Quick Look: Saints Row IV

By order of the President under directive 775, anyone buying this game must do so on PC.

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Saints Row IV Review

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Saints Row IV builds on the style and sense of humor of the previous game really well, even if it leans a little too heavily on its predecessor at times.

Saints Row IV builds off of Saints Row: The Third's successful break from the open-world crime game norm in plenty of successful ways by giving you new abilities and options set in an increasingly ridiculous world that gets wrapped around some solid, funny writing. In plenty of ways it's all-but-identical to the previous game, but plenty of deviations both big and small make it feel quite different. On the small side, a more-focused track through the game's side missions makes it more enjoyable to see and do everything the game has to offer. On the large side, the developers at Volition effectively created "Lewd Crackdown" by imbuing your cyber-President with the ability to leap over buildings, glide around the city, and collect hundreds and hundreds of orbs. Clusters! Sorry, they're called clusters. Orbs, sheesh, where did that come from?

The story picks up where The Third left off, more or less, with a quick escalation and a five-year flash forward to the point where the boss of the Saints (that's you) is now the President of the United States. Oh, and then there's an alien invasion courtesy of the Zin, your main enemy for the bulk of the game. The alien leader, Zinyak, tosses you and your crew in a Matrix-like computer simulation of Steelport, the same city from the previous game. Since real-world rules don't apply in this oppressive simulation, things quickly spiral out until you can run faster than cars, jump higher than buildings, and shoot freeze blasts out of your fists. This, as you might expect, changes everything.

The developers' willingness to utterly deprecate major parts of the previous game is really interesting. Why would you ever drive or upgrade a car once you can run faster than the game's fastest vehicles? Grenades and other thrown weapons are completely replaced by a trio of super abilities and the weapon tree gets blown out with guns that shoot black holes, alien rockets, or the healing--sorry, destructive--power of dubstep. It makes a game that was already pretty goofy even goofier. And throwing the vast majority of the game into a "dark" simulated version of the city of Saints Row: The Third makes the whole thing feel like some elaborate expansion or mod, rather than a full-fledged sequel. Obviously, that has good and bad baggage associated with it. Returning to the city makes for interesting story setups and remembrances of the previous game, but even if you're gliding over all of it and ignoring most of its structure, it occasionally doesn't feel like something that stands on its own.

Actually, the story leans pretty heavily on your knowledge of Saints Row: The Third, to the point where I'd probably recommend playing that game first if you haven't already. Crazily enough, it also throws back to the first two games in some key ways, but missing these references won't leave you struggling too much--also those games are a lot harder to go back to at this point. The story goes in some interesting directions by occasionally focusing more on the characters around you and giving you some insight into their past and present motivations. These missions are the best part about Saints Row IV, and in many cases, they give the characters more depth than you'd expect from what might otherwise look like one 17-hour Matrix-meets-Mass-Effect gag. Unfortunately, a few opportunities for character building are really squandered, leaving all the interactions with one highly anticipated return character feeling completely flat.

That 17-hour number isn't something I just pulled out of the air, by the way. That's about how long it took me to complete Saints Row IV, including all of the side missions (most of which with silver or gold medals) and with copious amounts of time devoted to collecting well over a thousand of the clusters. The game is shorter, but in a way that comes off as more focused. The side missions are offered up to you in batches, so if you like, you can let the game guide you from one task to the next, with a bonus item or buff waiting for each group you complete. Or you can run around as before and just complete the tasks as you find them, and the game will adjust accordingly and not force you to complete the missions twice. It's a smart adjustment that makes the tasks far more manageable while giving you meaningful rewards for your efforts.

Visually, Saints Row IV has the capacity to look better than the previous game. The moodier lighting of the simulation and the way the walls occasionally swim as the simulation's textures animate across the sides of buildings is a nice effect, and things even look nice when you're flying high above the city. But from a tech perspective, it's mostly on-par with Saints Row 3. The characters models are roughly identical, the weapon effects are often similar, and so on. It's not a huge leap forward, even if the game's engine is better at serving up its polygons and textures at high speeds. Also, I can only say this about the PC version of the game.

Not to sound elitist, but going from the PC version of Saints Row IV to the Xbox 360 version of the game was enough to make me think that they maybe shouldn't have released this game on consoles. The frame rate of Saints Row: The Third wasn't pretty on consoles, and the bigger ask related to your character's speed and mobility make this game run even worse. The frame rate is rarely acceptable and on top of that, the game likes to hitch up completely for a bit when it autosaves. Making precision landings and lining up headshots is more difficult with its rotten frame rate, and the game is, overall, less fun on the Xbox 360 than it is on a proper PC as a result.

