Quick Look: Saints Row IV

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Giant Bomb Review


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+
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Posted by SilentBob251

Been a long standing Saint's Row fan. I just can't get myself too excited for this game. I was getting pretty tired of some of the over the top humor of SR3 towards the end. This seems to just be laying that on even heavier to the point of self parody. It almost starts to feel like Cheat Code: The video game, which can be fun, but only for so long. If The Bureau ends up being as cool as I hope, then I will be purchasing that and waiting for a sale to pick up SR4, as much as saying that shocks even me.

Posted by xbob42

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

If you lost the DBZ icon, you'd probably triple your monthly income.

Edited by xbob42

@jz said:

@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.

I think the only way you don't notice a game pausing for a few seconds to load in new shit or to autosave is if you're really, REALLY drunk. And it's going to run significantly WORSE than Saints Row: The Third. Meaning if you only played the 360 version of SRTT, then this version will run WORSE than that. If you can't tell the difference, that's great. I question whether you're actually conscious as you play, but hey, whatever you gotta keep telling yourself to think 10FPS is fun.

Posted by slyspider

@tehrevel: You saw the video, if you can stand the frames dropping then you should be fine

Posted by JZ

@xbob42: sorry I play games to play games, not count frames. I beat far cry 3 on the ps3 and thought it looked and played great. Brad said it was unplayible on consoles, guess I like unplayible games.

Posted by Roboculus92

The framerate seems bad on consoles but it doesn't matter if you only play games on consoles because you don't know what you're missing so you probably won't care unless it gets REALLY shitty. That said, it can not be denied just how much of an improvement the pc version is over the consoles so get that version if you can.

Posted by Jigenese

If I haven't played either, which should I play? SR3 or SR4?

Posted by thatdutchguy

Just wait for GTA V.

Edited by JZ

@roboculus92: yeah that's what I'm saying. It's not that the console version is bad. It's that the console version is normal and the PC is above normal.

Edited by ThePickle

Great, more of Jeff and Brad assuming everyone in the world can get a high-end PC to play games. It's fine if you want to point out the PC version runs best, but leave it at that. Don't say "anyone buying this game must do so on PC" because that's not a realistic option for everyone.

Edited by MurderSlingshot

@yummylee: I'm right there with you man. I have a 360 pre order but I also don't have a pc that can run the game. I bought SRTT on the Steam Sale this year and the game could barely even start. I guess I'll just have to deal with it though

Posted by shintsurugi

@jigenese: Seems like Jeff is saying you should play SR3 first.

Posted by CatsAkimbo

Well, no one I know has a PC that can run this, and I'd much rather play it co-op than solo. Guess I'll have to live with the apparently crappy frame-rate on 360.

Posted by GrantHeaslip

I just played the PS3 version of The Third, and I rarely noticed the framerate. It did get crazily choppy a couple of times, but whatever, that's to be expected in a game that chaotic. If IV runs more-or-less the same as The Third, I suspect most people will be fine with the PS3 version.

Posted by V878

@thatdutchguy: Why? The series don't really have much of anything in common anymore. It's pretty easy to like and enjoy both games, without thinking one is a better version of the other.

Edited by Hilts

Looks cool. I felt I had my fill after SR3, which I loved. I'd rather wait for this to hit 75% sale price on steam. Maybe by then I'll be up for some more ganagsta biz. In the mean time there is plenty more to be getting on with.

Posted by mrGREEK360

@hassun: They were not sent a PS3 Copy, only XBOX 360 and PC. Blame Deep Silver and Volition for no PS3 comment or gameplay.

Posted by Homeslice

Sounds like the console version to get is PS3, much like SR3. Correct?

Edited by NPfeifer

I gave it a 7 and my review, without seeing it before this moment, looks largely like mine. (http://www.flesheatingzipper.com/gaming/2013/08/saints-row-iv-pc-review/)

If you haven't been playing the Saints Row games, you're going to be missing out A TON on what IV does. I also received a PC copy for review and even on my 4-year old machine (with a replaced video card, mind you) it ran silky smooth at 1080p once I turned down the special effects and the FSAA. It wasn't unplayable at E3 on Xbox 360 - like what Brad said about Far Cry 3 on 360 - but it was noticeably frame-y and distracting.

Edited by frustratedlnc

Saints Row is the 'Disaster Movie' parody of video games. Just totally unfunny in every way. For a group with an otherwise great sense of humor, I don't get the Saints Row love at all.

