For those of you who are aware of the series, you know that Saints row started out in it’s humble days as your standard sandbox crime city GTA clone. As time went on this developed into something so much more with the criminally underrated Saints Row 2, a game that sits squarely in my top five games of all time and has not moved since. A game that hit the perfect balance of wacky zany fun with random adventures, varied side quests and a functional combat system with a coherent plot that you could tackle in any order you so wished.
After Saints Row 2 came the slightly less successful Saints Row: The Third. Small changes here and there to some of the games most beloved elements annoyed fans of the series, along with a story that was less than perfect in comparison and after a mind blowing opening 4-5 hours, devolved into sameyness.
This time around however, Volition have listened to the fans, heard the outcries of the unhappy and made every effort to fix these flaws. You said there wasn’t as much customisation in SR3? There’s more than ever. You missed the Reggae radio station? It’s back. You want bigger? You got it. Better? Got it. More weapons? Got em. More freedom? Good GOD you got it this time around.
The story this time around is settled around an alien invasion (After you called military air strikes on groups of old women in SR3, where else can you go?! ) With the leader of the Third Street Saints having become the President of the USA, the planet is attacked by the Zin, a pretty impressive looking race of aliens bent on enslavement and destruction of earth. After being completely outclassed by their leader Zinyan, you are thrown into virtual Steelport to break stuff apart for their amusement. To this end you fight all kinds of enemies on many different missions, the surreal nature of the VR simulation the game runs through bringing a fantastic feeling of freedom as with the events of SR3, again there was nowhere else to go.
The game involves, as ever taking missions on in order to progress the plot to its end, with fantastic humour and the famous Saints Row writing in full effect. The first mission of the game involves fighting through an unknown country to stop a nuke, which serves as the tutorial mission at the same time. This culminates in a pretty epic climb up a launching nuke while all the other characters say their goodbyes to you to the background music of “I don’t wanna miss a thing” by Aerosmith. From that sentence alone you should be able to gather that Saints Row 4 hasn’t missed a beat yet.
One of the great additions to the game this time around is the superpowers. As the game is set in a VR simulation this time around your character can gain access to buffs and superpowers. This adds a whole new level to the game this time around, increasing the feeling of freedom and replay value ten times over. From the super sprint to the mega jump, the concussive blast and the telekinesis you can have untold amounts of fun throwing pedestrians into oncoming cars and off buildings. The initial feeling of activating the super powers for the first time brought to mind a sense of freedom I hadn’t felt since Spider-Man 2, or more aptly, Prototype. This had a strong effect on me, in most sandbox games if you want to mess around you can only go so far before the top level of law comes down on you like a ton of bricks, shoots you to pieces and then you start over. This time around the ability to super dash/wall run away gives a great feeling of being unstoppable and constantly pursued.
In terms of music and voice the game is fully loaded with an all star range of music from top name artists to obscure reggae and metal. The voice acting is as top notch as ever, with my personal favourite cockney voice still present, as well as Nolan North giving a very tongue in cheek performance. (because as we all know Nolan North voices EVERYTHING.) One of the most impressive voices belongs to the lead villain “Zinyak”, his chilling gentlemanly alien voice is quite chilling and sinister at the worst of times, along with his attitude and actions from what we’ve seen this guy may take a top ranking place in the newer supervillain lists.
In closing, Saints Row 4 is shaping up to be epic, if it can keep the high pace we were treated to in our hands on the whole way through, this series is back on top and everything missing from Saints Row 3 is forgiven. With clever writing, brilliant music, great voice acting, good gameplay, the addition of superpowers and a whole sandbox of replay value, the Third Street Saints are back on top.