and I’ve put down over 9 hours so far. But I very much doubt it will be more and for sure not anywhere near the 37 hours I’ve played Saints Row: The Third. If you haven’t played The Third and is considering IV, do yourself a favor and stay clear of IV: Purchase The Third instead, you will have a lot more fun.