REVIEW: Latest in the Saints Row franchise makes the grade

by terry terrones Special to The Gazette - Published: August 16, 2013 | 1:55 pm 0

What is it?

The next installment of the zany, open-world Saints Row franchise. In this latest entry, the Third Street Saints have gone from gang to world leaders, with the head of the Saints elected President of the United States. This time, instead of battling rival gangs, the Saints must fight off an alien invasion force, which has captured the group and transported them into a simulation of their Steelport hometown.

The good:

All about fun: Open world titles are a gamers' playground. You can go anywhere and do anything. But "Saints Row IV" might be the most open open world game ever because of all the super powers you're given. Jump super high, run super fast, use telekinesis and a freeze blast. These are just a few of the powers you'll attain as you leap, run and glide like a flying squirrel through Steelport. The world truly is yours to explore.

If that's not enough, gamers are also given some seriously fun weapons and vehicles. Fly through the air with the Screaming Eagle, a plane that looks like a bald eagle, complete with flapping wings. Or blast enemies with the 'Merica Weapon, a huge firearm that combines a flamethrower, rocket launcher and an ultra-powered dubstep gun. Yes, you can actually defeat enemies through the power of dubstep music.

Pop culture craziness: If you're not paying attention you'll miss out on all sorts of ridiculous pop culture references. Aerosmith's "Don't Want to Miss a Thing" playing as you save Washington D.C. from a nuclear bomb (shades of "Armageddon")? Check. Punching a politician in the groin while yelling, "Allow me to retort!" ("Pulp Fiction")? Check. Shooting down aliens Space Invaders-style? Check. And this is only in the first few minutes of the game. Throw in heavy nods to "Independence Day," "The Matrix" and the video game "Crackdown" and you have one of the most tongue-in-cheek games ever produced. Mel Brooks would be proud.

Go big or go home: Everything about "Saints Row IV" is over the top. There are silly costumes to wear (my favorite is the Uncle Sam suit), crazy ways to customize your avatar (Nolan North is available as a voice option) and veteran character actor Keith David plays himself as your Vice President. I also listened to my character sing along to Paula Abdul's "Opposites Attract" and at one point got in a shoot out with a question mark. A question mark! It's as if developer Volition decided they were going to listen to every ridiculous idea thrown at them during a company staff meeting and throw it into the game.

The bad:

Saints Row the Third 2.0: Despite loads of new features and a completely new storyline, there are times that "Saints Row IV" feels a little too much like its predecessor. The map is almost the same as in "Saints Row the Third" and the graphics and gameplay are mostly unchanged. That stated, these issues never stopped me from having a blast in Steelport. But for some, SRIV may feel overly familiar.

The verdict:

One of the things I've always enjoyed about the Saints Row series is that it's never taken itself seriously. "Saints Row IV" feels like the culmination of that lack of seriousness and I mean that in the best way possible. All this game wants is for you to have a good time. SRIV reminds me a lot of a Marvel Studios film - it's loud, enjoyable and is a smile-inducing mindless romp.

Gazette Media Columnist Terry Terrones is a veteran video game journalist. He has written for numerous publications including GamePro, PC World, GameZone, and Official Xbox Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/terryterrones.

Title: "Saints Row IV"

Format: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC

Price: $49.99-$59.99

Publisher: Deep Silver

Developer: Deep Silver Volition

ESRB Rating: M (Mature 17+)

Grade: A

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