Monday, 23 September 2013

PC Game Review: Saints Row IV


SAINTS ROW IV
Platform: PC (Steam)
Released: 2013
Genre: Third Person Shooter
Developer: Deep Silver Volition
Publisher: Deep Silver
Buy on Steam

While a lot of people nowadays are talking about, and no doubt playing the new Grand Theft Auto game, I am simply unable to due to two major reasons. One, I don't own a PS3 or XBox 360. Two, I am not exactly any GTA fan so my interest in the game isn't all that high. But still, on PC we have a different sandbox game that has recently hit the streets, and it's called Saints Row IV, the anticipated sequel to Saints Row The Third. Before I start my review I will have to point out that this is entirely from the perspective of someone who has never played any of the earlier Saints Row games so don't expect me to be able to compare this to the earlier games as I simply haven't played them (yet). But is the game any good, you may ask? Read on to find out.

The game differs from the previous games in the franchise in one major way. Instead of being in the real world, the game takes place almost entirely inside a simulated reality. Earth is invaded and eventually destroyed by an alien race called the Zin, lead by a megalomaniac and cultural snob named Zinyak. Zinyak is by far one of the most enjoyable villains I've seen in a video game and is definitely up there with Handsome Jack in how well written he is. Zinyak isn't just evil, he loves being evil and revels in it every single day and you can tell he enjoys what he's doing. So of course, you being the president of the United States, he has a special plan for you. Instead of killing you or your friends, he puts all of you in a simulated Matrix reality where you are forced to live out your worst fears for all eternity and this is pretty much how the game is set up. You have to break free from the simulation, take control of it, and free your friends so you can take on Zinyak and get back at him for destroying Earth and enslaving humanity. It's a silly concept that straight up parodies The Matrix, and it is glorious.

The simulated reality is pretty much the open world city you'd expect and there are tons of little details here and there to point out you're in a simulation. Things glitch out now and then, and there are signs all over the place that parodies They Live (maybe pointing out the fact you are special and can see the simulation for what it really is). One of the cool things about this game is all the means you have of travelling. In addition to straight up walking, you also have a huge amount of cars to steal and with a single button press, you can scan these cars and add them to your own personal collection and with your phone you can easily summon any car you have scanned to you at any given time. You earn money (cache) by doing activities and there are a ton of them to do here, all of them being a lot of fun to do and the amount of challenges is gonna keep you occupied for quite a while.

And of course, you also get superpowers as you progress through the game, giving you the ability to run really fast and jump really high, in addition to more offensive powers like blasting and stomping. These powers are increasingly upgraded, making you insanely overpowered near the end of the game and it feels awesome to just go around like some kind of demigod, wreaking havoc on everything. Of course, a lot of people have said that when you get these powers, the vehicles you can collect end up feeling kind of useless and superfluous, but in my opinion, they are there to add variety to the gameplay and give you more options to how you want to travel. Constantly using superpowers can get boring and so if you wanna race around in a car, you can do that instead. The game simply offers different things to do and in my opinion, that just adds to the fun of it. I know that driving a car isn't as awesome as flying but hell, if you want to, it's there, you can do it.

The customization is definitely one of the reasons I love SR4. You get a ton of character customization options and honestly one of the most fun character creators I've played around with. It does lack some options for fine tuning but all in all it is on par with the one from Mass Effect and I would say in some ways even surpasses it. Shopping in this game is a ton of fun and there are about 3 different shop brands, each offering different catalogues so finding them all is a lot of fun. Nearly everything can be customized or repainted, including guns and customizing the vehicles you scan can nearly be a timeconsuming hobby in of itself. And good god there are a lot of crazy guns in this game. From a fucking huge dildo to a dubstep gun (an actual gun that shoots waves of wubwub), the arsenal is just as crazy, overpowered and whacked out as the game itself and it fits the game perfectly. I've never had more fun playing around with weapons in a game than this.

The game features a lot of licensed music and you get a huge variety of styles with each radio station offering a unique set of songs. Even better is that you can listen to the radio outside vehicles and switch between them at any given moment. You can even make your own mixtape from selected songs from each station though what I really think this game lacks is the option to use your own songs from your hard drive, like GTA did where you could put music files in a folder and have the game treating them like its own radio station. The game does a wonderful job utilizing the licensed music during the story missions though and it's really one of the games where I've seen them really using licensed music in a good way to punctuate the action and not just being there for no reason. If flying through an alien ship listening to What Is Love doesn't make you grin like an idiot and bump your head like Jim Carrey in the legendary SNL sketch, this game is probably not for you. Hell Zinyak even has his own radio station playing classical music and Zinyak reading Shakespeare and other classical literature. It is priceless and adds so much personality to the game.

Now all of this is fun in of itself and playing alone, the game is definitely one of the most fun experiences I've had. but the game truly comes alive when playing it co-op. There are extra activities you can do and having a partner who is just as overpowered as you are is probably one of the most fun things you can do in this game. I highly recommend playing it co-op as it really makes the game feel more alive and just so you can share all this insanity with someone.
The only negative things I can think about is that while the game plays very well and is a lot of fun, it was very taxing on my hardware and even with all the settings on low, the game did have some framerate issues on 1080p so keep that in mind if you wanna invest in the PC version. I definitely recommend playing the game in 720p if you don't have a particular high end computer. I also ran into a few glitches here and there, such as menus getting stuck which forced me to restart the game and getting stuck at a few missions though usually it was as simple as restarting the mission. It was a bit annoying but nothing that really broke the game for me. Personally I would say I still had a lot of fun and really enjoyed the game. I also wish the sidequests was more than just redoing activities over and over as it did get a bit tedious no matter how fun the activities were and only the loyalty missions really did anything much story-wise.

Score:
Story: 10/10

One of the most fun stories I've had in a while with a villain you'll absolutely fall in love with.
Graphics: 9/10
Even on low settings (which I had to run the game at because of how taxing it was on my PC), the game looks really good and has a very cool style about it that a lot of games lack. Tons of small details like glitches and such are also really impressive. The only bad thing though is that the game requires a lot of hardware even on low settings and the framerate was all over the place.
Music: 9/10
Amazing use of licensed music with tons of variety, and the original soundtrack is also really good and doesn't feel out of place. Still wish there was an ability to use custom music though.
Gameplay: 8/10
Aside from a few annoying glitches and a lack of more story missions that kept it from getting a perfect score, the gameplay is crazy fun and probably the most fun I've had in a long time. It's gonna rub some people the wrong way no doubt but personally I loved it.

FINAL SCORE: 9/10

All in all, Saints Row IV is a hell of an experience and a game that not for a second dares to take itself too seriously. It makes fun of game clich├ęs left and right and is one of the few games that really makes you feel free and not restrained, but overpowered as hell and it's an awesome feeling that really makes this game quite unique to me. The music, the characters, the story and not to mention the gameplay makes this a game that I consider mandatory for any gamer that loves to just have fun once in a while. Because in the end, Saints Row IV is all about fun.

- Alyxx