Wot I Think: Saints Row IV

By John Walker on August 14th, 2013 at 2:00 pm.

After the fantastic Saints Row: The Third, the question from everyone went: how can Volition top this? How can they make a game that’s more weird, more outlandish, more explosive? Then following the collapse of THQ, the license and studio was bought by a publisher who ignores the press when it’s convenient for them, then hires pole dancers for preview events – could it survive this too? Well, the answers are in Saints Row IV, due out on the 20th. I’ve played it to the very last, and can tell you wub I think:

I think I can sell Saints Row IV to you in one anecdote:

I am driving from having killed a bunch of aliens using super-powered foot-stomps, toward a nuclear facility, with old comrade Pierce in the passenger seat. He finds Biz Markie’s Just A Friend on the radio, and we both start singing along in Biz-style tuneless joy. This isn’t a cutscene. I’m in control. I’m running over pedestrians who fuzz in and out of perfect rendering and blocky pixels, as the city similarly frizzles around me, its cybernetic origins revealing themselves. It’s an amazing moment. When we’re interrupted by the omnipresent voice of our alien overlord enemy, who’s now singing along too, and… I changed my mind. I’m not going to spoil it. You find out. So I get out of the car and throw it at a building using the power of my mind.

Saints Row IV is an enormous, elaborate pile of fun, that somehow begins with the madness where the last game left off, and goes further forward into the crazy from there. Another vast playground of lunatic mayhem and carefully crafted challenges, utterly outdoing anything that it’s done before.

It’s simultaneously apparent that this started as an expansion for Saints Row 3. Volition have essentially created a total-conversion mod for their last game, and while I argue it takes nothing away from the ludicrously brilliant time I’ve had with it – and in fact is the best Saints Row game yet – the budget saving that’s gone on is pretty obvious. Turns out: who cares!

The premise is so batshit insane that when I’ve told people about it, they’ve not believed me. But in a deadpan masterstroke, the game begins completely differently. You and the Saints are now apparently working for the American government, and are infiltrating a terrorist base somewhere in the Middle East. It’s brown corridors, ordinary third-person combat – it could be any action game. And it holds this pose just long enough to weird you out. It’s a statement, and it’s a brilliant one. It’s Volition saying: “Look, doing this is a piece of piss. We are so much better than this.” So then you tear apart a rocket as it flies through the air, from the outside, to the tune of Aerosmith, and then fall from space, crash through the roof of the Whitehouse, and land in your presidential chair – because yes, you are now the President of the USA. Obviously. Yes!

Within a couple of minutes, aliens have attacked. They kidnap the Saints’ regular characters, eventually including you, and, well, Earth is blown up. Yup. There you go. It goes from sarcastic rendition of the dreary state of action games, to destroying the entire planet, in the opening few moments.

This rather cleverly sets things up for re-using SR3′s city and making it feel like that was always the plan. You see, the aliens have a computer program that creates a false reality around you, intended to capture you in your nightmare. Here your nightmare is a city filled with a few million of the seven billion people your hubris just got killed. (This is after being rescued from your initial nightmare – a gag I’ll leave you to discover.) And at first, this appears to put you back into what at first looks like a traditional Saints Row setting, albeit in rather peculiar circumstances.

I’ll save the rest of the twists and turns that get you there, but no – this isn’t a traditional Saints Row setting. Because pretty soon you find yourself equipped with superpowers. Yup! Superpowers! A super-jump, super-speed, and others that reveal themselves as you play. And now this is something completely different.

Cars become irrelevant after about two hours. The only reason I ever get in one is if a scripted mission requires it. Because why would I, when I can leap and zoom about far more quickly? And perhaps more importantly, in a way that lets me have far more fun. I have never bestowed this compliment on any game before, but it out-does City Of Heroes for sheer mad pleasure of moving around its environs. It has the perfect leaping and speeding of CoH, combined with the lunatic brute force of Crackdown, making for a game that’s not just fun to play because of its boundless content, but just purely fun to be playing.

