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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Review: #SaintsRowIV - This Can't be a Full-Priced Game... Right?

By: Anthony Accinelli

For the first 10-hours or so I'll admit Saints Row IV had my attention. After playing Payday 2 and Splinter Cell: Blacklist almost exclusively for the last several weeks it was nice to get away from the grind and just fuck mess around.

Which you can tell is exactly what Saints Row IV wants you to do. The tone is set in the opening scene, with you crawling up a launched nuke to the sultry sound of Aerosmith's "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing". The absurdity doesn't stop there mind you, as you then literally find yourself plummeting into the Oval Office, becoming the President of the United States.

Look I don't completely understand what exactly happened, but it was certainly exciting. Like the opening scene in Saints Row: The Third it was exhilarating, hilarious, and a perfect introduction for the coming adventure.

Or so I thought.

Saints Row IV quickly took a turn for the worst.

One of the key elements to any Saints Row game is the ease of play. The mechanics, while not the most crisp available, are simple. This is certainly the case in Saints Row IV, and is obvious in everything from pedestrian movement, driving, aiming and firing your weapon, and of course recruiting a gang.

The problem with Saints Row IV is that none of this matters. Within the first hour you gain superpowers that yield everything else useless. You'll never have to simply walk around, drive a vehicle, or recruit a gang. You can run faster than traffic moves, jump higher than any building in the world, and finish off hordes of enemies before you even think about calling for help.

I've never played a game where the elements themselves overshadow the foundation itself. After a while Saints Row IV becomes very repetitive. You sprint, jump, and glide your way from point-A to point-B, all the while ignoring all the small details which make Saints Row what it is today. The randomness of the world is only seen from a bird's eye view as if they were trying to hide something.

Which, it turns out, they are. It's graphically awful. Without spoiling anything here, the graphics will shift in and out of focus, crackle, and - for lack of a better word - fizz at random. It's also a dark and uninteresting city.

Saints Row IV is also very shallow. It's a glorified DLC at best. Mini-games, side quests, and characters are repetitive and uninspired. Unless you want to do the standard super-speed races, destroy 'x' amount of items in 'x' amount of time, or hack a store, you're going to find yourself bored very quickly. It's nothing that hasn't been done both before and better.

Ever played DC Universe Online? While it's certainly not a great game, it's free to play, has more content, an actual story, and doesn't consist of one pop culture reference after the other. Even Prototype 2, which has the same powers feels like a more polished.

Don't get me wrong, I love a good reference. Guacamelee was full of them, and I literally laughed out loud at most of them. The difference between references being done well, and what we see in Saints Row IV, is that in the they are nothing more than a side dish. They aren't the main course. Any Joe Shmoe can build a game built around already set references, horrible graphics, superpowers that eliminate any need for crisp mechanics, and no real story.

Slap on the Saints Row name and you have yourself an instant hit.

Saints Row IV is so much like every other sub-par game out there it even has over 1,000 "Clusters" scattered around the world. Which, naturally, look like the Orbs in Crackdown. After all, what would a sandbox style game be without an insane amount of random collectibles to collect?

Saints Row IV isn't a Saints Row game. It's a shell of a real game filled with elements from everything else around it. If you want superpowers, play DC Universe Online or Prototype 2. If you want to steal cars and destroy a city, play Grand Theft Auto. If you want a game like Grand Theft Auto without the seriousness, play Saints Row 1 and Saints Row 2.

My point is that there are plenty of games out there doing what Saints Row IV is attempting, only better.

If you're looking for a game with absolutely no constraints, completely unaware of what it itself even wants to be, check out Saints Row IV. Despite everything wrong with the formula, it has it's moment of brilliance. It can still be fun, especially with a coop buddy.

Without the superpowers, terrible aesthetics, and overabundance of pop culture references, Saints Row IV could have been as perfect a game as we have seen.

This review is based off a complete playthrough, including collecting every Cluster. No it wasn't fun. Yes I am addicted to collecting random shit.

Scores are out of 100 and are meant to be taken very seriously.
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