That said, I enjoyed it a great deal, and parts of this game almost feel like they've been specifically tailored to my interests. I mean, Riff Raff hosts one of the radio stations. That's a great choice. The game is packed with some great moments that subvert the open-world crime genre even further than SR3 did, it's funny, and its references aren't just lazily tossed off, they're earned. You'll feel like you've played some of this before, but if you're at all interested in Saints Row's brand of weird, it's absolutely vital.

Play it on PC, though.

Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
175 Comments
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Posted by darkest4

I was hoping for a 5 star GOTY, o well, I'm sure it'll still be awesome.

Posted by chrismafuchris

Every Saints Row game gets four stars

Posted by ComradeCrash

Great review Jeff! Sadly my computer can't run this so X360 version will do for me.

Edited by RecSpec

Hmm, Jeff said on twitter that the 360 version is a star less. So it seems more like a "this version is worse" rather than a "if you play on console you won't mind it"

Edited by KDR_11k

More supervillainy is good in my book.

Edited by DeeGee

Is there anyone out there that would genuinely call someone elitist for preferring the PC version?

"Do you want the best version of the game or the acceptable version of the game?"
"The best."
"How elitist of you."

It just makes no sense.

Edited by James_ex_machina

@video_game_king:

I started SRTT 3 weeks ago after joining PSN+ and getting it free. GTA and SR2 didn't appeal to me but SRTT is just DUMB overtop violence that I find completely hilarious and enjoyable. I am at the point where a lot of people seemed to get tired of it but I still enjoy it. Supposedly the game just gets even crazier at some point which I'm looking forward too.

I recommend trying it. This coming from some that grows tired of most sandbox games.

Edited by Fobwashed

Since 3 was as amazing as it was, you couldn't keep me away from 4 but it's good to see that it's a solid, fun game. It's a shame to hear about the framerate issues on 360 for console players... Maybe they'll release a version for the XB1 and PS4 for people who don't want to keep their PC up to date.

Thanks for the review! Now, onto the quicklook! =D

Edited by jimmyfenix

@recspec: I think jeff wrote another review for the 360 version and is just entering it into the GB system. Shame to see it has problems on consoles.

Posted by AlexW00d

I would have gone for this, but they're expecting £40 for it, which is 33% more than normal, so I think I will wait for a sale.

Edited by AV_Gamer

Sounds like they should have waited and released this game on the next-gen consoles. Looks like the PC gamers are getting that next-gen experience. Not a problem for me.

Edited by RedFive

going from the PC version of Saints Row IV to the Xbox 360 version of the game was enough to make me think that they maybe shouldn't have released this game on consoles.

I'm pretty happy with past-me's choice to pre-purchase this on Steam, then!

Posted by Brenderous

Orbs, sheesh!

Posted by triviaman09

@tehrevel said:

It's hard to know how seriously to take the comments on the console stuff. Like Brad will occasionally say something like "Far Cry 3 plays like complete shit on the 360" on the Bombcast and then I play it and it feels completely fine/looks pretty good but obviously not as good as the PC version. Jeff usually stays away from hyperbole like that so if he's commenting on it then I'm guessing it's slightly more noticeable. So is this completely unplayable? I can't afford a new PC at this point and am unlikely to in the near future and was quite looking forward to this game.

No, I mean you see what it looks like for the first 40 minutes or so of the QL. It looks completely playable, if not great, just like FC3. Patrick played through FC3 on consoles and thought it was fine before he got his PC. I imagine you become more prone to the "unplayable" hyperbole when you have the immense privilege of being able to play on any platform you want.

Posted by Efesell

So, more Saint's Row you say? That'll do.

That'll do.

Edited by Rafaelfc

Great to see another developer basically taking a big huge dump on the heads of part of their audience (much like 360 far cry 3 did).

Games should perform (emphasis on perform, meaning framerate and playability, not necessarily visual bells and whistles) equally across the board. if not, the sub par versions should be scrapped straight up.

I wish the media and public in general would raise a bigger stink about this, instead of letting these assholes get away with it.

Online
Edited by iceveiled

Totally fair review, about what I would expect. As somebody who grinded out a platinum on the PS3, and still plays the PC port of SR3 regularly, I'm very much looking forward to an "add on" to the game I just can't seem to get enough of.

Edited by Confirm4Crit

@rafaelfc said:

Great to see another developer basically taking a big huge dump on the heads of part of their audience (much like 360 far cry 3 did).

Games should perform (emphasis on perform, meaning framerate and playability, not necessarily visual bells and whistles) equally across the board. if not, the sub par versions should be scrapped straight up.

