Saints Row IV Review (Xbox 360)

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Main Review

Review Context: I have played the entire Saints Row series and consider Saints Row 2 to still be my favorite of the series. What got me into the series is the customization options. The entire story is based on the character you create unless you go with the default character. It also helps that I feel Saints Row takes elements that made Grand Theft Auto fun before Grand Theft Auto IV.
Date of Playthrough: August 20, 2013

Publisher:  Deep Sliver
Developer:  Volition

On April Fools of 2012, Volition stated that the next game to tie people over till Saints Row IV would be an expansion pack called “Enter the Dominatrix” which involves an alien invasion. This was one April Fools gag that most people could see happening and it did for a while.

After cancelling the expansion by including elements into Saints Row IV some fans feel that the game has lost the tone of Saints Row 2 to appease the mainstream, while others feel this is a good move after seeing how crazy Saints Row 3 got. Could Saints Row IV bring back fans of the first two games, or just stick with the over the top game design?

Saints Row IV

Graphics

Using the engine source from Saints Row 3 shows, but they added elements to make the game feel fresh mainly from the superpowers you get and the sense of being in a virtual Steelport.  The constant pixelization of the city to the people randomly appearing. Character models look good and the scale of the city is great, most of the time.

The problem with this is while there are moments when the game glitches up intentionally, during the early stages of the game’s release, I had times when the game would lock up and I would have to unplug my Xbox 360 to restart. This game has gone through lots of patches for stabilization, but it seems when one problem is fixed another one looms. Which is sad since the pervious Saint Row games didn’t have this issue.

   Control

 The gameplay of Saints Row IV has stayed unchanged from the previous game, but with the added superpowers, changes had to be made. The first thing you’ll notice is when you want to change weapons with the weapon wheel, the game will stop for you to make your choice, while in other games it would continue to play while choosing your weapon. I should note that the PC version gives you the option for the game to stop while on the weapon wheel.  Grenades have been removed as well. The smooth driving and flight controls are back though you will forget about driving and flying since you can run twice as fast and glide once you earn that power. Volition knows you won’t be driving most of the time, on the weapon wheel; you can access the radio stations from there so it’ll play all the time instead of when you’re driving. A callback to the MP3 feature of Saints Row.

Saints Row IV

Design

Once many people heard that the story would involve an alien invasion, and you are placed in a Matrix like world, some people were happy others were not. I can say if you stick with the story, it plays out well in tone and content. My gripe with Saints Row 3 is they focus too much on the humor while downplaying the tone (something I thought Saints Row 2 did a nice balance of both). While the humor is still here in Saints Row IV, they added some serious elements in the story that I will not spoil. It also helps that they do huge callbacks to the first two games, (some fan favorite characters return) even though they explain the events for people who jumped on the third game. It was nice to give shout outs to people who stuck with the series from the beginning.

The big question is how the superpowers play. They play great as the different powers give you different ways to take out enemies while the guns come back, you can now customize the skins of your weapons. If you don’t want to rush through story, you can partake in some activities (side quests) to test out your powers. Favorites such as Insurance Fraud, Blazin’, and Mayhem return. New activities have been added, but one to me that got tiresome is the puzzle to unlock stores. I should point out when you level up your powers, do not max them out as that will make the game a cake walk though they counter this by making it so when your health is low it does not regenerate while in battle. The game also has two endings depending if you do all the loyal sidequests and when that is finished; you can play two DLC missions. One is a behind the scenes like of the cancelled DLC of Saints Row 3 while the other has you saving Christmas (the better one). There is online co-op and death battle to see who can use their powers the best. What really hinders the game for me (and Saints Row 3) is the ability to replay missions and cut scenes have been removed. I should note this was due to the new engine built for Saints Row 3.

  Sound

The sound quality for the Saints Row series have been great, but little changes I have noticed in Saints Row 3 and IV I thought should be mentioned. The vehicle sounds in Saints Row IV have a lower sound to them while the chatter of pedestrians ends up saying the same line. The big factor is the radio stations. Previous games of the series had the standard for open world games. Rock, Hip Hop, 80s Pop, Talk Radio. Saints Row IV decided to ditch the heavy metal station (Blood 66.6) in favor of Mad Decent (dubstep station) which is okay, but K12 is already a dubstep station. Why did they add two dubstep stations!?

Voice acting for the game is top notch and the writing is fast pace shooting out what I like to call “nerd references “(movies, video games, animation). The main villain of the game, while cold hearted, does have his funny moments. Sadly, that patch I explained earlier rears it’s ugly head again as now with the latest update(Patch 5.0) as of this writing has a moment while on the ship you talk to a certain character and the speech cuts out leaving what the person said a mystery unless you played that part before the patch was released.

Despite this, the redeeming factor for me is Volition’s perfect use of music licenses for certain events in the game that will have you laughing and smiling with glee. For me it’s when my song (“What is Love?”) is played when you escape the mother ship, and when (“The Touch”) is played followed by your character and the villain reciting the lines from an animated movie based on a popular Hasbro IP.

Similar Games Liked:
Saints Row 2 (Xbox 360)
Sleeping Dogs (Xbox 360)

Similar Game Disliked:
CrackDown 2 (Xbox 360)

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