It’s probably worth telling you that this review may include spoilers, not only that but it may also include some bad language, which I’m afraid is unavoidable when giving an opinion on the completely controversial, over the top and fun packed adventure that is Saints Row 4.
So what is Saints Row 4 in simple terms? To me, it’s a parody of all things gaming, a nostalgic and fun look at games of the past which pokes fun in ever direction it can. It’s controversial but I wouldn’t say that it goes out of its way to be so. Instead it’s always looking for the next opportunity to make you laugh. Sometimes the jokes go completely over your head, while at other times you’ll be in stitches or just damn right appalled, but hey you knew what you where signing up for right?
Moving swiftly on, the story starts with The Saints saving the world before your character finds his ass placed firmly in the president's seat at the Whitehouse. So here you are, leader of the free world and the most important person in it. What could possibly go wrong? Well, how about an Alien invasion? Yes, just as you are about to give a press conference in comes Zinyak and his cronies to ruin everything. The Whitehouse is being destroyed, your fellow Saints are being kidnapped and only you and a big-ass gun stand between the Zin and total annihilation. As you take the reigns of the turret, the Zin line their ships up Space Invader style, you take them down, before grounding the battleship. Now’s your chance as you smash through the window and grab Zinyak by the neck, “Get The Fuck Off My Lawn,” you shout, but it’s too late, you’ve been kidnapped too, welcome to Virtual Steelport, so now what?
Although upon awaking you find yourself inside a virtual version of Steelport, things really aren’t that bad. Why is this? Because all of a sudden you have super powers. In what is no doubt a homage to Crackdown, you play through the game with the ability to run at super speed, jump and run up buildings and generally cause havok with all manner of 'super' powers. Powers are improved by collecting data clusters, which in turn allows you to jump higher, run faster, gain greater range for your fireballs; ice blast; telekinesis and more, all of which makes you the most kick-ass character on the face of the earth or at least the virtual version of it.
As well your powers you also have access to upgrades which can make both you and your gang better all rounders, allowing you to carry more bullets, dual wield, increase health and more. Upgrades are unlocked by increasing in level and bought using the game’s currency which is known as cache. All of these powers and upgrades become essential as you work with the voice of your ever present companion ‘Kenzi’ in order to break free from the program, rescue your friends and take down the Zin.
Most of the game’s main missions revolve around rescuing the other Saints, who are all trapped in their own nightmares. Thankfully Kenzi is a bit clever when it comes to breaking into the software, so once you escape the program yourself and manage to steal a ship, she’ll place you into the other’s dreams and watch as you try to rescue the others in what can only be described as a homage to every great game out there.
Stepping into the other’s dreams means temporarily losing your powers, but who cares when you’re in the sort of dream that you wouldn’t mind having yourself. Be it the 2D scroller that is ‘Saints of Rage’ or the level where you help rescue a friend with the aid of Roddy Piper. There are also Mech Suits (or is that robots?), Metal Gear inspired levels and more. There is no doubt that this part of the game is a laugh a minute and constantly surprises.
What’s great about Saints Row IV is that despite the wide variety of gameplay there is still a huge open world to be explored. Not only does this mean that you can drive every vehicle, visit shops and find collectables, but you’ll also be able to take part in a wide range of side quests and crazy mini games which will have you playing for hours on end. The main campaign will take you quite a few hours on its own, but when you add in co-op and everything else mention then it’s plain to see that there is a lot included here for your hard earned cash.
When it comes to combat things just get even better. First off you’ll pick up all manner of weapons, from the normal to the bizarre. You’ll then use these to take out both the Zin, Cops and the Guardians, the latter of which act as the ‘boss’ characters whose power you can occasionally absorb. Other enemies you have to content with include UFO’s, Zin on hovering space bikes and cyborg style robots. It’s literally a blast as you take each of these enemies out, blowing them to smithereens and watching as the enemy keeps coming back for more.
As mentioned, Saints Row IV is probably not for the faint hearted, what with the swearing, nudity, robot romancing (I’m not sure you want to know what that entails) and more, however it’s all there to make you laugh and to be fair you probably will.
When it comes to graphics and handling the game isn’t top of its class but it gets a pass. There is the occasional glitch, with characters getting stuck in scenery and the like. The cars don’t exactly drive that well either, however this is more than made up for when it comes to the soundtrack which surprises at every turn, it’s just brilliant. If you ever wanted to fly a spaceship to the sounds of the eighties then you'll love it. There is also a huge choice of radio stations which can be flicked between easily, catering for everyone's taste. What more could you ask for?