Sep 09

Spoiler Free Review – Saints Row IV

Need for Speed - Hot PursuitSaints Row IV had a lot to live up to – Saints Row 3 was hilarious fun and had clearly decided to embrace the more humourous and silly elements it had before. Then we started to hear about IV and the appearance of the Xin, super powers, a Dubstep gun… Oh, yeah, and the Boss has become President of the United States. It was going to be a close drawn line – things were about to get very strange and it could either be done fantastically or it could go that step too far and plummet off the edge.

For me at least, it worked brilliantly. The game parodies Mass Effect and The Matrix frequently and joyfully and uses elements of the plot as a great way of giving us many cameos and appearances from familiar faces. The super powers build up through the game, use simple controls and provide some wonderfully familiar training missions for them. Some of the upgrades and alternative elements (the main Blast power comes in Fire, Ice and Mind Control) come from side missions as well as different weapons and outfits, giving more reasons to do side missions (especially as many of them use the activities and targets around Steelport, so if you’ve done them before that mission it’s a bonus as you’re already partway to the reward!) but still giving you the option to just power on through the main plot if you want.

Speaking of main plot – the start doesn’t quite have that same epic feeling that the beginning of Saints Row 3 did, but it was always going to be hard to top flying through a plane. Having said that, working on a counter terrorist mission before dealing with a familiar face and then disarming a nuclear missile in mid air while Aerosmith’s Don’t wanna miss a thing plays in the background and hearing emotional thoughts from your crew… Well, it’s up there as awesome moments go. As you go through it, you’ll gain access to the different powers and slowly build up everything you need to take on the Xin. It’s not always happy moments though, there’s definite moments that hit you hard during the story but you know it’s just going to make the end of the game so much better.

Customisation is here aplenty as well. Weapons have a number of different skins (the heavy pistol has a version that’ll make you feel like a proud Browncoat, as well as Deckard’s pistol from Blade Runner. There are even nail guns and potato guns as options too) and even the various alien weapons have Saints colour variations at the minimum. Clothing, piercings, tattoos and more are all still available and with the same familiarity as before though the stores have changed slightly. Instead of buying them with money, there’s a pipe game to hack the stores and allow them to sell to you but it works well and doesn’t get too frustrating. Planet Saints has also changed a little, but I’ll save that for you to see.

If you want to 100% it, the side mission that gives you the collectable finder is a must. Not only will it show you the audio logs, text adventures and destroyable statues but it also shows you the locations of every single Cluster (that are used to upgrade your Super Powers) and with over 1,000 collectables in total (yes, you read that right!) it would be a nightmare trying to find those without the finder. Having said that, they tend to be quite close to each other so if you decide to take half an hour off to go round and collect some of them, you’re likely to make a good dent in that to do list.

As you go on through the story there are understandable concerns about how fun the final mission will be and if it will live up to the rest of the game. Without spoiling anything, there are moments in the game that you start to have concerns about if the game can stay fun, if the loyalty missions will be truly different or just more of the same, how effective your powers are going to get in that final confrontation… And usually within a few minutes those questions got answered. After the side quests of doing similar things for various rewards, the loyalty missions were such a refreshing change of pace and it feels like real, quality time with each member of the crew. When the pace feels like it’s slowing or the missions just don’t quite feel as satisfying the next one picks right back up and makes you want to move on. And after a few developments during the game that make you question what the situation will be with your powers in the final mission… Well, you get an answer right when you need it.

It seems like fortuitous timing as well with Episode 111’s discussion on Boss Fights. It’s something I feel Saints Row IV does fell and consistently through the game. The wardens have shields that need disabled in specific ways in order to hurt them, with the shields coming back after a short delay, and then once you have them on the ropes there’s a second stage to take them out on a more permanent basis. And the wardens are something you’ll see at various points during the game.

The big final fight itself has a number of parts to it, including retreats to regroup or use minions to try and wear you down before a very satisfying end. Trust me as well, the extra scene for the Saints and Sensibility Achievement is worth doing the extra missions for and leads to some very interesting ideas for what might potentially happen in the future. If you just want to get to the end and see it as soon as you can though, save before the final mission – you only get to play it once, unlike Saints Row 3 letting you play both mission paths on the same save.

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