Saints Row IV Review

Release Date: August 23 2013
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Developer: Volition
Publisher: Deep Silver

The Saints have returned and this time they’re not just running Steel Port, they’re running the entire country. But is Volitions fourth entry in the Saints series worth your time or has the wacky, zany humour run its course.

For some the Saints Row series has been viewed as the poor man’s Grand Theft Auto, but labelling a franchise that has been as successful for Volition as Saints Row has would be a disservice to a fantastic series, especially when this time around, its safe to say Saints Row finally steps out from GTA’s shadow.

Saints Row IV opens after the events of Saints Row: The Third, the Saints are assisting MI6 with a covert counter terrorist operation but as with everything the Saints touch, it soon turns to chaos and things start to explode. Subtlety never was their thing. After an opening that has you saving the world to the dulcet tones of Aerosmith, it cuts to five years later where you’ve subsequently become the President of the United States.

It’s all a bit West Wing, at least for a little while. You even get the opportunity to pass a bill to cure cancer, not bad for your first day as President. Unfortunately it’s not long before all hell breaks loose and the earth is under attack from a race of Aliens known as the Zin Empire, led by a remarkably well-spoken Alien called Zinyak. Pretty soon the world is left in ruins and you, your saints and the rest of Earths survivors find themselves imprisoned within a computer simulation akin to the Matrix.

It’s here that Saints Row IV not only distinguishes itself from previous games in the series but also other games in the genre. All of the gameplay mechanics you’ve come to know and love are still here but through the introduction of Superpowers Saints Row IV quickly becomes something different, something new and something fresh for the franchise.

With powers similar to that of Neo, you’ll find yourself leaping tall buildings in a single bound, traversing the landscape at lighting speeds and dispatching your foes with ease! It isn’t a particularly challenging game but it does provide you with a vast playground, tons of fun abilities and endless possibilities and opportunities in which to use them. And that is by and large what Volitions goal has been from the outset with Saints Row, to present the gamer with a giant sandbox, lots of toys and allow you to run rampant until your hearts content. It’s here that Saints Row IV truly shines and at last delivers on a recipe that has been tweaked and honed with each release.

What makes Saints Row IV a truly memorable experience however is the story and the relationship between you and your fellow Saints, The humour although crude in places never fails to make you smile and the various references to pop culture that the Saints series has prided itself on with each release never feels old or overused. The story missions are as mad as ever and each one will have you doing something crazier than the last, all woven together by the overarching story of mankind versus the invaders.

The only problem with all this power in Saints Row IV, and I guess this is really down to personal preference. Is that once you’ve unlocked all these superpowers, the traditional game elements may feel superfluous. On the one hand you’ll have gamers look at the myriad of different ways to complete an objective and relish the ability to mix it up. Whether that be flying in with all superpowers blazing or cruise up old school drive-by style with your fellow Saints dispatching enemies with more traditional weapons from the back seats. On the other hand gamers may end up asking themselves why they should bother using guns or cars when they can move faster and rain down more damage using their powers rather than any traditional weapon.

The other issue I found with Saints Row IV is one of a technical nature. The frame rate does its best to stick to the console standard of thirty frames per second unfortunately from time to time when things get crazy, it has a tendency to take a nose dive. However it never occurred often enough to consider it game breaking.

When all is said and done, Volition have done exactly what they set out to do, how you choose to go about enjoying this sandbox and all its toys is entirely up to you. For a title that originally started out life as a DLC expansion pack for Saints Row: The Third before turning full game, there was a clear risk of it becoming a recycled mess of tired gaming conventions, instead volition should be commended for creating an addictive, rewarding and downright hilarious game from beginning to end.


Words by Chris Messenger