Open sandbox games are a risky move for any developer. Finding the fun in the game is usually left up to the player and those without a lot of time on their hands may find this objective daunting. Saints Row IV is not immune to this rule but aims high nonetheless.
Developers Volition perhaps understand this limitation more than anyone who has braved the genre before and to fill in the gaps between objectives, there is a hell of a lot of fun to be had.
The story is easy to follow and those wanting to dive into the series for the first time need not be alarmed at the prospect of catching up on the legacy titles. Saints Row IV essentially puts you in the shoes of the President of the United States (after a hilariously over-dramatic opening mission). As is the case with every presidential term, the planet soon gets invaded by a bloodthirsty alien race called the Zin.
The Zin actually succeed in overthrowing the planet and enslave the most intelligent of the human race in a simulated world that… okay, it’s the Matrix. Well, a parody of the Matrix. Of course, it’s up to the Saints to save the human race by using the simulation against the aliens.
This basically means anything goes — super powers, extraordinary speed, and zany missions that question your sanity at every level. Saints Row IV is incredibly funny and roasts both the video game and movie industries in full force.
As you progress your powers will become more powerful. These will allow you to jump huge buildings, fly, sprint incredibly fast and pack a mean punch all in the pursuit of data fragments which can be spent on even more abilities.
There are also offensive powers, such as telekinesis, fire, freezing and lightning. These serve multiple purposes, usually to thin out hordes of enemies but more specifically to attack The Wardens which serve as boss battles throughout the game.
When you don’t wish to partake in a specific mission, the open world of the simulation is at your fingertips. Exploring rewards you money or more powers and there are several ways to get around the city. Vehicles seem redundant in this setting and while there are a large number at your disposal, each with the ability to upgrade and pimp out as you wish, they are slow compared to your super sprint powers which are unlocked immediately.
A huge arsenal of weapons are also on offer for those wishing to go old school on enemy waves, but since you always have powers at your disposal it’s another time you feel held back as though you want the game to give you some limitations. Weapons, like vehicles, are customisable.
Not mentioning the multitude of side quests on offer would be sin with a game like Saints Row IV, and there are plenty to sink your teeth into, each one more insane than the last. One such quest has you battling a gun-wielding toilet. Side quests show the lack of restraint the developers used when flexing their imaginations, and the game is all the better for them.
While Saints Row IV‘s scale is indeed impressive, there are some annoyances when it comes to the overall presentation. Graphics are top notch and the soundtrack which features real-world hits in humorous scenes is comedy genius, one cannot get pas the over zealous and stunted use of the auto-save feature. When bounding through the city, passing from one location to another triggers an auto-save which in itself isn’t actually a problem, the problem arises when you realise it’s the cause of the game freezing for about one second while the process completes.
This interrupts the flow of the gameplay when exploring the huge city as it’s somewhat distracting. There are also “screen tearing” issues throughout the game, however it would be unfair to point fingers since many games — particularity the multi-platforms such as Saints Row IV — suffer from this issue these days (and it’s something an patch usually fixes up).
Saints Row IV is the open sandbox game that actually encourages and dips you in outrageous fun. Nothing is off limits and everything goes.
There are some minor niggles, such as the questionable use of vehicles when you can run much, much faster than them and the occasionally recycled clichés of the genre, but at the end of the day you don’t care because you’re having a blast and laughing out loud at the industry in-jokes.
Leave your pretense at the door and pick up Saints Row IV, you’re in for a good time.