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Saints Row IV Review

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I remember playing the first Saints Row title and being over wary about just how similar it was to Grand Theft Auto franchise. It lacked a personality of its own, it was a mish-mash of copied ideas and features, predominantly GTA, but also from elsewhere. Now there is Saints Row IV which although still suffers from the ‘It’s kind of, soft of, just like GTA’ bug, does have its own crazy, insane, off the wall, and graphical personality of its own. The last Saints Row game didn’t really follow any rules, especially not in terms of open world game play. IV didn’t read the rules either, and it’s probably one of the things I enjoyed the most. From THQ to Deep Silver, Saints Row IV was always bound to peak our interest. Let’s take a look.

 Morning Mr President, hope you slept well? Thought you should know that we are under attack from Aliens.

No, seriously that is how the game begins. There is no working your way up to presidential status, you start the game as (publicly) the most powerful figure in the world; the President of the United States of America. And what would YOU do as President if the world came under attack from Aliens and they wanted to blow up the Whitehouse? I am pretty sure it wouldn’t be same, and probably make a lot more sense than if you also happen to be the leader of the 3rd Street Saints. Let’s be frank, the 3rd Street Saints don’t exactly do things like normal folk. The Aliens, aka the Zin Empire are led by a bad mother-f****r (blame the game for teaching me swear words!) called Zinyak, and Zinyak is ready to enslave us all. After some extremely over top alien ass-kicking you will eventually succumb to Zinyaks strength and find yourself placed inside a simulation designed to recreate an individual’s personal hell where you’re expected to live for an eternity.

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Now I don’t want to be spoiling the game for you, but if Saints Row IV had stolen many more ideas from The Matrix Trilogy, we’d likely be seeing Neo and Trinity running rampant. As you play the game you discover them all if you don’t already know.

The story won’t be winning any BAFTA’s, but then it wasn’t designed too. You progress through rescuing your crew from their own simulations, turn them into bad ass alien butt-kicking superheroes and then when ready, deliver a whole can of ass whooping to Zinyak and his posse. (Come on, I sounded gangster, right?) You’ll see the plot twists coming from light-years ahead but it won’t matter much as it’s all about the comedic delivery of the story and just how outlandishly inappropriate it can be that will keep you playing until the end. And as a critic of this game before release, I can genuinely say it was the thing that kept me going… it certainly wasn’t the visuals.

Visually the game didn’t actually disappoint me mainly because I knew it was going to look like a glorified piece of DLC. There were a few bugs and more than one occasion of textures popping in and out… let me know if you see the alien face near the beginning, you’ll know what I mean when you get there. We all knew the graphics weren’t going to be spectacular anyway. Volition and Deep Silver never once tried to hide the fact that IV was going to be running the same engine as The Third, EXACTLY the same engine which was a little curious to begin with. I mean, I know NextGen is now knocking on the door, but surely a small investment to tweak the engine would have been a more favourable approach? Regardless, what is done is done and I don’t think either party will think they miscalculated this one.

Talking of visuals, let’s talk about the single biggest most annoyance of the entire title. Seriously, this annoyed me so much I stopped playing one afternoon because it hurt my eyes. In order to make the game look and feel like a simulation (ultimately a video-game within a video-game), almost everything; from pedestrians, to walls and shrubbery will flash with a grotesque pixellation. I am not the only person to find this incredibly difficult to put up with, I’ve read numerous reviews listing this as top peeve. There are other slightly pesky moments in the game, all intentional and designed to remind you of the ‘game-within-game’ style digital world you are stuck in. Cars driving upside down, pedestrians with super loooooooooong necks or googly eyed characters. At first they are amusing, but that amusement is short lived.

Music in Saints Row IV is extremely important and this time round the game leans heavily on Dubstep, a genre not really to my taste, but I know is popular out there in the ‘real-world’. The use of the genre is very much tongue-in-cheek however and if you haven’t already seen it, here’s the Dubstep Gun in action.

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If you have taken time to read this then the likelihood is you’ve either played a previous Saints Row title or have been tempted too. Well whether a newcomer to the franchise or a die-hard fan, you honestly don’t know what you are getting yourself into. Instead of playing like other, normal open-world games; Saints Row IV will have you jumping and running up the sides of buildings, gliding across half of the city in a single leap and punching your enemies clear out of orbit… all within only a couple of hours of getting started. Basically it’s  ‘here have some superpowers and cool toys, now go have fun’ kind of gameplay.

The game does one thing really, really well and that’s it makes us, the player, have fun. There are three main aspects to Saints Row IV: the main story missions that you’ll complete in order to reach the end of the game; the side-missions, to upgrade your crew into their superhero counterpart, unlock weapons and unlock abilities; and the open-world activities, of which there are hundreds to get lost in. You can spend your time hacking open the various shops in the world so you can buy stuff from them, taking part in the various races, the series’ staple insurance fraud and more, or you could just run around for hours collecting Clusters (small collectables that allow you use to purchase upgrades for your special powers). All of which, lead to hours of mindless entertainment.

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I begrudgingly agreed to review Saints Row IV, I genuinely believed it wasn’t a game I would enjoy. I will admit it, I was wrong. Saints Row IV is a game that couldn’t give a rats arse what people think about it, which makes this review just ever so ironic. It will poke fun at you, the world, the game itself, the genre and anything else it damn well pleases. It will do this and not apologise, it doesn’t have too. The story makes little sense outside the basic concept of ‘aliens invade, aliens kill, human(s) fight back’. We play games to have fun, right? To escape from reality and do something you never normally would in the real-world. Well with Saints Row IV you will I promise have fun whilst escaping reality and doing a whole heap stuff you’d never be able to do in the real-world. If you don’t laugh playing this game, you shouldn’t be playing games.

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