Saints Row 4 Review - PS3

Saints Row 4 Gets Impressive Cover Artwork

rating: 3.5

At one point during the unequivocal quirkiness of Saints Row IV you are tasked with piloting a shuttle to escape an alien mothership. The dumbfounding yet brilliant kicker is that throughout this sequence of shooting down alien aircraft and maneuvering through tight quarters by performing barrel rolls, What Is Love by Eurodance artist Haddaway blasts over the stereo. It€™s moments like these that originally caused us to fall in love with the franchise and Saints Row IV has no shortage of them. Realistically, it€™s without a hitch the zaniest entry in the crime sandbox saga. Prior knowledge with the series plotline isn€™t wholly necessarily but can attribute to certain segments. In actuality though, all you need to know is that your created character has ascended from crime lord pop culture icon to President of the United States. Development studio Volition knows that if they are going to give the keys of America to the player they need villains of even higher intimidation so Saints Row does what Saints Row does best and gleefully ups the ante by pitting the player against a British alien invasion known as the Zin, led by their cocky leader Zinyak. The White House is overrun and you and the Saints are placed in a simulated rendition of Steelport visually screaming The Matrix. If I may pause for a moment to reflect on the evolution of Saints Row, postulate this; we have gone from satirical gang rival antics to mainstream icons to literally fighting freaking aliens. Everything is executed with an unabashed mindset for how absurd it all is too which is exactly why the series is endlessly entertaining. This is a franchise that isn€™t afraid to take some of the worst songs, puns, or homages ever to grace planet Earth and intertwine those moments with strokes of brilliant gameplay. This is a series that actually lists Nolan North (Nathan Drake, Desmond Miles) as a voice option for your created character without caring if more casual gamers won€™t get the joke. Volition emits a constant aura that their creative decisions are based upon the principle of flinging the player into the most idiotic of situations whilst self-aware that it€™s a twisted sense of inspired lunacy. With that, it€™s probably a relevant time to mention to anyone unaware of the fact, that yes you are given an assortment of superpowers to fight off the Zin. That bold decision also propels Saints Row IV into a state of certainty that it is a legitimate sequel and not just a different box with an increased numerical value plastered on it. So often do game developers gloat that the next iteration of their fundamental cash-cow franchise will offer upgrades, improvements, and totally new experiences compared to past installments when in reality you€™re just playing the same damn game in a new coat of paint. The overt disconnect present from a dependency on vehicles in past Saints Row games in traversing the streets, to now holding down a superhuman sprint button complete with wall-running, super-jumping, and glide functions transcends this fourth iteration into something new and refreshing which is a bullet point most games malevolently lie about. Traversing Simulated Steelport at breakneck speeds is both swift and satisfying to a point where I would argue Volition has already bested the competition in similar games such as Infamous and Prototype. Saints Row IV pickpockets a plethora of other tried and true elements too riffing on Mass Effect (you can romance your gang members on a spaceship), side scrolling beat em€™ ups, text adventures, and in some instances itself. An ingenious example is actor Keith David known for a myriad of smaller roles in both film and animation but ostensibly known for playing villain Julius in the original game randomly being back on board for this iteration playing himself as your Vice President just because this is Saints Row. The series has and always will thrive on idiosyncratic lunacy as evident from the traditional weaponry, but once again Saints Row IV outdoes its predecessors by offering an unbelievably ridiculous selection of weapons including black hole guns, inflation guns that cause people to combust, a guitar case shaped rocket launcher, and much more but the standout is hands down a dubstep gun that shoots out colorful and explosive lines emitting wubs. If that wasn€™t enough you also earn a wider array of superpowers as you progress through the game including freeze blasts, telekinesis, super stomping, and more. It's also quickly worth noting that both your weapons and powers can be upgraded through familiar and new methods. Stores host all your traditional weapon upgrades while improving your powers requires collecting Clusters around Steelport of which there are over 1,000. Early on when you're starting out and fairly weak a sensation to addictively grab any in sight settles in similar to collecting Blast Shards in the Infamous franchise, so if you found that tantalizing say goodbye to your social life here. Zzqr4lb The game takes all these new and riveting mechanics and also applies them to the traditional Activities line of side quests in an admirable attempt at spicing them up which largely works. Insurance Fraud may be easier than ever but it has never been this fun hurling yourself into oncoming traffic at lightning fast speeds to toy around with the ragdoll physics. Alien vehicles, superpowers, and the quirky weaponry are all utilized to wreak havoc or race in various activities which are definitely entertaining but come with one annoying setback. Accounting for the roughly 22 hours that I spent in Simulated Steelport in which I completed all open world gameplay, I found myself disappointed that considerably over half that time was spent running through a laundry list of the aforementioned busywork solely because the game stretches out its length by saying €œDo everything and only then will you achieve the real ending€. The main quest line jumpstarts soaring through memorable absurd moment after memorable absurd moment until that titular portion even reaches an apex the game never quite recovers from as it begins mocking itself, aware that things are needlessly being extended. I was irked by the same deflection with Deadpool earlier this year which has its finale level concocted of nonstop waves of enemies with all traces of creativity seemingly tossed out of the window. Cracking humorous self-aware jokes about the irritating situation does not right the wrong either but both Deadpool and Saints Row IV attempted washing the ill will away anyway. In the case of Saints Row IV missions are dragged out to tiring lengths as the game pokes blame at the Zin saying they operate every crucial objective in threes. The final mission mitigates some of it although the final battle is very underwhelming failing to instill a mindset of human vs. alien showdown confrontation epicness. Sr4 Flying My audio also cut out during the climactic Quick Time Event leaving me to read the subtitles but in more pertinent discussion, Saints Row IV is unfortunately one buggy game. Aside from multiple console lockups I occasionally experienced multiple boss AI€™s completely breaking forcing me to restart the checkpoint. Furthermore, while the game is aesthetically pleasing graphically, the framerate often dips into the toilet while sprinting extendedly or causing absolute chaos. It's also worth noting that co-op returns for the entire game and although I played the game by my lonesome self, I'm fairly confident that if you take everything I have stated in this review and multiplied it (the lunacy, carnage, laughs, and glitches) by two you'd have an idea of how chaotic cooperative play can be. At the core of it all Saints Row IV provides more gleeful wackiness and ludicrous scenarios in a fantastic sequel that expands on everything it stands for in manners most franchises can only dream of. It€™s unfortunately just bogged down by technical plagues and a sense that with original publisher THQ filing for bankruptcy in addition to this actually being a DLC for Saints Row 3 during its conceptualization days, Volition was pressured into rushing production in areas and unable to make a game truly representative of their ambitions. Regardless, it€™s still one creatively humorous hell of a ride and series finale that leaves you craving Volition's next endeavor. Saints Row 4 Box Art Cover Saints Row IV is available now in NA and the UK
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I write for WhatCulture (duh) and MammothCinema. Born with Muscular Dystrophy Type 2; lover of film, games, wrestling, and TV.