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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Second Opinion: #SaintsRowIV

After reading Anthony's review of Saints Row IV, rating it a 35/100, I had to get my hands on the game. Having played both Saints Row and Saints Row 2 - yes, I skipped The Third - I simply couldn't believe it was as bad as he claimed.

I have now completed both the main story and all of the available DLC. While I may not agree with Anthony on all fronts, he's certainly not completely off the mark. 

Saints Row IV is an odd game. One with great ambition and at times horrible execution. Let me break it down for you.

Story:

You play as the President of the United States of America. An alien invasion is happening and it’s your duty to protect and serve your country. Zinyak, the leader of the invasion, captures you and enters you into a program similar to that of The Matrix. From here, you capture territories, destroy hubs and flashpoints, and hack stores in order to gain control of the simulation and give yourself powers. 

At least that's what it says on paper.

While the story is certainly there, it's disjointed and at times feels a bit lost. Which, to be fair, isn't much of a problem as Saints Row IV is about so many things outside of the story. If you're looking for a tightly written and narrated journey, look for something else. SRIV isn't going to quench that thirst.

Weapons/Powers:

This is the best and worst part of the game. You have access to several upgradable powers that allow you to manipulate things with your mind, fire a blast from your hands, stomp like the Hulk, or enhance your bullets. The weapons come in various magnitudes and weapon costumes. There are normal weapons such as barehanded, baseball bat, pistols, SMGs, etc. Then, there are weapons like the Dubstep gun and Inflato-Ray that add a certain wackiness to the game.

Each weapon is a blast to use (no pun intended). They each feel different enough that you'll want to immediately test them out, while being familiar enough to understand immediately. The weapons have always been a highlight of this franchise and SRIV didn't miss the mark here.

There are also passive powers like Sprint, Jump, and Shield. These are self explanatory and make the cars in the game obsolete. 

The cars in the game aren’t worth mentioning but just in case: there are a large variety of cars, trucks, and motorcycles throughout the game. There are upgrades available to increase speed, durability, and control but as I just said, the powers you have make these things useless. Once you unlock each superpower you'll almost never drive again (unless forced to). This is a shame as vehicles are built well and are a plenty. You can also collect them into your garage with the push of a button, something that even Grand Theft Auto V hasn't figured out.

Gameplay:

The controls were very easy to get used to and the game flowed smoothly. It was very easy switching between the various powers and weapons. The game is crazy and exciting at first but as you progress and upgrade your abilities, it becomes tedious and boring. The powers grant you a God mode like setting and the game becomes extremely easy; even during the boss battles. There are many different activities to partake in and side quests but that doesn’t add to the variety as much as it should. Also, being forced to drive a car in select missions was a cruel joke by the developers. 

One other good point about SRIV is the degree of customization in both the playable character and his/her wardrobe. There are multiple shops around the city selling clothing, tattoos, and even a surgeon’s office to reshape your body features if you so wish. 

Want to be play as a woman voiced by Nolan North? You got it. Always wanted to run around the city as a bearded man with a nightgown? Bam - that power is yours. Saints Row IV has set the benchmark for character customization.

Verdict:

This is a fun game to play in short bursts. The weapons and powers you get give you an exciting and varied way to kill and maim your enemies. If all you want is an open-world game where you can turn your brain off and go crazy, this is a definite purchase for you.

Unfortunately, that's all that it is. In an attempt at wit, much like Borderlands 2, many pop culture references are thrown into the mix. Problem is that it makes this game very unoriginal. It’s like the developers couldn’t decide what to do so they took their ideas from The Matrix, San Andreas, Streets of Rage, and many other movies and games. 

There are also some serious issues at hand. The city is dark and gloomy. But not in a noire, well detailed way. More in a, "Who forgot to add color?" kind of way. The entire game, including the additional DLC, can also be completed in less than twenty hours. No, I don't mean by simply running through either. I'm talking about 100%'ing. Which isn't a lot of time or content for $60, even more when you throw in the DLC.

A PC copy of Saints Row IV was given to use by the publishers. All scores are out of 100 and are meant to be taken very seriously. 
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