A Simulation Within A Simulation…
Saint Row 4 is an open-world action packed thrill ride from the start and you play as the leader of the Third Street Saints, a street gang, who has now become the president of the United States.
Things get ugly when an invasion headed by Zinyak, an alien warlord with a British accent, begins. The White House, or what the Saints are now calling “The White Crib”, is attacked and you and your gang are kidnapped and confined to a simulation of Zinyak’s creation. Your aim is to go Neo all over that crap and destroy it from within. In order to do this you’re gonna need a little help from your friends and luckily some A.I mates are just a phone call away. Throughout the game you’ll rescue your former crew members from the simulation in a series of story-driven missions. You can also play in co-op mode with a friend and share the experience with them.
This is the fourth game in the franchise and also the first to introduce super powers, which you can upgrade by finding glitches of random code within the simulation. These power upgrades include being able to jump really high, shoot fire and ice, travel at super speed and glide. Whilst adding a new element to the gameplay, the use of powers in a sandbox romp will be a familiar experience to those who have played the Prototype games. It is a great novelty, but it just doesn’t work all the time. For instance, the wide variety of vehicles and customization options available for said vehicles seem wasted when one can run, jump and glide around the map at super speed. You wouldn’t see Superman driving around the city in a pimped up Hummer would you? There are a few parts of the game though where you will be forcefully stripped of your powers and find yourself having to hash things out the old school way, adding more of a challenge.
You character can be customized from the word go, allowing you to choose the appearance of your player, creating a more personalized experience and once you’re in the simulation that Zinyak has created you can further advance your character by collecting and spending cache. There are many uses for cache in the game including clothing, weapons and other upgrades. There are a lot of choices to make and they will result in how you play the game. Instead of having to heal your character in times of respite with a good ‘ol syringe here or a med pack there, every charcter you kill in the simulation will drop health pickups that you can zoom around and collect while in battle to avoid dying. Yes, that means you can kill
innocent civilians and steal their health too, but don’t worry about feeling bad because you’re in a simulation kids!
The city of Steelport, recycled here from the map used in Saints Row 3 has changed since the previous game and you’ll find yourself in a world where the citizens are oppressed by police and alien forces. You’ll find propaganda posters around the city ordering it’s inhabitants to obey and not to resist as you jump around and lay waste to hordes of bad guys without seemingly breaking a sweat. The powers are essentially the games strong suit, but also it’s inherent weakness. With so much power things can get a bit tedious and repetitive at times, almost as if you were playing with a god-like cheat code enabled.
The developers have tried to compensate for that by throwing in a huge amount of content to keep you busy for about 20 hours or so. Side activities include Tank Mayhem, Insurance Fraud (bounce yourself off multiple cars to earn cache) and Super-Speed Foot Races to name a few. My favourite activity was climbing the enormous alien towers and disabling them, which reminded me of the radio tower missions from Far Cry 3. This resulted in a fun bit of platforming using your super powered jumping and gliding, but there weren’t many of these towers and I cleared them all within an hour.
The humour is, as with previous installments, over-the-top and can get very goofy thanks to the character customization. I played the game on the Xbox 360 console, and for the most part it was OK, but nothing really blew me away on the graphics side of things. It’s pretty much standard fare and does not live up to titles like GTA 5 in this department. There are some glitches in the game, but obviously the developers didn’t have a Rockstar-like budget that affords them the time to sit and tinker with every texture and model. The game is a bit like a lower budget GTA, but having said that, what it lacks in polish it makes up for with plenty of fun and varied content.
Saints Row 4 is a good title to pick up if you’re looking to kill some time on your console while you wait for Watch Dogs to be released later this year. Even if you haven’t played the previous Saints Row installments, you’ll be filled in on the back story as the game progresses.