Saints Row IV Review

Saints Row IV Review

My favorite gaming genre is third person shooter set in an open world. This generation has produced many of these types of games, and a lot of them have been really great. Riding horses and mowing down outlaws in Red Dead Redemption was awesome; skydiving and blowing stuff up in Just Cause 2 was great; visiting historically accurate settings like Rome and colonial America in the Assassin’s Creed franchise has been wonderful as well.

Then there has been the Saints Row franchise, which has seen each iteration become even more over the top than the last one. A lot of people thought that Saints Row: The Third was juvenile and absurd, and indeed some even claimed they would be embarrassed to be caught playing it. The good news is if you liked Saints Row: The Third, then you should absolutely love Saints Row IV as the ridiculousness has been ramped way up.

So far in 2013 we have seen some amazing games; BioShock Infinite and The Last of Us to give just two examples of games that will be high atop the majority of “Game of the Year” lists. Those two have been my favorite of the year thus far, but after almost 40 hours of play so far I can confidently say that Saints Row IV is serious in one department, and that is as a contender for Game of the Year.

Saints Row 4 Screenshot 01

The primary qualifier for me has to be the fun factor. The story of a game is certainly important, and a fun game with a great story is all the better, but the story is never my primary concern. I’ll never finish The Walking Dead because the gameplay simply isn’t fun to me, and so I don’t even care if its story is amazing as people claim it to be. On the flip side, I can really enjoy a game that is fun and has virtually no story to speak of (think Just Cause 2). Saints Row IV is quite possibly the most pure fun game of the year. The game is truly a delight from start to finish and beyond. Luckily, the story is actually pretty good (and crazy) as well.

Last time around, you took over the city of Steelport. This time around, you’ve moved up to being the President of the United States and are enjoying the high life as the so-called leader of the free world from the comfort of a Saint-ified White House. That is until Zinyak, Emperor of the Zen Empire, leads an alien invasion against Earth that results in many people, including you the President, being put into a computer simulation (think The Matrix).

Being inside of this computer program allows the game to truly become over the top. The simulated city of Steelport is filled with oddities and “glitches” (within the simulation, not the game itself) such as distorted people, pixelation, and shapeshifting to name a few. On top of the weirdness of this Steelport, you get super powers like the ability to run super fast and jump super high. Fully upgrade these powers as quickly as you can and nothing will get in your way.

You have the option of driving a lot of vehicles; cars, trucks, motorcycles, tanks, jets, ufos, etc. But when you have upgraded super sprint, why would you ever want to? It’s a total joy to just run around the city at super speeds (when you get it fully upgraded, you have unlimited running stamina, can run up buildings, and can even have your speed cause a tornado effect). Combine super sprint with upgraded super jump, and you’ll get all over the city pretty fast as you go from running to leaping over buildings and gliding across a body of water. You’ll be surprised at just how much fun doing that is.

So you have super powers and can get around the city quickly, but what about the fun that comes from causing chaos? There’s great news here, Volition has given the tools to create all kinds of carnage with additional super powers (telekinesis!) and an amazing collection of weapons including the dubstep gun (make people and cars dance to the music as you kill), the inflat-o-ray (makes heads enlarge and explode), and my personal favorite the black hole launcher. Swarmed or just want to create mayhem? Just launch a black hole out on the street and watch in delight as all the people, cars, and light poles around get sucked into the abyss.

Saints Row 4 Screenshot 02

Obviously there is a lot more to Saints Row IV than just screwing around. There is a story here complete with a main mission, a good amount of side missions, and a lot of activities to complete. And of course for the completionist there is a lot of collectibles to find, a lot of challenges to complete, and a ton of upgrades to purchase. Basically, there’s a lot of content here and the good news is the game is good enough where you’re going to want to do everything the game has to offer.

The main mission itself isn’t overly long. You could probably wrap it up in six hours, if that, if you did nothing but the main mission. Of course you’re not going to want to do that. The side missions are amongst the most enjoyable in the game (especially a few that would be a crime to ruin for you). Between the main mission, the side missions, and most of the activities, the game is sure to keep a smile on your face and if you’re like me you’ll probably be saying “oh my god, this game is so awesome” at several different points (both during the main mission and some of the side missions).

