- Publisher: Deep Silver
- Developer: Volition
- ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
- Genre: Action
- Pros: Addictive Gameplay, Smart References, Original Approach
- Cons: Repetitive Action, Some Weak Animation
You’re the President of the free world on the day that the aliens attack. Yes, that’s the set-up for “Saint’s Row IV,” a game that takes the model of the surprisingly successful third iteration of the series and adds aliens and superpowers. You, Vice President Keith David (voiced, of course, by Keith David), and a number of other beloved Saints are kidnapped by Zinyak and his race of killer aliens. They plop you into a simulation, a “Matrix”-esque version of Steelport, the town you know and love. This allows the developers to take the basic foundation of an open-world gangster game and add science fiction elements. Many of the same mini-games exist but they’ve been tweaked as they would be for a game like “Infamous.” Call it “Grand Theft Spaceship.”
The idea is that your actions within this simulation can corrupt the system, making your escape from it possible. At one point early in the game, you gain the ability to jump in and out of the system, and work to break your homies free from their electronic prisons. Consequently, “Saint’s Row IV” becomes multiple games in one. It’s the “Wreck-It Ralph” of video games as you jump into various simulations, at one point rescuing a character via a “Streets of Rage” brawler; using stealth in another chapter like a “Metal Gear Solid” game. And, of course, on your spaceship you can “Romance” most of its inhabitants a la “Mass Effect,” to sometimes hilarious results.
As you disrupt the simulation that traps you in sci-fi Steelport, you become more powerful, not unlike the protagonists of “Infamous” or “Prototype.” Forget stealing a car when you can run 150 MPH. Who needs an elevator or a helicopter when you can jump as high as a skyscraper. Eventually, you’ll be blasting fire and ice from your hands, stomping enemies into submission, and learning telekinesis. All of these new tricks are used to enhance traditional side missions of the “GTA” clone. “Mayhem” and “Fraud” take on new meaning when you have the powers of a superhero. Of course, the game developers didn’t ignore their core audience, providing them with dozens of customizable weapons and vehicles for good, old-fashioned action as well.
“Saint’s Row IV” is a game designed for OCD-level nuts when it comes to collectibles. The game is filled with “Clusters,” which allow you to upgrade your superpowers. You have to hack the stores to get money from them in your cache. Brilliantly, side missions introduce you to the variety of activities throughout the game. You’re not just hacking stores to do so, there’s a side mission that encourages it.
The writing in “Saint’s Row IV” can be undeniably juvenile but, like those “Naked Gun” movies, this is tougher to pull off than it looks. It takes brains to be this dumb. There are wonderful little asides (like when you stealth kill the guards in that “MGS” simulation and they mutter, “I was two weeks from retirement…”) that playfully parody the modern world of gaming in ways that other developers have tried but failed to pull off.
Some of the actual gameplay of “Saint’s Row IV” gets a little hinky. Climbing massive alien towers requires a visual depth that the game doesn’t really have, leading to frustrating falls that seem impossible to avoid. And the game sometimes crosses the line from enormous to annoying. I grew tired of collecting clusters around #400.