Saints Row IV Review

Chaos in the city streets with superhuman powers

Saints Row IV – just like its predecessor – has absolutely no justification for itself. This game is well aware of its strengths and weaknesses. It knows how to cater to the, let’s say, base gamer instincts. And you know what? It’s crazy about itself. It relishes in itself. That’s why I love Saints Row IV.

Imagine yourself as the leader of a street gang who becomes the President of the United States, and at the same time, a prisoner of a Matrix created by a technologically advanced alien race. How about that cocktail? And that’s just the beginning.

Virtual Steelport – a prison world created by Zinyak, the leader of the alien race called the Zin – is built solely for you to destroy it completely. Seriously, your main task is to “break the system” that (fortunately for adrenaline junkies among us) allows you to annihilate literally everything.

And although most of your time is spent dancing around Steelport like an excited child pretending to be Godzilla, gleefully stomping on a newly built LEGO city, in addition to the constant toilet humor and penchant for ultraviolence, the game also has something resembling a plot.

In short, the guys at Volition decided not to sacrifice the story for all this vulgar and reckless fun. You still go on various missions, and each time you are thrown into different, absurd, and nightmarish (from a comedic point of view) situations – and for added fun, you are sometimes stripped of your superpowers. Each mission offers unique experiences and is filled with standard mockery and ridicule, reminding you of the characters and events from SR3 SRIV remembers all the tricks and techniques that made the franchise what it is. Moreover, it is built on them.

Stocking up on weapons and gear at the shop

This is a self-contained story, albeit with many flaws. But know that in order to enjoy this video game, you don’t need a solid plot. SRIV doesn’t even apologize for this oversight, because it has plenty to offer without it. It doesn’t pretend. It doesn’t try to be something it’s not.

The essence of Saints Row is not to dictate a complex narrative to the player. It’s about setting yourself various tasks like, “How much damage can I inflict before they blow my head off?” It’s about flipping off the enemy before delivering a solid kick. It’s about wearing the most outrageous outfit that you would never dare to wear in real life. It’s about getting an insane tattoo, like a giant “BOOM!” on your leg, and shamelessly showing it off to everyone you meet. It’s about joking around, listening to music, and plotting revenge against those who dared to insult you. It’s about enjoying the thrill of flying while hurling fireballs, and sometimes jumping into a tank or a giant mech to shoot rockets at various things, or sometimes just for the fun of it. It’s about making important decisions as the President of the United States, like… punching a jerk in the face or kicking them in the groin? It’s about liberating virtual Steelport and ultimately rehabilitating the entire human race!

Like in any good open-world game, there is always something to do in SRIV, and most of these “tasks” will surely be familiar to those who have played previous Saints Row games. What kind of tasks? Well… something like – one of my favorites – crashing into cars and buildings to collect insurance money. As you may have guessed, through fraudulent means.

However, there are missions where you can also use your superpowers. For example, missions where you use telekinesis to lift and smash various objects to cause as much damage to the city as possible, in order to earn bronze, silver, and gold medals. Or another example – using super speed to race through the entire city, trying to beat a specific time limit. Performing all these actions twists and shrinks the program code of the system, ultimately destroying it.

Unleashing incredible superpowers

Tasks of this kind are tied to side quests, but they are unlikely to be simple bonus mini-games. Yes, on one hand, it gives you a simple incentive to complete them, but on the other hand, it makes side quests a bit unnecessary.

At first glance, it seems that these quests have different end goals, but in reality, they are just a random set of missions, the filling of which is made up of a handful of different tasks, and then wrapped in different packaging. Variations are rare, and it’s frustrating, especially if you decided to specifically take on this game. To go through it inside and out.

Saints Row knows itself well. At one point, you are sent on another mission where you have to fend off enemy waves while trying to upload a computer virus into the system, and in the meantime, they say, “I know you’ve done this before, but it’s a great way to develop your character.” It’s funny. Moreover, it’s a clear sign that the game understands its strengths and weaknesses and thanks to this, it doesn’t cross the line. After all, it doesn’t take much intelligence to do the same thing over and over again, but damn it, he’s right – it’s a great way to level up your character. By completing this task, I will be able to improve my superpowers and earn some money to upgrade my weapons. Besides, it’s a great opportunity to gather a team and have fun together, while fending off endless hordes of police and aliens.

Being a superhero president… how does that sound, huh? And how does it feel?

However, the best superpowers are the very first ones: the ability to jump to incredible heights and the ability to run faster than any car. The mechanics of open-world games are always built around various means of transportation, and Saints Row: The Third is no exception. You choose the most beautiful, fast, and fancy car, and then start spending money on its upgrades.

Starting from scratch, a fresh beginning

But in SRIV, you have an even more efficient method of transportation, which you can spend all your precious time improving: yourself. The ability to overlook the city from a bird’s-eye view or glide right through its streets, exploring every nook and cranny – personally, this is a clear favorite among other means of transportation in sandbox games. There’s simply nothing like it. I spent a lot of time just floating in the airspace of Steelport, and if there was something worthy of my attention below, I would immediately dive down there like a falcon. Data clusters (those things that allow you to improve your abilities)? Homing mode engaged! Audio log? Instantly become a deadly threat to any passing bird and fly there! Exploration is a very fun way to spend time in games that give you a reason to do so. But I feel that after the level of control I got to experience in SRIV, exploration in other games will be just routine. Unless they let me fly again. And run – preferably at the speed of light.

