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Saint's Row IV Review
A short history of my experience with the Saints Row series
I have been a Saint’s Row fan since the very first game. I have been impressed with its crime action set pieces that don’t take itself too seriously. It was one of the first Xbox 360 games I had at the time and was a great diversion between GTA: San Andreas and GTA4. Saint’s Row may be labeled as a GTA clone but that is exactly what the series has always embraced itself as. Not only as an open world crime game but also as a throwback to a time in gaming (back in the PS2 days) when every free roam game was labeled as a “GTA clone”. Everything about it at the time was outstanding; the soundtrack, the shooting, the driving, the fun side activities, and even the mission structure made it shine. Not to mention the fact you could build your own character. My personal favorite feature was being able to listen to music outside of the car, something that had only been done in one previous game that I am aware of, Scarface: The World is Yours. Why more games never caught onto this I will never understand.
Then came Saint’s Row 2 which, in my personal opinion, is the best one in the series so far. They added aircraft (though the physics were horrible on the choppers), a larger map, more weapons, and proper open world co-op gameplay (which I have hours of memories with). They also added the ability to play as a male or female character and choose between a variety of voices for them. The character customization at this point may have been primitive but there were lots of options and I still consider it better than what Violation has now. In Saint’s Row 2 you could make your character NOT look like they came from the animators of Archer.
Then there was the atrocity that was Saint’s Row: The Turd (as I like to call it). In sacrificing all of the great features from Saint’s Row 2 for the sake of better graphics Violation released a bland follow up. Gone was the semi serious tone and believable gangs for cartoon villains, overly repetitive, sarcastic and rhetorical dialogue, and a new city that was severely missing the flavor of Stilwater in the previous installments. The move was a necessary one considering the storyline but they had sacrificed so much of what made the series great that it wasn’t a worthwhile one. Don’t even get me started on the ransomed locked away DLC content on disc.
Developers Making Up For A Mistake
However with the release of Saint’s Row 4 it does appear like Violation are addressing that fact that The Turd was horrible and appear to apologize to the fans by doing what else? Making an awesome follow up that makes the last game look like the piece of crap that it is. Though instead of admitting defeat they bridge a gap between Saint’s Row 2 and 4 and only really acknowledge The Turd as the entity that introduced the new character customization, city, and characters. Apart from that SR4 is chock full of SR2’s level of charm and references to prior games in the series. Even making fun of itself and pulling out all of the stops as far as over-the-top can go.
Since it was introduced people immediately put it off as goofy because the main character is the president, has super powers, and are fighting off an alien invasion. I myself even gave Saint’s Row 4 an “eff that crap” until I was told from a friend, whose opinion on games I hold highly, that the super powers thing takes place in a Matrix like computer reality. And it’s true, throughout the game the main characters fight in and out of this simulation world. Within the simulation world, which takes place in Steelport, is where you get your super powers. It makes sense to be able to jump very high, sprint extremely fast, and use various elements from your hands. The only down side to this is there is no actual flying ability and vehicles basically become useless. Only one of these is a problem really but having actual flying would have been nice. Or at least have the Air Dash move last longer.
As far as graphics are concerned the characters seem just as cartoony looking as they did in The Turd, but at least everything else they have added makes up for this bastardization. Everything looks exactly the same as it did in The Turd, in fact everything is a copy/paste really. The development time looks like it thankfully went into ADDING onto what was already there which is what made Saint’s Row 2 the gem that it still is today. The laser guns and hovercraft have been reskinned into alien weapons and vehicles. The character customization is still the same except now instead of a Zombie option we get Nolan North. I’m not really a fan of Laura Bailey’s deep porn star like voice; I’m more partial to Katie Semine’s light tangy college girl tone. Luckily now we can adjust the pitch of the V.O. to adjust the twinge of their voices. Try playing with the Nolan North voice at 100 pitch and not laugh; you won’t make it past the creator screen.
One of the bi-products of The Turd that they have adjusted, but I still don’t like the execution of, is the repetitiveness of the side activities. In older Saint’s Row games activities were cool little diversions that were a requirement in order to ear enough reputation points to unlock the next mission. It really helped add length to an already extensive title. In The Turd the reputation system had been turned into a RPGish level-up system where you can unlock different perks at the cost of money. Well that has returned and I suppose isn’t so bad but now to get players to do the activities the developers have turned them into missions. In The Turd this was a farce way of giving us more missions and making the game seem longer, but in IV they are put in the form of side quests. These side quests give you specific rewards but they are all basically the same thing. Like literally the same thing! One character wants you to hack stores, another wants you to clear alien squad #563. The rewards are nice but damn…
Is it Worth Your Time?
For those of us who have been with Saint's Row since the beginning you will be in for a treat. There are references abound to previous titles and they even address the changes that had occurred in The Third. I don't want to spoil any of that but I will say if you have a favorite character in the series they will make some kind of a cameo in this game. Violation have really out-done themselves with these references and it almost comes off as an admittance of guilt on their part for doing such a shoddy job on the last installment. The whole game comes off as a subtle apology to the fans for the broken mis-adventure that was The Turd.
All in all if you're looking for an open world crime game that isn't GTA then this isn't the one for you, in that case I would strongly suggest Saint's Row 2. However if you're looking for a game that will make you smile, laugh, and feel nostalgic then get Saint's Row 4. However I strongly implore getting the "National Treasure" version with all of the DLC included. I think that will be better for you money wise since it's $30 and comes with everything.
(This review was based on the vanilla version of the game that I rented from Redbox for a few days, any fun had with the "game of the year" version could vary.)
The Best Saints Row?
What was your favorite game in the series?
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