Volition delivers another title where you won’t want to miss a thing.
The evolution of Saint’s Row as a franchise has been fascinating, moving from GTA clone to a game that has found its own way, and is incredibly comfortable in its own skin. Saint’s Row IV quite consciously has its tongue planted firmly in cheek, and the result is a game that exemplifies well-done stupidity, a far cry from the gritty social commentary of the GTA series.
As in previous games, you play as the head of the Third Street Saints, an organisation that has evolved over the series from street gang to multinational celebrities to perhaps the pinnacle of ludicrousness: running the entire United States. That’s right; your character is also President of the USA, a role that sets you on a collision course with an invading alien army.
Captured by these aliens, you are forced into a virtual world, a Matrix-esque nightmare from which your ultimate mission is to escape and ensure victory over the alien invaders. It is an insane proposition, but one that has allowed Volition to return players to the city of Steelport, while also ramping the gameplay mechanics up to 11 (and then twisting the knob even further).
This time around, you aren’t just the car-jacking, heat-packing supercriminal of Saints Row 3. Instead, this digital recreation of Steelport enables growing superpowers, allowing you to run at superspeed, leap tall buildings with a single bound and tap into an array of offensive powers to augment your arsenal of more traditional weaponry.
The entire experience melds the feel of superhero games like Prototype with the open world vibe of the previous Saints Row titles. It feels fun, fluid and decidedly different to what has come before, while still being very much a Saints Row game.
This is followed through with the ever-spiralling insanity of the storyline, which features such real world identities as character actor and voice-over guy extraordinaire (think Captain/Admiral Anderson in Mass Effect) Keith David and Rowdy Roddy Piper playing themselves. This is in a large part facilitated by the fact that the virtual world of Saints Row IV is a fantastic whatever device – nothing has to make sense, and in turn everything is fair game (there are seven voice options when creating a character – 3 male, 3 female and Nolan North).
One of the best things about Saints Row IV is that Volition has focused its efforts on building the game rather than reinventing the underlying technology. Saints Row 3 was a massive leap forward in look and feel from Saints Row 2 (which was one of the most unplayable PC titles ever released), and features some of the tightest controls to grace a third person shooter. The fact that it is as playable with keyboard and mouse as it is with a controller is testament to the skills of the team at Volition, and we are eminently happy that they didn’t reinvent the wheel.
After a long, confusing development process that involved THQ going bust and selling both the franchise and its developer, Volition, to European publisher Deep Silver, there was every chance that Saints Row IV would end up a mess, a game that failed to live up to its predecessors. The good news is that it seems to have come through the process unscathed, and what has resulted is a game as bat-guano crazy and just plain fun as anything else out there on the market.
Perhaps the biggest shame with Saints Row IV is that, due to much publicised classification issues, it was delayed in Australia, pushing its local release to the week before GTA V hit. But it is a very different title, one that places having fun front and centre. If you want some crazy in your gameplay, then it is very hard to go past the latest outing of the Saints.