Saints Row IV or More Insanity, More Fun?

From the newbie in a small-time gang to the president of the US of Asskickers … Saints Row seems to be the embodiment of the wildest American dreams … After the first hour of Saints Row IV, you’ll have kicked a dozen terrorist butts, witnessed an alien invasion, broke free of the matrix to be cast into another matrix, and you’ve obtained super powers.

Yes, Saints Row IV, is way more insane and over-the-top than Saints Row The Third, but because of the Matrix back story, it works way better. If you have a simulation instead of the real world, there’s no need to raise an eyebrow because of illogical situations (remember attacking the weapons depot, stealing tons of weapons via helicopter and then hiding all of that within a small flat without anybody realising?), which means everything is possible – and will be done! One of the things Saints Row IV does best is making gentle fun of everything – be it The Matrix (the setting, of course), Mass Effect 3 (you have “romance options”, loyalty missions and two ridiculously stupid coloured choices at one point), Men in Black (a nice little weapon), various stealth games … oh, and the Saints Row franchise itself.

Thanks to popular demand, Shaundi is back in Saints Row IV – you know, the fun-loving dreadlock Shaundi, not her fucking yuppie self (although she’s still there, too). Then there’s Keith David, who now stars as himself – and is well aware of the fact he also voiced that traitor Julius and Captain Anderson in Mass Effect. Oh, and there are rumours Johnny Gat might be back from the dead …

So, how about the gameplay fun? Well, after the amazing set of opening missions and arriving in Stilwater, you acquire your first super powers, and Steelport is your sandbox to wreak havoc and mayhem in. Oh, and super means super in Saints Row IV – if you have a night out with three of your homies with super powers (gained via loyalty missions), no one stands a chance against your powers, which can be combined and upgraded. Well, maybe bosses can. Sadly, boss battles are nothing but wars of attrition – you have to repeat the same action over and over again, especially against shielded enemies. Also, the new system is crap: Because a Warden (an alien boss monster) appears as soon as you reach the maximum level, all-out wars are a thing of the past. If you defeat it, everything gets set to zero. Sucks.

Thanks to your super powers, cars, and to lesser degree, flying things, are now a thing of the past. Why use them if you can jump or sprint quicker? That makes car customisation basically useless. Even piloting a flying saucer is not that much quicker anymore …

Main missions are fun and vary a great deal (recruiting your friends in unique ways – wait until you see Asha’s nod to Metal Gear Solid, Deus Ex & Co., while Pierce’s involves a massive load of Saints Flow …), while side missions are confined to loyalty missions and the combination of activities coupled with a nice extra as incentive. While the annoying activities such as Escort or Snatch are thankfully out, there are now way too many platforming acitvities in Saints Row IV – and if you happen to hate platforming, like Rabidgames does, you’re not too happy with it.

To sum it up, is full price for Saints Row IV justified? Well, it’s the same world, same engine, same cars (then again, look at FIFA, the WWE games or the decade-old Call of Duty engine). On the other hand, there are refined super powers, new weapons, nice ideas and two Shaundis! At the end of the day, it’s all about fun, and there’s plenty of that to be had in Zinyak’s Steelport.

Just one thing: Do not expect anything like GTA anymore. Saints Row IV is basically a Prototype/Crackdown/Matrix/Mass Effect (and then some) love child – but no one knows who the father was … In a nutshell, it’s the Naked Gun of video games.

Rabidgames relaxes: After Saints Row The Third’s shallow, lifeless world and at times dull story, Saints Row IV strikes back with a narrative that allows illogical events and outlandish ideas. And it works perfectly fine. The characters seem to be more than the templates in the predecessor, and even the world feels more alive, mostly thanks to the added verticality.

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