I have followed Saints Row since I bought a discounted version of Saints Row 1. At first I set my expectations at point which I thought was acceptable. I thought this is a GTA clone, but looks fun. And it was. That first Saints Row was not just good fun but benefited from some great additions such as customisations, allowing NPCs to follow you around and a well realised city to explore. It also introduced us to one of the best supporting characters I’ve seen in a game in a while – Johnny Gat.
Saints Row 2 raised the bar again. This time the character had a voice (prior to this, the character was relegated to brilliant one-liners just before a major event), new enemies, new vehicles/upgrades, new supporting characters and ever more inventive missions. It was at this stage that Saints Row really started to break away from being classed as a GTA clone. While GTA was dark, gritty and had a subtle sense of dark humour, SR was brash, loud and packed full of explosions and stupidity. Now when I say stupidity, I don’t mean the kind of ‘Hmm, this teacup ride looks unsafe – I should wear a helmet’ kind of stupid. I mean the guilty explainable thrill you get from doing something that isn’t overly clever, but is still inexplicably fun. Saints Row didn’t take itself seriously – in a good way. We loved it.
In my opinion, Saints Row 3 was even better. Greater customisation, a new city to conquer, more stupidity, full of parodies, celebrity faces (who is the mayor of Steelport? Fucking awesome!), game changing decisions, weapon upgrades, car upgrades, more, more, more, more. If I wanted to run around as a bright orange naked teletubby, I could. If I wanted to surf on a car as said tellytubby, I could. If I wanted to spray shit at passers-by, as a teletubby in my sewage truck, then GODDAMN, I could. You could either be a devil or …a saint.
While GTA4 was indisputably a lot more realistic, in my opinion, Saints Row 3 was just simply more enjoyable.
The key thing about all three previous Saints Row games is that they never forgot the genre they inhabited. You are a criminal. You steal shit. You shoot shit and you were badass.
It was beautiful.
When I first started hearing about the suggested plot in the run up to release of Saints Row 4, I immediately started having doubts. I’m so badass that now I’m president of the country? OK, I can roll with that. Then space aliens attack! Okay, yeah, sounds like a reasonable next step. And you have super powers!! Wait what? And you can leap, fly, run, shoot like a superhero!!! Awesome, right? No, sir. No, it fucking is not.
And here’s why. You are forced to move between the real world and a matrix like alternative universe – I won’t spoil why. I appreciate that in an effort to raise the bar and provide further parody, the character needs to go GLOBAL! Fine. I accept that, but, by giving the player superpowers in one fell swoop you have made a large portion of the game redundant. It is no longer a gang-banging clown around. It’s now a half assed superhero sim. The fastest way to travel is to fly through the air like superman – so why would I even bother pimping my ride or driving it? There is no desire now to show off my driving skills or tricked out ride to someone else when I play online. There’s no point doing a drive by or running some bitch over. It’s now a flyby or just….land on them. That’s another thing, now that I am a virtually invincible superhero I can’t faceplant out of plane at a whim. Damn you Volition!!! I did not sign up to be superhero! I am a toothcuttin’, bitch-slappin’, knee-cappin’ mutherf*ckin’ hustler…..with a British accent.
Still if you can get over this rewriting of what Saints Row is, then there’s the glitches and general lazy modelling. I have never seen this level of laziness in a Saints Row game. Saints Row 3 was so well put together. This is like the ugly inbred sister-in-law. You’ll get to a point where you are interacting with a character who is working in a cockpit of a ship (and you’ll interact a few times with this character) and while you are talking, bobbing around animatedly – modelled nicely – the other guy is siting there. Arms outstretched. Head at awkward angle and just the hands and lips are moving. Not the arms. The hands. Otherwise he is static. Sorry? Am I in the 90s where that shit was ok? Seriously WTF? Try harder please? In the space of two hours, I also fell through the map – twice. Not good.
Don’t get me wrong I know there are some intentional visuals dressed up as ‘cyber glitches’ to represent either the aliens or you fucking around with your Matrix like world. But this is not a polished version. This has been rushed and it shows.
Still it’s not all bad.
While it does cut and paste a lot of the elements from Saints Row 3 (so there’s not a lot new…aside from the aliens and shit) they have taken a few things to the next level. We still have customisation and we do see a return of pretty much every single item of clothing from SR3 + 10%. The weapons now have skins. Not just your gun in a new colour.
Your gun is different in shape AND colour. Don’t get what I mean? Well, here’s an example. If like me, you were born in the 80s, then the likelihood is you would have uncontrollably squealed with delight when you saw that you could change your weapons to look like iconic weapons from cult films. Ever wished you could fire Robocop’s awesome…big…robo gun? Well you can. Does the idea of firing the pulse rifle from the film Aliens excite you? It does? Well hot damn you’re in luck! We gotz one of them, too!
And it wouldn’t be Saints Row if it wasn’t mocking someone? There’s plenty of that! Including a Mass Effect Romancing element. But in true SR style – who’s got time to beat around the bush? Let’s just get it on! I can even adjust the size of my junk. It still has it’s stupid factor – but has it gone full retard? If you ask me – I think it has. I can’t be the only one who thinks so.
In the UK, SR4 released on the 23rd of August for around £34.99, yet only after a month later, it’s almost dropped to £24.99. One month. Not six months once the furore has died down. 1 month. Ladies and gentlemen, that only happens to one kind of game.
My suggestion is rent it, buy it second hand or give it 6 months and buy it for peanuts but don’t pay full price. If you want to play superhero with your balls hanging out (literally), then be my guest and buy it.
But if you’re hoping to relive past glories in the latest installment of Saints Row, then jog on, because it is no longer the Saints Row we once loved and knew.
Review Score: 5/10