Thursday, 28 November 2013

My Usual Spiel: Saints Row IV, Turn the epic crazy up to 11

Release Date: 12/9/2013
Genre: Action Adventure
Publisher: Deep Silver

Developer: Volition Inc.
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Players: 1 or 2 Co-op and multiplayer.

Classification: R for REFUSED (in Australia)

When the infamous Saints Row the Third was released there were a lot of people asking how Volition was ever going to top the semi controlled chaos that was the storyline and the gameplay,  but now they’re saying that again about the latest installment.

Part of the cast from Saints Row IV from left to right: The Boss, Pierce Washington, Shaundi, Matt Miller, Kinzie and Asha Odekar
Having not played the original two Saints Row games I found Saints Row the Third one of the most enjoyable games I have played in awhile, I rightly considered it a fun alternative to the sometimes tedious realism that the Grand Theft Auto series creates and does well of course but sometimes you just need to let loose, and I mean hanging off choppers while shooting a rocket launcher then parachuting onto the top of a skyscraper then falling off that or shooting people dressed in animal costumes in a game show entitled “Professor Genki’s Murder Time Fun Time”. So because of that you could in all regards view Saints Row the third as a wacky brother to GTA but the next in the series shakes this theory up quite a bit.

Oh yep, that's a big ship alright.
Without spoiling too much yes this time around the leader of 3Rd Street Saints (aka you) gains presidency of the United States after stopping a nuclear missile from exploding the country, then the Earth gets attacked by Aliens and you have to stop them. This was a bit of a drastic step as I thought as the Saints Row series could have possibly gone from a humble street gang to taking over two cities to taking over the whole of the United states in this installment rather than you being president right from the start then a out-of-nowhere alien invasion. So I guess I feel like they kind of went a bit further then they should but who knows really there will always be way to go in the future, not to mention prequels everyone loves prequels even if it’s going over past game content, actually wait. The usual Saints Row wit and flair is there obviously, the white house seems more like a party house with MP’s drinking beer and watching strippers dance on poles installed in the rooms, on your walk through the halls of congress you get stopped by Keith David with two documents and you shortly have to decide whether to end world hunger or cure cancer, gawd, I was playing it at a lan at that point at was so concerned that I had to walk outside and ask people their advice on my decision, how democratically-minded of me.

Being the president means making difficult decisions.
Saints Row IV was originally intended to be an expansion for the previous game but then changed so that it was a full sequel. This does mean that the graphics have not exactly changed much since the last installment but in my view the graphics were fine to begin with, not super trying to be realistic but not poor-looking either. Also the quality of the graphics is far less a topic of conversation than the eye candy on offer, the city of Steelport is pretty much the same as it was before but the inclusion of the alien buildings and ships and also the interior of the Alien vessels look pretty cool, not to mention the massive alien ship hovering over the centre of the city, though the ship which acts as your home when you’re not in the simulation does look kind of bland. As the city is supposed to be a “computer simulation” of itself you do notice many things that denote that for example there are matrix references with the water and parts of the landscape and buildings turning into 1’s and zero’s on certain occasions and cars and people sometimes ‘bug out’ by flipping around or the models suddenly twisting into wrong sizes and contorted shapes. The city is still as fully functioning as it was in the previous game with normal ‘simulated’ inhabitants etc the major changes are all the statues, billboards, posters, some stores and general signs and advertisements are all changed to a general theme of fear and submission by the alien invaders and their leader, the main antagonist Zinyak.

Looks like something from an Orson Welles film
Probably the most drastic change in the gameplay is the way you move around the city right from the start in this new simulation you are given superpowers that allow you to sprint faster than cars and jump as tall as houses and small buildings this along with other powers that you receive over time that help you move around such as wall jumping/running and air “dashing” and gliding quickly makes using actual vehicles seem pointless, even more pointless by the fact that to upgrade these powers you need to collect data clusters which are scattered throughout the city that you can spend as a currency for upgrading your current powers and when you acquire new ones through doing the story missions. Collecting these is heaps of fun and you jump and glide and dash across the city and even at the start where your power aren’t that good it’s much more practical and rewarding to jump and sprint across the landscape collecting data clusters to get better powers then driving a fast car there for the sake of efficiency which will be made redundant when you get better powers anyway. As you progress you unlock more powers such as the ability to throw energy blasts and objects around with telekinesis and one of my personal favourites is the ability to charge down to the ground from above superman style and create a huge shockwave.

Gliding through the air, probably my favorite thing to do in the game, you can see some data clusters on the top of those smokestacks.
A feature that has made a return from the previous game is your “hub” which now instead of it being your phone is now just a hub where you access things like the map, your ‘quests’, your normal and power upgrades menu, ability to phone homies etc and your money laundering account is now your ‘cache’ but works relatively the same way. Basically most of the hub menu features have returned including the upgrades menu where you can upgrade your health/stamina/weapons/homies etc and you can also increase your strength i.e. the power of your punches and how far you can throw people. The character creation is a bit less extravagant this time but you can still go pretty crazy I just tried out the randomizer a few times then managed to come up with a guy who I think looked exactly like my character from the previous game when I gave him the “clean cut” haircut he had before which was kind of weird though I don’t remember him having eyes that big, but meh there’s your usual array of modifiers so you can create your own crazy avatar. The simulation of the city of Steelport basically has basically the exact same layout and shops inc plastic surgery, tattoos, street and fetish clothes etc  as before though the Saints hideouts have been removed and the “Planet Saints” shops have been changed to “Planet Zin” though you can still get all the regular saints gear from there. I was going to go my usual jeans, skate shoes, trilby and purple dressing gown but decided to go with a jacket, shirt and tie this time being the president and all and it worked quite well, I didn’t really experiment much with clothes after that I just go with what works really.