And when you start thinking something like, “Surely there will be a point where I continue to level up, but it won’t matter anymore,” and… bam! You’re an all-powerful god who destroys everything in your path. Even if you just run at high speed, the consequences are unprecedented destruction. Nothing can stop you anymore.

I played the Commander-in-Chief version and therefore gained access to a gun that quickly became my favorite – the Merica Gun. It shoots rockets and is equipped with a flamethrower in addition to a machine gun. It’s a beauty, in short. Squeezing the trigger, I saw nothing in front of me. Only bullets and flames erupting from the barrel of this deadly wonder weapon. However, I’m not saying that it’s a “shoot and pray” situation where you just squeeze the trigger and see what happens.

And similar feelings arise from any superpower. Of course, it’s all a bit lowbrow. But again, Saints Row IV doesn’t care about that at all. “You like it, don’t you?” Damn right I do. I think it’s written in bold letters on my forehead. And I respond, “Yes. Give me more of these lowbrow abilities, please, and thank you very much, here’s your tip,” and then I go to upgrade all my weapons to have infinite ammo, nodding my head in deepest approval and satisfaction.

But that doesn’t mean the game lacks worthy challenges. The final boss is quite tough and requires considerable dexterity. Moreover, this applies even before encountering the final boss. Although, I must admit that I rarely died throughout the game. The game made me a superhero and clearly wanted me to have a good time in this incarnation. The main challenge is more about maintaining chaos – that’s why it’s rarely boring in Saints Row IV. Well, or you can increase the difficulty level – just in case you rarely die.

However, the game has a component where its lowbrow nature disappears – these are the cute jabs at other games, a kind of franchise feature. But while SR3 simply played with the techniques and themes familiar to video games, SRIV does it a bit more cleverly. The local jokes seem like true masterpieces compared to the previous fancy references and amusing parodies.

Dealing with a massive pile of virtual trash

So, before us is a game that gives you superpowers and allows you to have a blast in a world that is extremely hostile towards you. It takes every opportunity to remind you of all the moments you love in games. In my opinion, at times it is simply the quintessence of video games, whatever that may mean.

If you get stuck in a matrix-like world, it opens up a lot of creative possibilities. You will wander through fantastical levels and occasionally come across signs of how everything is set up here, which can either seem strange, funny, or slightly creepy. Developers and gamers love to joke, saying “It’s not a bug, it’s a feature,” referring to either programming errors or texture glitches, as these “features” often become the cause of loud laughter.

Glitches in SRIV (or at least those intentionally created by the developers) are the epitome of “features, not bugs.” You are a prisoner of the virtual world, and in response to your actions, it will react by spawning walking deformities. Sometimes it’s a lanky AI resembling a necromorph. Sometimes they have huge eyes or heads. But they always look either terrifying or ridiculously funny, depending on the person.

Saints Row IV also has a (sort of) deep character component.

I have always had an unhealthy attraction to video games with realistic friendships and natural character development dynamics. Saints Row IV likes to make fun of this, but one of the franchises it parodies is Mass Effect (as well as Dragon Age and BioWare games in general). Your companions constantly communicate during fights, allowing you to get to know them better and observe how they interact with each other. The same goes for SRIV. The members of your gang are connected by a shared history. And these connections, as well as the impressions they leave, manifest themselves precisely when the characters interact with each other.

During any combat mission, I am free to invite two characters who will help me complete it. But it is your friendship with all the members of this family of street gangsters who suddenly become government big shots that binds them together. Even the rough brawls, which hold great significance for the romantic relationships between your companions, are simply charming in their chemistry. These are friends with dark pasts and shameful secrets – and you know about each one of them. Friends who have your back and constantly tease each other.

A trio of diverse and colorful characters

Of course, no game is perfect. Especially the one that constantly irritates with errors and crashes. Matrix, you say? I restarted the game EIGHT times in a row. And half of these cases were at the start menu. The other half – errors in missions that completely killed all game progress, forcing me to restart.

And here are my – for the sake of laughter – unedited notes that vividly show how my patience changed towards all these bugs and errors. It seems to me that I went through at least a few stages of grief: from cold-blooded documentation to utter disappointment.

“The game glitched three times – had to restart. Fourth. Two freezes. Two glitches right in the middle of the mission, so had to restart again. OH, WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE MENU, FIFTH TIME ALREADY. Phew, sixth. Freeze during the mission. Ha, seventh. Damn it, here comes the eighth…”

I rarely tested the game for durability, so all these bugs and crashes are more than surprising. However, Saints Row IV has already received several raw patches. The sound often disappears or doesn’t match the actions, so during cutscenes, NPCs stand with closed mouths, even though they should be speaking.

I can forget my complaints about SRIV, because in the end, it doesn’t really matter what the game offers… chases, destruction, thefts, hacking, and all of this a thousand times in a row. As long as I have the opportunity to create a character that meets my preferences down to the last piercing, and shoot from my guns endlessly, while I can explode everything and anything with superpowers, all while hanging out with a gang of eclectic weirdos in a universe that can only exist in the Matrix with the Saints Row brand, I will tolerate any bugs and the most tedious monotony.

Bugged 8/10

All I want is to fly and explode. Again and again.

Saints Row IV
PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Action, Co-op
Deep Silver
Release Date:
Editor's rating:
Is it worth playing? (If the score is more than 70%)



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