Edited by jdh5153

Worst open world game ever. Looks like a cartoon, unrealistic and video gamey as fuck. GTA is the only way to play a game like this.

Posted by AngriGhandi

The fact that it's the same city again gives me a very foreboding "Crackdown 2" vibe...

Between that and the fact that the technical aspects sound pretty dicey on consoles, I might have to give this one a rental first.

Which, after SR3, is pretty surprising for me to say!

Posted by evanbower

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

It's ok.

Posted by KamikazeCaterpillar

@jdh5153 said:

Worst open world game ever. Looks like a cartoon, unrealistic and video gamey as fuck. GTA is the only way to play a game like this.


Posted by yevinorion

The comments @jeff made about the performance on consoles makes me wish they had done this as a cross-gen/split-gen game. Seems like it would be a good time-killer for a PS4 or XBONE.

Edited by Fistoh

To those saying they can't afford a high end PC, a decent mid range PC should be able to run SRIV well, and certainly better than the consoles.

Edited by tehrevel

@fistoh said:

To those saying they can't afford a high end PC, a decent mid range PC should be able to run SRIV well, and certainly better than the consoles.

I've been looking at buying a PC recently. I asked online for just the parts I would need to play stuff that came out awhile ago like Dawn of War 2, Starcraft 2, the Stalker franchise, etc which to me seems like would be a mid range pc or even low range considering those are 2 year or older games. The parts recommended to me still came to about £600. That's quite alot of money to me. Maybe they were wildly overestimating or something. To play Saints Row IV I can only require more than that I assume in any case.

Posted by tourgen

great, I'm ready for more Saints Row.

Edited by Keeng

Just a heads up: this is probably another one of those increasingly frequent situations where Giant Bomb describes the Xbox 360 as "consoles". SR3 was totally fine on PS3 and total garbage on 360. This has been happening for years since they generally don't play multiplatform games on the PS3, so there you go. I wouldn't worry too much about that version of the game. I should probably make a list one of these days...

Edit: Short list! Far Cry 3, Red Dead Redemption, Mass Effect 3, Borderlands 2, Tomb Raider. All mentioned as being technically terrible on consoles, but actually only rough on 360. I haven't played SRIV so it could be bad on PS3, too but historically speaking, it hasn't been.

Posted by Flexy5

Does anyone know if they fixed the AMD chipset issue? I bought Saints 3 on a Steam sale and its so laggy/skippy it's unplayable

Edited by Strangestories

@flexy5 said:

Does anyone know if they fixed the AMD chipset issue? I bought Saints 3 on a Steam sale and its so laggy/skippy it's unplayable

I'd like to know the same. I have a laptop with an AMD HD 7970M and as soon as I got into a car or a firefight the framerate took a nosedive no matter what the graphics settings were.

Posted by John1912

FUCKING A I seriously HATE the scrolling that keeps the video always on top! Get rid of that shit!

Edited by wafflez

@john1912 said:

FUCKING A I seriously HATE the scrolling that keeps the video always on top! Get rid of that shit!

You mean the pin feature? You can just unpin it in the video player..

Posted by cavemantom

Seems weird that they'd spend so much time creating/marketing the weapon and car customization stuff while rendering it all totally useless and pointless.

This whole thing is weird. I'll get it when it's cheap.

Posted by blacklab

Really annoyed that I can't play this right NOW.

Edited by DeviTiffany

It looks better than three at least. I thought Saint's Row: The Third was a huge disappointment compared to Saint's Row 2. Honestly Jeff saying there's parts in the game that add a lot of character development in between all the chaos is what makes me interested in this the most because that's exactly what SR2 did. Every mission was unique, every character was interesting, and they actually had personality while still being funny/over-the-top. SR3 felt like it lost a lot of that in favor of an admittedly better playing/designed game.

Edited by xxizzypop

@trilogy said:

Well, I guess I won't be playing this game at all since it's "unplayable" on console. It's really unfortunate since I loved the last game. This is like Far Cry 3 all over again. Still haven't played that game and I wonder if I ever will.

If you never even tried FC3... how are you qualified to mark it as unplayable? I don't mean this in an aggressive way, but most reviewers, and certainly most members of the site, will cop to 'unplayable' being in regards to going from the PC to the console versions. If you play console games, nothing stands out in FC3 as being that bad. An occasional hiccup and not running like an E3 demo? Sure. Lower texture res which people who play exclusively on consoles are completely used to without having it ruin their gameplay experience? sure.

