The Saints Come Marching Back In
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I do admit, after playing the first Saints Row I lost interest in the series. To me it just seemed like another Grand Theft Auto wannabe. I tried playing a bit of Saints Row 2, and lost interest in an hour. As for Saints Row The Third, it arrived here and just sat at my desk until I eventually returned it. I don't know. I just couldn't get back into it, especially after more sandbox titles such as Red Dead Redemption and eventually Grand Theft Auto V impressed me more.
But there was something about Saints Row IV that made me want to play it. I don't know what it was. Maybe it was the fact that Volition, after having their game called a Grand Theft Auto wannabe one time too many just said, "you know what? Screw it. We are a GTA wannabe, but this time we saw how depressing and somber Grand Theft Auto IV was, and we are just going to be a parody of the series, and we are going to take it above and beyond any levels of insanity." And how do they do that? They made the background story an alien invasion.
The insanity starts right off with a bang. Apparently the Third Street Saints are now involved with an anti-terrorist organization, and they have tracked down former STAG leader Cyrus, who has gone insane and launched a nuclear missile. But that doesn't stop the player character, who ends up climbing the missile midflight, and disarms it. All of this happens while "I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing" by Aerosmith is playing. In doing so, the player is elected President of the United States, and the White House, oops, I mean the White Crib, is never the same. During a press conference, an alien force known as the Zin invade Earth, and destroy the White Crib. Even a last ditch defense by the President in his massive Duke Nukem style double cannon isn't enough to stop him from being abducted by the aliens.
Waking up in a setting similar to a 50s sitcom devoid of any profanity or violence, and even walking like he has a stick jammed up his rear end, the President realizes something is wrong, and Kinzie, the Saints computer specialist, rescues him from the setting. Turns out that the Zin have captured the Saints and placed them in a computer simulated version of Steelport. Eventually the President finds himself in a Zin battleship in a setting similar to the Matrix, but meets up with Kinzie and Vice President Keith David, but not before head warlord Zinyak destroys Earth.
As a result, the President vows revenge against Zinyak, and using the abilities he acquires in the simulation, powers himself up in his attempt to stop the warlord. Needless to say the simulation is an accurate recreation of Steelport, but along the way, there are tons of energy files around the area that can be picked up. With these, powers can be bought, such as the ability to run at lightning speed or to jump as high as a tall building. Yes, for those of you who have played Prototype you will feel quite at home. Same as for collecting all of these fields; it's reminiscent of Crackdown. This does bring a problem though. Because of being able to run faster than any car can go, it makes driving cars in Saints Row IV entirely pointless.
Still, without resorting to vehicles there is tons to do in virtual Steelport, and most of the bonus missions are quite fun. One I really enjoyed was the insurance claim missions where you use your own body as a ragdoll, causing as many injuries as you can to earn more money. Just seeing my body flail around and taking more damage is hilarious.
Seeing elements from all these different sandbox games are quite the blast to play, even if they feel a little overwhelming at times. It feels like the game needs a little more order, but when it does gel it can be quite fun.
And yes, Saints Row IV does spice up the humor. Whether it's hearing Mr. "My voice can cure the world's wounds" Keith David as the Vice President, or the snobbish British super villain type JB Blanc as Zinyak, the dialogue is absolutely hilarious and worth listening to. I can say the same for the soundtrack, which features 109 songs on seven different radio stations. Nothing can be more gratifying than taking over a control point, and all of a sudden "The Touch" by Stan Bush comes on. It is quite the rush.
Sadly the engine has its issues keeping up, especially when collecting energy fields. You see, the game autosaves every time one is collected, and at times it freezes the gameplay. This issue does occur on the Xbox 360 version, as so I cannot comment on the PS3 or PC versions. Hopefully a patch will arrive soon to remedy this.
Saints Row IV brought me back into the series, and I'm proud to have taken part of it. After seeing GTA IV and Red Dead Redemption ending on such somber notes, it's good to play something that is just good clean fun without taking itself seriously. Not bad for a game that originally started as Enter The Dominatrix, an expansion pack for Saints Row The Third.
PROS: Saints Row finally breaks away from the stereotypical sandbox roles. Includes elements from both Crackdown and Prototype. Zinyak is one of the funniest villains in recent memory. Dubstep Gun!
CONS: The addition of superpowers in the virtual world pretty much makes carjacking useless. Tons of freezeups when the game is saving, made more of a pain when collecting items in rapid succession. Game might be too easy with all the health kits dropped from dead enemies.
Todd Hargosh is GiN's Product Testing Manager. He enjoys any game that gets his adrenaline pumping. Todd can be contacted at : firstname.lastname@example.org.