VIDEO GAME REVIEW: Saints Row IV

The first two Saints Row games were little more than low-rent Grand Theft Auto rip-offs. But while making 2011’s Saints Row The Third, the developers clearly said “fuck it” and went so completely off-the-rails and over-the-top and politically incorrect that it ended up being a total blast. Now we have Saints Row IV,which is just as ridiculous and ridiculously fun.

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Available on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PCs, Saints Row IV (after a brief training mission) casts you as the President of The United States Of America. But when aliens attack, you revert back to your gun-totin’ ways in hopes of saving humanity.

As you’d expect, Saints Row IV is as unapologetically ludicrous as Third. When not shooting up the place or committing any number of moving violations — both of which come courtesy of the better shooting and driving controls than you-know-what — you’ll engage in tons of equally silly side quests, the best of which have you bustin’ up the joint with a tank, a mech suit, or just by putting your foot down. And it’s all set in an open world that’s like a lawless version of Vegas on meth if someone scheduled a furries convention and the Pimps & Playas ball for the same weekend. This world couldn’t be any crazier if one mission had you get drunk on donkey beer and then had to steal Satan’s ladder just so you can get an invite to some kids’ birthday party.

Except that it actual does get crazier because, for reasons we don’t want to spoil, you have superpowers. Over time, you’ll be able to freeze people like Iceman from The X-Men, shoot fire like The Human Torch, and run fast like The Flash. You even, at one point, gain the ability to move things with your mind, turning you into a total Sith.

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But while this makes some of the brawls a bit too easy, especially when you start flinging fireballs at everyone, what this lacks in challenge it more than makes up for in opportunity; opportunities to do crazy stuff, such as flinging people off the roof or smashing someone you’ve flash frozen. Though, having said that, there are some skill challenges that are actually challenging, especially if you want to get a gold medal every time.

The biggest change, however, comes because you can now jump really high. This not only adds a verticality to the game, but it changes the vibe into something akin to the Crackdown games (that you have to collect glowy things doesn’t help).

Of course, some might also think that adding superpowers, as well as aliens, pushes Saints Row IV too far off the rails, and they’re not wrong. Saints Row The Third worked so well because it was idiotic, not because it tried to be idiotic. But then, if you want a serious crime drama, play Grand Theft Auto V when it comes out in September. Or better yet, read a book.

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As a result, this is the video game equivalent of cotton candy: it doesn’t look natural, it’s a bit too much when taken in large doses, and isn’t something you’ll want every day, but as you’re stuffing your face with it, it’s just the best thing ever.

SCORE: 8.0

 

What do you think of this game (or my review of it)? Please let me know in the comments below.

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