But people need to stop calling these games unplayable. They are inferior, certainly, but it's being produced on dated hardware. It still looks pretty (FC3 is still incredible as a game on consoles), it still plays fine, and all of the fun that you could pull from the game can be had from these console versions.

That said, I'm still pretty much exclusively a console gamer. I'm sure to someone with a high end PC would look at the console versions and call them trash, but when is the last time someone with such a rig would have made an intelligent purchasing decision that got them a multiplatform game on consoles?

Posted by Snail

@yummylee: Saints Row the Third ran much better on the PS3 than it did on the 360.

Posted by Snail

@jouseldelka: Take into consideration that this project first started as a DLC expansion, and was then turned into a full-fledged sequel in a time when THQ was desperately needing financial influx and credibility. Indeed, not even a new Saints Row game availed them.

This project had that added pressure on top of it, so maybe "the developers" would rather have had it another way. They are now under a different publisher, since THQ went bankrupt.

You should perhaps take the full development history of a product into account before making such harsh and cynical judgments. You risk sounding like one of those self-important boycotting-for-no-good-reason asshats.

Edited by Roger778

Great review, Jeff. Saints Row 3 was the first game I played in this series, and I absolutely loved it. This sounds like it's more of the same from the last game, but that's fine with me.

Edited by JJWeatherman

@hailinel said:

@naru_joe93 said:

@hailinel said:

Sorry, Drew. PS3 for me. But nice review!

Drew didnt review, he posted the QL that is on the top of the screen. This is jeff all the way

Ah. You're right! This is what happens when you read reviews before 7AM.

Even at 7 a.m., thinking Drew would review a Saint's Row game is a special kind of madness.

Edited by Snail

@thepickle: You don't need a high-end PC to play this game at a significantly better technical quality than at least one of its console counterparts.

You can check that popular online guide for prices - just google "logical increments". If you find that the midrange models fall within a reasonable budget for you then great, because that should suffice - but now would probably be a dumb time to do that, with new consoles coming out soon.

Posted by Chumm

Outside of really awful looking hair, the first 2 Saints Row games are NOT hard to go back to. SR1 is the best game in the series.

Posted by Snail

@xxizzypop: Jeff mentioned that "Making precision landings and lining up headshots is more difficult", which means that the technical downgrade directly affects gameplay, seemingly to an extent that even a console-bound player might notice.

On top of that, apparently "the game likes to hitch up completely for a bit when it autosaves", which, as someone has pointed out in the comments, is something anyone will notice unless under the effects severe intoxication.

So, in the end, the claim that "the game is, overall, less fun on the Xbox 360 than it is on a proper PC" seems to be objectively accurate. Where was the word "unplayable" tossed around?

Also stop citing Far Cry 3 - this seems to be much worse than that on consoles.

If you can tolerate that then great. If you can't but don't have another option, I feel for you. There's no sense being so defensive about the console version though, when it is only being fairly and informatively criticized.

Posted by Viking_Funeral

I'm still excited.

Weird thought: Can you even cancel a pre-order on Steam? I was going to make a joke about it, but I don't think you can.

Posted by Hailinel

@hailinel said:

@naru_joe93 said:

@hailinel said:

Sorry, Drew. PS3 for me. But nice review!

Drew didnt review, he posted the QL that is on the top of the screen. This is jeff all the way

Ah. You're right! This is what happens when you read reviews before 7AM.

Even at 7 a.m., thinking Drew would review a Saint's Row game is a special kind of madness.

The best kind of madness.

Posted by MachoFantastico

Hmm, still not sure about this one. I was excited after playing through Saints Row: The Third this year but I'm just not sure I'm ready for pretty much the exact same experience again. Plus at £39.99 on PC I might look towards some other games I've wanted to play. I like Saints Row, but the reviews have lowered my excitement. Sounds like Jeff's love for it tapered off towards the end, both he and Brad appeared to be loving it from the impressions I got from the Bombcasts.

As for the games length, not such a bad thing as I thought Saints Row: The Third dragged on a little to long.

Edited by Bribo

I stopped reading after "lewd Crackdown", because that's all I need to know.

Edited by chilipeppersman

@devitiffany: i can understand that but for someone that was playing SR the third as the first in the SR series I had a lot of fun with it. SR IV just looks like more of the same. I dont know why this is so appealing to people, unless your under the age of 15 or something lol

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