There’s the odd repetition of SR3′s slow-to-get-going core missions, with only two or three on offer for a good long while. However, once again, get about 7 or 8 hours in, and you’ll have nine or ten on the go. And of course that’s alongside the city’s hundreds minigames and distractions. These are almost all new for the game, which while it does mean still no return for the shit-spraying glory of SR2 (although they are joking references to it), there’s a ton of new fun here. And much of it is designed around the ridiculous superpowers you now possess. So rather than racing cars, you’re more often racing on your feet. Sometimes in the streets, sometimes in bizarre virtual reality constructs. Or you’re demolishing stretches of town using other destructive powers you accrue, alongside the more familiar tanks or ships. There’s a new version of Genki’s murderous gameshow, this time involving throwing people, cars and giant costume heads through hoops, while being shot at, that’s an awful lot of fun. There’s an elaborated version of SR3′s wrestling, this time an arena-based superhero battle. There’s a giant mech suit, frame-breaking videogames, and so very many collectables about the city that getting around to the main quest is quite the challenge.

Alongside the main quest are dozens of side quest options, each relating to various members of the Saints Row crew. First you must rescue them from their unique private hell, then complete tasks for them around the city. And computer expert Kenzie has many, many more of the same. As becomes quickly apparent, rather than offering particularly unique extra story content, these are little more than the in-city missions loosely strung together. For Kenzie the narrative excuse is nice – you’re weakening the program when you cause chaos within it. However, by the time you’re doing more of the same because Ben King is researching a character for a book… it starts to feel a little like padding.

Thing is, as much padding as there is, and there’s a lot, I almost never minded it. You may find that one mission type particularly annoys you – maybe the (rather decent) hacking minigame, the repeated “fraud” game of bouncing yourself into traffic, or one of the virtual reality oddities – and whichever it is, you’ll be annoyed that it comes up so much. For me it was any mission that involved telekinetically throwing objects to cause damage – the objects never felt powerful enough, making these events a chore. But here’s the thing – it’s one or two of those. Amongst so many. And heck, just getting to them is so much fun.

And that’s not mentioning the territory control, taking over vast platforming towers, clearing out alien encampments, or just stealing a bus and driving into things.

Like Saints Row: The Third, the writing is absolutely stunning, with stellar voice acting to match. There’s barely a wasted line, conversations packed with humour, pathos, and surprising earnestness. The timing is always exquisite, the animations matching the delivery, such that an eye-roll can deliver a punchline. These are things that are almost unheard of in gaming! That you find them at their best in a game of such lunatic frivolity is doubly fantastic.

Set pieces are always massively enjoyable, too. A brilliant sequence spoofs the nature of stealth games, which somehow reaches a point where you’re crawling around under a cardboard box, taking out guards with a knife. Each guard has a unique comment to gargle in his death throes, and each is superbly funny.

Alongside the amazing Biz Markie bit I mentioned at the start, there’s also a running gag about singing along to Paula Abdul, so very, very many in-references to the previous Saints Row games, and fun poked at all manner of games. And for once – for one blessed occasion – this is a game that manages to effectively spoof, because it’s inevitably as good as, or better than, the targets of its sarcastic ire. The Mass Effect romances ribbing is the greatest. And it’s a fair hand, too, with many of the gags mocking their own history, picking up dropped themes from Saints Rows 1 and 2, referencing back to the dumber, more unpleasant inclusions, and being extremely meta about how far it’s all come. SR4′s Shaundi meeting SR1′s Shaundi is quite the moment.

It’s gross, too. But at the same time, remarkably sophisticated. If you look to Saints Row’s beginnings, it started as a fairly repulsive game. A pathetic GTA rip-off of little merit, packed with deeply unpleasant portrayals of women. But SR4, even with its inclusion of a strip club, large-exposed-breasted characters, and numerous sexual innuendos, feels a million miles from this. Not least because of its ludicrously fantasised and sexualised men, and absolutely equal-opportunity offensiveness. This is a game where women are as strong as men, not under their ultimate authority, and give as good as they get.