Lookin cool with my "Lazor Razor"
Even with having all these awesome powers I was still interested in seeing what was to offer with the weapons as I’d heard of some of the Alien weapons inc the Abducto-matic and the Inflato-Ray. You do use the Alien weapons throughout the story mode and they are ok I spose, there is an alien version of each type of weapon but I decided I’d go with regular weapons since I’m a human fighting aliens though because most of these weapons were from the previous game though I went with the police versions of each rather than the gangster versions I had used before. There are 7 categories of weapons inc Melee, Pistols, SMG’s, Shotguns, Rifles, Explosives and Special, each category has different sub classes i.e. semi automatic and pump-action shotguns and each sub-category has various models of itself for example a water pistol model for a rifle. This makes quite a large selection of weapons available not to mention the new special weapons which aside from the usual flamethrowers and grenade launchers there is the addition of the Lasergun and Minethrower arms used by Alien enemies. Though my most favourite  weapon would no doubt be the infamous Dubstep Gun as not only does the gun fire “wub” blasts to the beat of the song it plays, these blasts can also be upgraded to explode creating massive damage, this gun uses no ammo but requires a charge to fire and pedestrians dance to the music when firing, seriously what could be better?

The Dubstep gun in action demonstrated by GamingMistress

I was also thinking whether I would use the car shop again and I did right at the start to create my little smartcar that I loved so much from the previous game in the Saints Row style but realised almost immediately after that that I shouldn’t have wasted so much money as I wasn’t going to need a car at all, and even if I did need a car you get that many vehicles to use in your garage (inc flying vehicles) for free from doing the story missions so that using the save-a-car system is a novelty thing at best. Also now when you dial-a-car from your hub it just warps you straight into it so there’s another thing about vehicles that has been automated. Apart from the new alien vehicles (and some new city vehicles) everything is pretty much the same as before and as you do various missions you unlock new Alien and novelty vehicles mostly from the previous game which have little or no significance for this one. I can honestly say that the vehicles are really in this just for looks, for you at least.

I'll say it, these things are really OP
The gameplay works in a very similar manner to the previous game, in the simulation you have “entry/exit points” rather than hideouts that let you go to and from the Zin ship you have stolen. The activities are different this time around with the exception of Tank Destruction and Fraud which has become much easier now with the ability to launch yourself high in the air, the activities mostly revolve around using your superpowers which include super sprinting across a mapped course and a simulated racetrack dodging barriers Battletoads style, jumping and running up tower platforms, using your telekinesis to hurl objects in a new Professor Genki game as well as the Genki superpower showdown which is like some sort of super power WWE style wrestling match. As I mentioned before there are lots of data clusters for upgrading your powers scattered around the world and sometimes you need to use powers like telekinesis and super stomp in order to get at them, there is also statues of Zinyak to destroy and various audio logs which contain quotes from the characters.

Professor Genki's M.O.M, where you must pick up and throw the correct objects which is either humans, cars or Genki heads into the correct spinning hoops.
The sound and music in Saints Row is excellently over-the-top, the pulsating beats and pounding dubstep soundtrack to the game menu mixes well with the classical music remixes and I was more than often physically dancing to some of them, especially this one. The game includes a small range of radio stations with fully licensed songs, some of which are used to great effect in story missions especially Haddaway’s What is Love during a scene when you’re flying the ship. As I mentioned before because it’s almost unnecessary to drive vehicles Volition decided that because you spent the majority of your time in the simulation they have made it so you can listen to the radio while on foot, and this actually creates some great moments where you’re shooting up enemies to  Blur’s ‘Song 2’ or flying a helicopter to ‘Flight of the Valkyries’. Probably my most favourite station is the Klassik 102.4 which is interestingly hosted by Zinyak himself, this station has lots of great classics my favourite being Jacques Offenbach’s, Orpheus in the Underworld: Infernal Gallop which creates a hilarious soundtrack when doing anything really. The voice acting in Saints Row is great, I liked the first male voice and I love making a character that fits it so well, there’s some interesting celebrities in some of the cameo roles.

What is love! baby don't hurt me....
There have been many games that have stirred controversy over the years and the Saints Row series is today’s prime example. The game was refused classification in Australia due to the Rectifier Probe weapon (which was removed from the game) and the “Girls night out” mission where Shaundi and the player consume alien drugs and receive superpowers, this though was still in the game, the one I played at least. Though this was minor in my view, though the game has a large focus on sex and sleaze and there is plenty of scantily clad women around though there is no actual on screen sex, you can have sex with any of your ‘crew members’ aboard the ship (this is amusingly referred to as "romancing your crew member") and this is obviously off screen. A few times throughout the game I noticed that they would have been a bit more enjoyable playing as a female character and after I had finished the game I did start out with one just to quickly see the differences, it’s an invigorating way to play the game if anything though it’s a real change to the way I usually play.

The banned rectifier probe (pictured with another classy looking melee weapon), I don't have a screenshot of how it works but you get the idea. I don't know about you but I prefer the lazer samurai sword.
I enjoyed my pants off (not literally) of Saints Row IV there was just something so exhilarating and free of bounding, gliding and zooming over the landscape, the story is heaps on fun to play and each mission no matter what type of thing it is parodying there’s always that sense of Saints Row wit and flair. The game does have a bit of the GTA syndrome that when you do finish the story mode there’s little to do (challenges) etc though you can re-do almost any mission you like (to an extent). This series represents some of the best things gaming has to offer, chaos, freedom and fun and that’s what it’s all about.


Free as a flying squirrel.

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