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

4
  • XBGS

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 Zevvion

@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

How can you expect to be taken seriously after saying something as stupid as that?

Posted by Godlyawesomeguy

@hailinel said:

@jjweatherman said:

@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.

Can.....can they actually make that a reality? I would love to see Drew review the next Saints Row.

Edited by Godlyawesomeguy

@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.

loooooooool

Posted by PieGhost

This game gonna be awesome, for me ofc, :D

Edited by Raven10

@tehrevel: I couldn't handle Far Cry 3 on consoles and I didn't play the PC version ever. For some people framerates are more noticeable than to others. I can usually spot a 5 frame drop even from like 60 to 55 fps so this wouldn't be worth it on consoles at all to me.

Posted by firecracker22

I played Far Cry 3 on 360, and was fine with it.

I'm not a PC gamer, so for me it's either on the PS3 OR 360.

Posted by StingingVelvet

Every console version has a worse framerate than you get on PC. That's not the issue here for Jeff. The issue is the framerate and hitching are so bad they effect gameplay, not just visuals, so it effects the score.

I know people who can't tell the difference between 15 fps and 60fps, and honestly I wish I was one of them because I would save a lot of money. It depends on the person. If you are someone who thought Far Cry 3 on Xbox was "fine" then you probably will be okay with this, but that doesn't mean it isn't objectively worse and that it doesn't harm gameplay enough for a review to point it out.

Posted by WolfHazard

You guys can make fun of me if you like, but I always take what anyone says about games playing bad on consoles with a grain of salt. Maybe it's because I never played a PC game before and have only ever experienced the "inferior" console versions my whole life but I never had/have problems with frame rate. I mean I know it's there and sure I can see when a game chugs but I simply don't care. Maybe I haven't been spoiled by a high end PC before.

My go to case in point has always been Farcryv3, which Brad basically crucified people for playing it on consoles and I dumped like 60 hours into that game on my 360 and had a blast and never saw any problems. Either way I will still be picking SR4 up on Tuesday for consoles, as planned.

Posted by Epsilon82

@stingingvelvet: The funny thing is that I don't really think you would save yourself a lot of money if you didn't care about solid framerate performance. That's what makes the whole situation kind of crazy, really. You spend more money on hardware up front, but if you're smart about it, you'll end up paying way less overall because PC games can be had consistently cheap so much more than console games. This game alone is a decent example: on day one, people are going to be spending $60 on a vastly inferior game for the consoles, while PC gamers can get it for $40-45 for a superior experience. And within a year they'll be selling it for $5-10.

Between Steam/Amazon sales, Humble Bundles, and various other avenues, you can get so much more for your money on PC that it absolutely dwarfs the extra hardware cost by a long shot. The biggest mistake I made was waiting too long to go over to the PC this generation. The amount of money I wasted on console games (paying $40 and thinking it was a good deal) for inferior versions is just crazy. To say nothing of the fact that I had two 360's and one PS3 fail on me, and replacing them ended up costing as much as my really good PC cost.

Edited by Bumbuliuz

I'm tempted picking it up on the PC. I played all the other ones on the 360, but the word about lack of performance on the 360 versus the Pc and a lower price point for me ($45 on Steam vs $100 USD in Iceland), is turning me towards getting the PC version instead.

Posted by Darkaddict31

I am still super excited about picking this up on Tuesday. No one is going to kill my Joy. It not a game for everyone and I respect that and get that. It what you find funny and what you don't. I am getting the PS3 Version. I will hold my Judgment. PC Gamers tend to dislike Consoles. I find the hiccups are not as bad. I normally dislike people who think 17 hours is a short game. But in this case if it suppose to be a sandbox type of game then yes I would agree it is short for the type of game it suppose to be. It the main complaint I had about Saint Rows 3 it was too short. But not every freaking game needs to be 80 hours either. It depends on the type of game it suppose to be.

Edited by thatdudeguy
Posted by GaspoweR

@thatdudeguy: Ah alright. That's the first time I've encountered it being used as such actually. Thanks for the clarification.

Edited by Trilogy

@xxizzypop said:

@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?

I never said Far Cry was unplayable. When I said "this is like far cry all over again" I was referring to me being disappointed that people warning that the game ran like shit on consoles. My pc is outdated at this point so playing new games on it is a no go. I honestly believe that it's sort of unacceptable to have frame rate drop under 20 on any console game, but that's just my opinion. We should have high standards as gamers.

Regardless of any of that...I made that post BEFORE watching the quicklook. My mistake there since I didn't even realize that they were playing the console version until halfway through when they mentioned it. I think the game looks fine on consoles for the most part. It does run a lot smoother on pc, obviously, but it's not enough to stop me from playing the game. I think I'll end up getting around to playing Far Cry 3 as well one day. Perhaps I've been putting too much stock in the opinions of Jeff and Brad when it comes to frame rate. I have my own standards, but their standards don't seem to match up with mine. I'm sure I would feel differently if I had a top of the line PC.

Posted by lozartist

@yummylee: I can't say I've seen any gameplay of the 360 Version, but the PS3 version my boyfriend and I are playing has been running pretty smoothly. I've seen a handful of places where the frame rate drops, but nothing too drastic; and it has locked up once, but that was the only time it was rendered unplayable. I'm going to guess that the PC version is definitely the best version if you have a good rig, but don't be afraid of the PS3 version just because the 360 version shat itself.

Posted by Robo

"I was 12 hours into Dead Island when the Zin attacked. Now I'll never finish. I won't forgive them for that." -Vice President Keith David

That's the kind of game this is.

Edited by SomeJerk
Edited by Spotshadow

Man, say what you want about the 1200 collectible cluster pickups, the differences (and not so much difference) between it and Saints Row The Third, tag on my overall frustrations with some of the gold level challenges...

I haven't had this much fun flying through the air with three double IPAs in me with Mad Descent and/or K12 playing trying to collect said clusters with a game in a long time. Eff those Assassin Creed flags.

Also, I can't say that I have had FR issues with the 360 except in one stop where you are flying high about the city causing multiple explosions.

Edited by dudeglove

Edited by Microshock

How did this get a 4?

I'm 51 percent through the game, and practically every single mission has been boring.

Posted by Godlyawesomeguy

@jimmyfenix: I was just looking for a 360 review and didn't see one anywhere.

Edited by slowbird

How did this get a 4? I'm 100% done with the game, and practically every single mission has been completely amazing.

Posted by Kirito_kun

Does it has multi-ending

Posted by Nardak

I think I liked Saints Row 3 much more than this one. In places the game felt a tad tedious and the main plot was a bit dissappointing. That hacking part especially was very very annoying and felt just like padding the length of game artificially.

Hopefully they will change the course a bit because I might not buy Saints Row 5 if they continue along the lines of Saints Row 4.

Edited by GabrielZyx

For god'sake, . . . Way this even need to be a video game . . .

Incoming, Attacks by toilets . . . with guns