Surrounded by mounds of hype, marketing and anticipation, the latest in the well-known, wacky series of Saints Row has finally launched but will the latest in the franchise improve upon the errors of the past?
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Seems Legit: Saints Row IV sees the Third Row Saints gang of Stillwater stumble upon more power than ever as the gang leader, after saving the day from a terrorist threat of course, rises to the a very high political position (President!) five years after the events of Saints Row The Third. As the president, the leader of the Saints obviously fills up his Cabinet with many of his friends from the gang.However, on his way to a press conference an alien invasion occurs as the race of aliens called "Zin" announces that a select few of the human race will see salvation. As some members of the Saints are abducted, the President fights back and shoots down the mothership of the aliens. Face to face with the alien leader, the President is overwhelmed and forced into a simulated version of Stillwater. Returning character Kinzie Kensington makes contact with the President and helps him manipulate the simulation in order to be granted super powers. Clearly the plot is far from being refined or heart-wrenching but it does the job of explaining why you are endowed with super human powers from early in the game. I never said it does a great job of it, but as fans of the series already know, Saints Row is dependent on humor, not logic.
Faster Than A Speeding Bullet: A large focus of Saints Row IV is placed on your ability to accumulate and wreak havoc with a variety of super powers and dramatic, visually flashy weapons. Early on in the title the gift of super speed is bestowed upon you, eliminating much of the need to ever drive a car considering you run quicker than vehicles can move.However, while the use of vehicles (aside from say, a tank) is quite wasted in Saints Row IV, the same is fortunately unsaid about the weaponry at your disposal. A Dubstep gun (yes, it pretty much does what you think it does) is one of the more well received weapons that has had a spotlight on it in the lead-up to the release of the title, and that weapon is complemented by "typical" weapons in addition to a number of offensive powers. Freezing your enemies and shattering them into pieces is a common way to dispatch your foes and quite frankly the offensive powers are very overpowered when it comes to how quickly they can wipe out groups of enemies. However, your powers are put on a cool down after use and since punching people to death is not always the best option, you always have an incentive to utilize more standard means of murder. All that said though, the combat in Saints Row IV relies on indulging your power trip of mowing through waves of enemies as if you truly were Superman. Leaping tall buildings, sprinting like the Flash or even gliding around the entire city are the typical means of travel for your extraordinary protagonist while at the same time walking through the simulated denizens of Stillwater. As you progress through the game though, you will find that Saints Row IV suffers from many of the same flaws and shortcomings that plagued earlier installments. For starters, everything in the game feels fairly light and there is not a significant sense of weight to you, your enemies, or environmental items. It is not uncommon to punch enemies to death and see them fly an inordinate distance from you due to the force of your devastating punches. Over time though, the combat becomes just as dull and repetitive as you would expect when you are faced with running over a very large volume of clueless enemies. Saints Row IV is not a challenging game and while you will occasionally be overwhelmed by sheer numbers, it is a rare occurrence not to find yourself in complete control of every battle. The weapons and powers do a bit to extend the entertainment that you get from combat, but unfortunately this feels a bit too much like Saints Row The Third.
Repackaged Goods: In what has been called "DLC" by many fans of the series, Saints Row IV does very little that it has not already done in the past.The fourth iteration in the franchise, it seems that the team at Volition is running out of ideas and has gone to recycling many previous features, repackaging them as a new full game.
Rent vs. Buy: More similar to Saints Row The Third than it should be, Saints Row IV simply does not significantly improve or build upon the franchise. This title can be entertaining as it is mindless fun that avoids much, if any, thought provoking moments but for a full retail price of $59.99 it is foolish to consider this title that valuable.It seems that Volition looked to make up for their shortcomings with an admittedly strong marketing campaign and a little bit of sneakily misleading advertising, as Saints Row IV was painted by the developers to be far more interesting than it is. The humor, writing and voice acting are all top notch (although the inappropriateness of some of the jokes may turn off a few people) but with somewhat tired graphics, rapidly aging and repetitive gameplay and a decreasing amount of innovative features, there is little reason to suggest even fans of the series purchase this for any more than roughly $30.
It seems that Volition looked to make up for their shortcomings with an admittedly strong marketing campaign and a little bit of sneakily misleading advertising, as Saints Row IV was painted by the developers to be far more interesting than it is.
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