To make all of this better, Saints Row IV is rocking a killer soundtrack. We’re use to the radio stations in games like this and Grand Theft Auto while in vehicles, but a great thing about Saints Row IV is that due to being inside a computer simulation you can have the radio stations playing even when you’re running around the city shooting aliens. It’s in these moments where the soundtrack really shines; what is better than killing aliens with a lightsaber and then stopping to dance while listening to “What Is Love (Baby Don’t Hurt Me)?”

The game also features a great cast of voice actors, and yes we can choose between Troy Baker and Nolan North (in addition to others male and female) to voice the main character. I like Troy, but I went with Nolan because well he’s Nolan North.

I played on normal difficulty, but at no point is Saints Row IV meant to be hard. You probably won’t die more than a handful of times during the game, if that. The super powers make things easy, especially when they are fully upgraded. When you add in that you level up (max cap of 50) and spend cache (I love that!) to upgrade your character’s health and whatnot, and upgrade weapons to do lots of damage and have infinite ammo, well it’s easy. Need to make it easier? Progress the main mission and do the side missions and you’ll have the opportunity to call in up to three “homies” (some of which can be given super powers too) to come into the simulation and help you mow down the Zin Empire. If one super-powered guy wasn’t enough, four of you will dish out some serious damage. If things somehow get too hairy for you, you do have a way to get your notoriety down.

Saints Row 4 Screenshot 03

Of course you can also really call a homie into the simulation by playing the campaign cooperatively with one buddy online. I would have liked to have seen four-player co-op, but any co-op is good to have. Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten to try it at this time. The game does utilize the much hated online pass, and mine doesn’t work at the moment although I believe it should have been able to be entered yesterday. So unfortunately I can’t comment on the quality of the game while playing it online and whether or not it lags. I would assume it doesn’t, but again I just haven’t gotten to try it.

Saints Row IV looks really good and it plays really good too (the super powers are a blast to control and the shooting is solid). I’ve played a lot of open world games, and I can safely say that Saints Row IV is without a doubt one of the best the genre has produced and one that I will definitely return to again and again. Video games are meant to be fun, and while story is good games don’t have to be “serious” or try to be “art.” At the end of the day, Saints Row IV easily ranks amongst the top of games that I’ve had the most fun playing this year.

If you call yourself a gamer and like to have a fun time actually playing a game, then you should definitely buy a copy of Saints Row IV. Hell, you should have it pre-ordered so you can get the Commander-in-Chief edition (trust me, the ‘Merica gun is amazing). There’s been some heavy hitters released this year, and we still have a lot left coming this year, but Saints Row IV will certainly be amongst the top titles of the year when people start making out their lists in December and January. It’s funny, charming, and most importantly a blast to play, so pick it up and won’t be disappointed.

Saints Row IV gets a four out of five: GREAT.


    • Game was completed on normal difficulty.
    • It took 25 hours to complete the main mission and all of the side quests, while also doing some collectible hunting and general messing around.
    • Encountered no noticeable bugs or glitches, however my PS3 did freeze about five times while playing the game.
    • Game was completed entirely offline. The campaign can be played cooperatively with a friend online. Online play is locked behind an online pass.

* A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review.

7 thoughts on “Saints Row IV Review

  1. Great review! I’m looking forward to picking this game up soon. As much as I prefer to have good story and great characters in my video games, I do like the occasional non-story game where it’s all about the gameplay and having fun. This is why I fell in love with the series the first time my friend introduced it to me.

    1. Thanks! If you already love the series then this one should be over the top for ya. Just a tremendous amount of fun from start to finish. What platform are you getting it for?

    1. You’re going to love it man. I wasn’t expecting it to be anywhere close to being on my GOTY shortlist either, but man it’s just too darn good.

  2. Great review, man. This one sounds like an absolute blast. I’ve still been meaning to play through the Saints Row games. I finished the first one a while back, and even have 2 and 3 sitting on my PS3 hard drive, but just haven’t got around to ’em yet. Really looking forward to checking this out.

    1. Thanks. I actually just finished up the campaign of SR3 yesterday. I’m going to go for the platinum on it as well, but right now I’m playing SR2. Fun to see the progression the series has made. SR4 is pretty awesome, 3 was great, and 2 seems like it’s going to be good/great but it’s taking some time to get into probably because the controls are so different.

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