I wish the media and public in general would raise a bigger stink about this, instead of letting these assholes get away with it.

There's a large group of people who don't care about performance.


I thought FC3 on 360 was trash, but 8 of my friends bought it on 360. "Guys, it's busted" "No it's not"

So while I get where your coming from, that can't work. Especially when you can develop to as many systems as possible and make as much money as possible. Scrapping sub par versions would just lead to not a lot of console games.

Posted by Belegorm

I'm pretty fine with the way the game sounds, from the review. SR3 didn't come out that long ago, and I don't think sequels have to re-invent the wheel every time. It would probably be better if they tried to, but that would've been a lot riskier, and I don't think the devs wanted to take many risks with the whole THQ thing.

That and AAA developers rarely take big risks these days...

Edited by FoxMulder

@triviaman09 said:

@tehrevel said:

It's hard to know how seriously to take the comments on the console stuff. Like Brad will occasionally say something like "Far Cry 3 plays like complete shit on the 360" on the Bombcast and then I play it and it feels completely fine/looks pretty good but obviously not as good as the PC version. Jeff usually stays away from hyperbole like that so if he's commenting on it then I'm guessing it's slightly more noticeable. So is this completely unplayable? I can't afford a new PC at this point and am unlikely to in the near future and was quite looking forward to this game.

No, I mean you see what it looks like for the first 40 minutes or so of the QL. It looks completely playable, if not great, just like FC3. Patrick played through FC3 on consoles and thought it was fine before he got his PC. I imagine you become more prone to the "unplayable" hyperbole when you have the immense privilege of being able to play on any platform you want.

I played Far Cry 3 on PS3 and enjoyed the hell out of it. If you've been playing console game exclusively for a while I'm sure SR4 will still be completely playable. Brad only keeps bashing Far Cry because the only time he played the console version was the QL when he immediately played the PC version after it. Obviously going from console straight the PC is gonna make the console one look like crap. The SR4 QL looked pretty much on par with SR3 when I played it last week. The "Trouble with Clones" DLC had the sprinting power for one of the missions, and yes it did slow down everything around you, but it almost made it feel like it was supposed to be doing that. Either way I think the console version will be totally playable if you're a console person.

Posted by Carlos1408

I ought to finish The Third at some point. I think I'll probably skip this one though, I got about a third or halfway through the game and was getting a little bored. Love the game so far and it's hilarious, but yeah hasn't held my attention for very long. I would like to finish it though.

Edited by Shoey920

PC isn't an option on my 4 year old laptop, the framerate would be even worse than 360. I'm pretty used to these busted console versions at this point anyway.

Posted by LarryDavis

FOUR STARS? HUGE UPSET!!!

REAL JOHNNY GAT, ALWAYS BET ON SAINTS

Edited by GrendelPr1me

It is difficult to not look at the console vs PC comparison as a little bit elitist. I played Far Cry 3 on both platforms, and while the graphics are obviously up above the console version on the PC, the game still played like Far Cry 3.

I can see me getting frustrated a few times during the side activities with the frame rate drops on the console, but until I get a Steam Box built for my TV, the console is where I'll play it.

I'll just take a few shots of whiskey, and the real world's frame rate will drop to balance it all out.

Posted by alwaysbebombing

I'm really excited to do some gangstalicious shit.

Posted by Mezmero

Ugh I can't afford a good PC! I really want to own this game but I might have to make it a console rental considering the console shift that's happening.

Posted by zymase

As someone who loved The Third nod doesn't have a PC up to snuff, this is disappointing.

Edited by csl316

Keep in mind that Jeff just marathoned SR3. So if he sounds a little burnt out, that's why. I'm hoping the break makes this seem a little more novel to me.

Posted by ajamafalous

@sycomantis91 said:

Yeah, my PC struggles mightily with Saints Row 2. I'll Gamefly or Redbox it, like I should have done with The Third. These games are so much fun, but they just don't have that replay value. And it definitely seems fun enough to get over framerate issues. Besides, I've been playing Skyrim on my 360, I can handle some seriously annoying shit.

You should know that SR2 is literally one of the top five worst ports to ever exist.

Posted by Cybexx

So it does sound like a stand-alone expansion pack but one that I am totally down with playing.

Posted by Dallas_Raines

It's too bad they didn't send the PS3 copy, considering how much better The Third was on it.

Posted by snattu

Is this a xbox exclusive on consoles, or why wasn't PS3 mentioned?

Posted by blueinferno

Sorry, I don't own a high end gaming PC and can't afford to buy one.

