The 3rd Street Saints are back once again in their wackiest adventure ever this side of Steelport. Saints Row 4 picks up where we left off in Saints Row: The Third, settling the grudge against former STAG Commander Cyrus Temple. After the explosive intro, the true gameplay picks up with players being dumped into a virtual world, held captive against their will by alien overlord Zinyak and the Zin Empire. The game is very similar to the third game in the series, but the developers decided to push the envelope to entirely new levels, including bringing back many of the staple characters from earlier in the series. Literally, there are 2 Shaundi’s – one is Saints Row 2 Shaundi and the other is Saints Row: The Third Shaundi.
Shaundi is just one example of characters being brought back into the series, but there are others from previous games who now serve as cabinet members to the player; who happens to be the President of the United States. Once trapped in virtual Steelport though, they too are locked away within the Zinyak ships, trapped in their own virtual hells. Rescuing members of your cabinet is necessary in order to unlock new missions and allowing for the domination of virtual Steelport. Rescuing them opens up the ability for them to help out as “super” versions of themselves. It is fantastic to see a super version of Matt Miller, aka NyteBlade, running around Steelport and helping dispatch of aliens.
Seeing as how you’re in a simulated world, this opens up many gameplay variations, such as the ability to turn into a near-superhero character through the use of manipulation of the world’s code. Such examples include extended hovering, jumping extreme heights and lengths, running up walls, telekinesis and more. There is almost no limit to what players can do within the game. Players will be hard-pressed if they want to play the game classic Saints-style by driving around or running around at sonic speeds through the map. Players cannot just jump into these super abilities from the start however, as they must be unlocked through completing certain main and side missions within the game. Doing so unlocks newer and greater abilities, but even then in order to obtain new powers, players must collect “Data Orbs” from within virtual Steelport. These are stashed away across the entire map, hidden on and in-between buildings, in tunnels, and even floating freely in the air. These alone provide players with excruciating treasure hunts when there are only a few left, making them nearly impossible to find. As a bonus, when playing cooperative, any collected glitch code will count towards both player’s totals. This means, splitting up and just hunting these down is an option for players looking to get a leg up early in the game.
Playing the game solo-or cooperatively still features the same gameplay regardless. Players are required to beat missions in order to progress within the story, but there are also a number of side activities that everyone can participate in. Some of the best activities from the previous games make their return, such as Insurance Fraud and Mayhem, but rather than grant players with more respect and money from their fellow Saints, they net the virtual world’s version of cash and respect (experience) which can now only be used for weapon and character upgrades.
Upgrades themselves have also been retooled, granting players many choices rather than simple ���Level 1” and “Level 2” upgrades; players can now focus on individual power upgrades for each weapon, as well as deciding each weapon’s look and feel within the game. Fan of various sci-fi universes will be thrilled as weapon modifications include Han Solo’s blaster, Robocop’s pistol, and a decked out steampunk sniper rifle. Volition truly went all out in creating a virtual sandbox that many players of the series will enjoy gallivanting in.
Fans of the comedy within the game too will not be disappointed as the game delivers thrills, chill, and spills. The same crude humor present throughout the series makes another triumphant return with more dick jokes than an old person can shake their finger at.
Saints Row 4 is truly a goofy experience that continues to push gameplay envelopes in directions that continue the mold for sandbox games. While it is not quite as realistic and crime-noir as its contemporary Grand Theft Auto V, the game is still a solid experience and a treat for those that want something that does not take itself too seriously.
Note: The Saints Row IV review was written based on the PS3 version.