Saints Row IV starts five years after the events of the previous game; you’re thrown into a covert operation to hunt down Cyrus. It begins quite seriously as you make your way through the level as quietly as possible, things pick up pretty quickly once you catch up to Cyrus and find out about his plans to launch a nuke at Washington. The Saints Row humour starts with aplomb as you jump aboard the launching nuke to the sound of Aerosmith’s ‘I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing’. As you destroy the nuke you crash back down to Earth and land in the Oval Office, earning the admiration of the country as well as the Presidency of the US, completing the Third Street Saints meteoric rise to power.
It’s at this point you can create your character, there are loads of customisation options and those familiar with Saints Row the Third will find this all very similar. As President you’re going to need some help running the country; thankfully all your trusted saints are around to help you out. As with any person in power you’ll quickly make enemies and in true Saints Row style this is no ordinary enemy – the alien Zin Empire lead by Zinyak. They make their entrance by ripping a hole in the White House and steal all of your trusted aides! You catch up with Zinyak after blasting your way through the White House, then destroying half of his fleet with an anti-aircraft gun. Eventually you’re overpowered and trapped in a ‘Matrix’ style prison – a simulated version of Steelport.
Thankfully Kinzie, the genius of the Third Row Saints quickly works out a way for you to escape via one of the Zin’s ships. Your situation changes quickly and it becomes clear that the only way to defeat Zinyak is to go back into simulated Steelport. Kinzie discovers that when the simulation is disrupted data clusters are released for you to collect giving you superpowers and the ability to upgrade them. If you have played Crackdown then this will feel very familiar; you can jump over buildings, run faster than cars and even use telekinesis to throw any object you wish. It’s a good idea to experiment with each power as they become available, especially as there are some tough opponents in the form of wardens, who are essentially the alien version of superheroes. Each upgrade can be purchased by collecting data clusters and as you level up, further upgrades to your powers become available. Thankfully everything you do in the game rewards you with XP so it shouldn’t take too long to unlock further goodies.
It’s great having all of these powers at your disposal, but it’s just as fun keeping your feet on the ground and kicking some alien ass the traditional way, Volition have come up with some of my favourite weapons in any game that I can remember. You have your normal guns such as shotguns and sniper rifles but compared to things like the Dubstep gun they are boring. It has to be my favourite gun in the game, the gun fires out rays of deadly dubstep music, I just need to remember to actually kill aliens rather than making cars dance! There is a huge range of other cool weapons such as the Black Hole gun (does what it says on the tin), the Inflator, which inflates your enemies heads until they explode and the Abduct-o-Matic, which see your enemies warped up into space, lovely stuff.
Volition have always done a great job with the city of Steelport and it’s no different with the simulated version, it’s a lot more sinister now that five huge alien towers dominate the skyline and they are great fun to climb, rewarding you with loads of data clusters when you reach the summit. The climbs are simple, especially once you’ve upgraded your Super Jump. One of the advantages of such a gloomy city is that the bright data clusters are easier to spot as opposed to Crackdown where everything was so colourful, orbs became difficult to find by the time you got to the final few.
The freedom your powers give you is brilliant and almost erases the need for vehicles, but if you do decide to jump in and go for a spin there are plenty of vehicle types to play with. There are cars, trucks, tanks and bikes; there are helicopters and UFO’s if you wish to take to the skies too. My favourite is the Monster Truck as it was great fun to wipe out anything in your path. A neat feature allows you to save cars by pressing down on D-Pad, you can then request them back whenever you feel like. All the cars are customisable and there are a huge range of things you can do to ‘pimp your ride’. The vehicles all handle really well although the bikes are a bit tricky to stay on.
As with any open world game you’ll never be short of something to do, Mayhem returns with the addition of Mech Suit Mayhem and Virus Injection has you stealing a vehicle from a guarded area before returning it as quickly as possible. The classic Fraud, where you rag doll yourself about claiming as much money as possible returns, with superpowers you can really have some fun throwing yourself about. Super Sprint challenge requires you to race around Steelport getting to checkpoints in the fastest time and what Saints Row would be complete without Professor Genki? He returns with M.O.M (Mind Over Murder) by using your telekinesis power you’ll need to launch the correct item (People, cars or Genki heads) through the correct floating ring all while trying to stay alive as hordes of children’s entertainers hunt you down. To accompany this there is some superb commentary too. There are so many activities that you won’t find yourself wanting for things to do. The challenges do get tougher the further you get into the game, but if you can drag a co-op buddy in, things will be easier for you. In fact the whole game can be played with a co-op buddy!
What about the main missions I hear you ask? Well, they too are full of all sorts of craziness, Volition has had even more free reign thanks to the ‘simulated’ world where anything goes. There are some brilliant references to all sorts of popular culture including games like Mass Effect, Borderlands and Metal Gear Solid, films like the Matrix, Tron and fans of WWE will also be happy too. I haven’t played a mission that didn’t made me laugh out loud, whether it’s something from the script or the actual task itself. The story is really good, but we are spoiler free in this review so you’ll just have to believe me.
The Saints Row 4 co-op experience is simply brilliant and is actually co-operative; something many games try to achieve but don’t get the required results. The game allows you to explore Steelport freely but as you complete activities (like collecting data clusters) they count for your partner too. There are some great games to play against each other such as Death Tag and Cat & Mouse; they are great fun (unless you are Rich who got his ass handed to him).
There is little to criticise in Saints Row IV, the missions are varied, the soundtrack is awesome and the co-op is a joy to play, the only thing I would want to change is to increase the co-op from 2 to 4 players. Saints Row IV is hands down the funniest and most enjoyable game that I’ve played this year! It’s rare to play a game that makes you smile so much, Volition have done a brilliant job and I challenge anyone to play this and not have a great time!