Within an hour of playing the new outrageous Saints Row installment, doubt of their triumphant return were laid to waste. Considering this is a franchise building since 2006, when most series’ lose their luster within a few short years, Volition didn’t disappoint. In fact, as it seems so far, Saints Row IV does everything and anything it can to pander to the belligerent decadence of pop-culture nerds. From old school movie references to the modern Golden Globe nominees, Saints Row offers itself almost as a parody…almost. Deep down there is an actual story being told boarding on the serious. How so, you ask? Serious is, believe it or not, accurate… to a point. In the previous games, the player confronts and eliminates rival gangs, while in Saints Row IV the player takes on an alien invasion as the President of the United States on a rage embedded quest for revenge. So lets take a look at this beast point for point!
The Opening (there’s going to be some spoilers up ahead. If you wish to avoid reading details regarding a game you have not played but plan to, you should probably avoid reading reviews in general, just saying):
Per a quick run in over at GameStop, as the purple endued disk began to turn inside my soon to be old generation 360, I pondered how Saints Row IV could out stage the opening air drop sequence from predecessor, Saints Row the Third. Lets be honest here, the Third had one of the best game openings ever to grace the video game industry, especially coming from a dick and fart joke studio. Over-the-top laughs backed with emotional tugs (i.e. Johnny Gat…you know…sad panda face) and plenty of 1980’s-esk action (run and gunning you’re way out the back of a cargo plane during mid-flight). How could Volition out-stage their own previous game? I’m sure really that they did, again, the Third was an amazing opening, but # IV was still awesome. The best part was in its honesty. The opening sequence showed you what to expect throughout the rest of the game: smooth action, plenty of explosions, punch-drunk jokes, one-liner dialogue, hilarious movie nods, violence, and actual characters; not charactures. And then there was the reverse Dr. Strangelove, as The Boss (your character if you haven’t guessed) jumps on the side of a nuke as it skyrockets, pulling wires and dodging falling debris, all the while your faith crew are giving you their sad farewells. By the way, if you don’t know who or what Dr. Strangelove is, SHAME ON YOU!!! Watch the clip below:
The Boss (you) survive, duh. After pulling out the last bit of wiring, the character kicks off the nuke just before exploding during ascension. Looking a bit like Issac Clark (see Dead Space) your character plummets back toward earth, giving the viewer a triumphant thumbs up, as if saying (in my humble opinion): “Sure, we’re not jumping and shooting our way off a plane, but we did just parallel surfed a nuke.” The screen cuts and reopens with your dude or dudette or trans-dude drop landing into the Oval Office, signaling: “this is how you became President.” My reaction? Pure utter ecstasy! Saints Row has this strange ability to balance non-sense with seriousness. Nukes, terrorism, and war are all serious things, and Volition takes those serious things and mixes them with the humor of a college undergrad. In what other game can you be full blown patriotic, while equally non-conservative? Saints Row IV, while at the same time teases American patriotism, also exhorts it. Only one hour into the game and I can already see the replayability potential!
One of the better aspects of Saints Row is being able to craft your own hero. With the fourth installment, you can literally create whomever your diabolical heart desires! From She-Hulk to Doctor Manhattan to any other beloved media icon and everything inbetween. My personal favorite (for some twisted reason) is the tranny with the deep British accent: which is by the way, pure hilariousness. The options are near-limitless. The only aspect holding the creation station back from perfection are, once again, the clothing and hair choices. Those areas, thus far (one hour into the game) need more attention. If your a Who fan, clothing and hair for the 10th Doctor is available, but good luck finding anything resembling Smiths take on the Time Lord.
The newest addition and most oddest is the inclusion of super powers. How does this work? Well, technically, your character is inside a simulation per Matrix-esk. Once unlocked during the story, you can collect Crack Down looking blue “orbs” to expand upon your new found abilities, such as: super sprint (no more need for cars) and super jump. Giving long time fans what they really wanted, players can now dress up like Neo or Trinity and bound from roof top to roof top. The best part…well…one of the best parts in having super powers is being able to sprint attack mundane foes, instantly killing them via various special attack moves. Boss fights still require a little finesse, allowing players to strategize their plan of attack (normally with a freeze-shotgun blast combo).
Missing in Action:
So far, Saints Row IV has been richly entertaining. Plenty of laughs, plenty of choices, and plenty of action. But the one thing i’m missing (one hour in) is having a place in the world to call my own. Looking at the game as being an actual person playing a simulation within a simulation separates me even further from making this game “my world.” So far, there are no cribs. The old world your character once knew and loved is no more, the dreaded Zinyak has wiped away all traces of what once belonged to the Third Street Saints. Even though I never did spend much time inside the walls of my custom designed homes in the previous games, I knew they were still there, a place to hang my virtual hat. As I understand the game thus far, home is outside the simulation, inside the ship you commandeered with Kinzie and Keith David. I’m still only an hour into the game, but this is the one nagging feeling that’s got me missing the old games.
Buy this game! Wait…allow me rephrase. Buy this game…if you have a sense of humor and enjoy games with absurd comedic tropes. Buy this game if you like over-the-top action combined with tons of awesome movie references. Buy this game if you enjoy customizing your own hero. Buy this game if you think debauchery, non-sense, lewd, and obscene dialogue are entertaining. Running out of reasons? Nope! Buy this game if you think fervent patriotism and non-conservatism can coexist in the most hilarious kind of way. The greatest thing to love about Saints Row is how they’ve become their own genre. Back in the day (2006), folks wrongly compared them to Grand Theft Auto, while in actuality, the Saints had branched away from the very beginning. Grand Theft is pure drama, while good, it takes itself way too seriously. The Saints have no issue in not taking themselves seriously; while some of their subject matter can be serious, they have fully embraced the so-wrong-it-feels-good vulgarity of comedy. Saints Row IV is more than worth its weight in purple dildos, so what are you waiting for? Throw your hard earned money at Volition and go buy this game!