Posted by GaspoweR

" PLAY IT ON PC, THOUGH"

NOTED CAPITAN GERSTMANN. OFF TO THE SHIP!!!

Posted by jimmyfenix

A 360 review might be coming. jeff hasnt seen the ps3 version.

Edited by Kenobi
Posted by sissylion

I knew this was a big lazy cash-in on the SR3 fame with some new moves and wub wub guns, using the same tech and even set in the same city. They didn't even create a new goddamn city for this "sequel." I really dislike this developer now, they've lost my respect and money.

Saints Row and Saints Row 2 both take place in the same city and the latter reuses a number of assets from the former. It's not new for the series (or for other series, for that matter: GTA V is set in San Andreas). Also, "lazy" may be a fair descriptor, but you cannot make a sequel to a successful product without it being a cash-in on its fame. That's how sequels work.

Posted by Ganthet2814

So I don't have a gaming PC. So my choices are PS3 or Xbox 360. I am guessing that PS3 might be the way to go on this. Might pick this up might wait until I am done with Tales of Xillia and the new Xcom game coming out at the same time as this. Still not all the way through SR3 yet. All in all looks fun.

Edited by JZ

@trilogy: here's the big secret behind of all this Unplayible on console bullshit. If you don't play games on the PC, you won't know the difference. If you are a console only guy like most people, saints row 4 and far cry 3 play good. They play like normal games.

Sure they play better on the PC, but your not spoiled by the PC so it'll be fine.

Edited by GaspoweR

@saturdaynightspecials said:

...and the bigger ask related to your character's speed and mobility make this game run even worse.

That's not a sentence.

I think that's supposed to be a typo (should be "task" instead of "ask").

cc:

@jeff

Edited by StriderNo9

Haven't played the 3rd game. And I won't have time to play it. Hopefully I'll make due with Wiki.

Posted by bennyboy

I tried SRIV at e3 on the 360 and yeah, the framerate was noticeably bad. Good thing I've got a PC.

Edited by BaconGames

Hmm, I'm actually on the fence about this one although I'm probably going to play it just to see the character stuff. I think the muted craziness (besides the writing) is what sold SR3 so I have to see for myself if the thematic stuff is as good this time around. I was more than bummed at some of the lazy choices scattered here and there in SR3 so I'm curious if they address that or not but even if not I'm probably playing it. I thought SR3 wasn't the greatest thing evern when I played it though so this is about right.

@chrismafuchris said:

Every Saints Row game gets four stars

You know, you're totally right.

Posted by pingolobo

I would've like to see a Troy Baker as Joel from Last of Us and Nolan North as Arkham City's Penguin.

Edited by OurSin_360

Honestly before I built my Pc, I had no idea what bad framerate even meant. Unless it drops down to like 5 frames a second, most 360 users won't even notice it most likely.

@jouseldelka said:

it leans a little too heavily on its predecessor at times.

I don't respect sequels that don't feel like sequels.

I knew this was a big lazy cash-in on the SR3 fame with some new moves and wub wub guns, using the same tech and even set in the same city. They didn't even create a new goddamn city for this "sequel." I really dislike this developer now, they've lost my respect and money.

Seeing as how their publisher went bankrupt and they probably didn't know how far they would even get into development I think it's pretty commendable they seem to have come up with a great game.

Edited by Player1

@jz: Completely agree with this. While I very much appreciate a reviewer covering his ground and telling you how the game runs on each console (maybe the most valuable part of the review), I will caution people from passing on this game because of it. I'll have to get my hands on it to make for sure but if the console version runs at least as good as SR3 then I will be content.

Great review jeff, thanks!

Posted by jiggajoe14

Sounds like something I would enjoy mucho. Can't wait to d/l it next Tuesday.

Edited by Boom_goes_the_dynamite

Well PS3 was the (console) version to play SRTT on, or so I've heard, so I'm not super worried about too many problems, given that is the version I have pre-ordered.

Edited by OurSin_360

You guys have to remember, GB reviews games when they want to, they aren't really a review site anymore. Maybe if enough people ask Jeff will try out a ps3 version, but otherwise, i doubt he gives a fuck tbh.

Posted by ThatIndianGuy7116

Did SRTT really have that many performance issues? I played through that entire game 3 times on the 360 and I had no real problems other than every once in a while, there was a slight drop in framerate. Other than that, it was far from unplayable. I think it's completely fair to say that a game is usually going to look better on a gaming PC than on a console, but to straight up say it's unplayable on a console just because of slight performance issues is a bit silly in my opinion.

Now that that's out of the way, I'm now incredibly excited about this game! It has a tough act to follow with SRTT, but I'm sure it will still provide me with a lot of enjoyment!

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