My wife walked in as I was playing, and said in surprise, “Is that the main character for this game?” I said it was. “But she looks like an ordinary person!” I had, as I have in the previous two games, created my character to be a slightly overweight Latino woman with long dark hair (this time accidentally with a French accent, which works very well). She was dressed in a jumper and jeans. Because the game let that be an option. I could equally have played a monstrously fat woman wearing garish make up and no clothes at all, or a dangerously thin man in high heels and a giant bear head. Saints Row remains almost unique in letting you create characters that look not only ridiculous, but also like actual people look too. Increasing a bulk meter doesn’t have to make someone more muscly – it can also make them podgy. It’s incredible what a difference this makes.

This, in a game where using the “romance” option with computer whizz girl Kenzie results in,

“Hey Kenzie, want to fuck?”

“Let’s GO!” [punches you in face, kisses]

The one issue, beside a frustrating couple of crashes to desktop, comes near to the end. I shan’t spoil anything, obviously, but its plot does rather start to collapse in on itself. It’s like there are scenes missing or something – the plot wildly leaping from place to place without any explanation. Suddenly someone is a baddie, then they’re a goodie again, and it’s all completely incongruous. It’s also a mite ironic that it briefly becomes a bit of a regular shooter in one of the pre-climactic moments, which is a touch off. And I am genuinely looking forward to the discussions that will occur about the dance club scene – it should be interesting.

But then, well, this is the game where Keith David plays himself! (Having previously played Julius Little in SR1 and 2). And yes, including the film reference you’d most hope to see from him, as well as poking a million ribs of his role in Mass Effect. Real actor plays himself in a game, as a presidential aide, constantly explaining to you how important actors are. In fact, it’s pretty much impossible to talk about Saints Row 4 without it sounding as though you’re having a fever dream. Like, the Dubstep Gun.

Clearly riffing on videogame trailers’ recent love for the groove, this is a weapon that when fired, emits Polyhymnia by Scout McMillan (or as I know it, the theme to the Kroll Show). This causes everyone in the vicinity to begin dancing against their will, until they die. Cars, buses, ambulances begin bouncing on their suspension, until they explode. Street lights fall over, and bins explode. It is the best of all things.

There’s a gun shrinks people, another that causes them to be abducted by a mysterious light from the sky. You can open up black holes, or you can fire a weapon that inflates people. It really does that – they start to swell up, their heads hideously expanding, until massive eyeballs pop from their heads and they explode.

And as I keep coming back to, simply moving around this game provides a huge core of its fun. The leap combined with the speed, when fully souped up – it’s utter bliss. You charge so fantastically quickly, whipping up the cars and people in the wake of your slipstream, and then leap hugely into the air. Once up, you can enter a sort of controlled descent flying mode, which you might use to aim for the side of a skyscraper, which you can then run up the side of. With practice, you can time and aim your leaps and bounces to perfectly land on narrow ledges, towers or funnels, usually aiming to pick up one of the 1200 or so ‘clusters’ – bits of code used to augment your powers – scattered around the city. It’s joyous, and couldn’t have been better implemented.

Come the end of the game and I’ve played for 24 hours, finishing it at 91%. I was thorough, because I wanted to gobble up every bit of it. I’ve travelled a total of 853km, of which 150km was super-sprinting, and 464km super-jumping. I’ve destroyed 1,485 vehicles, killed 2,998 aliens, 2,242 civilians and 841 police. I say all this to express the size of this game, to dismiss fears that its expansion origins has slimmed anything down, or cut any corners. Absolutely not.

It’s undeniable that there’s been cost-saving after THQ’s troubles post SR3. Deep Silver picked up publishing duties most of the way into development, so the original penny pinching is still present in the game. But what’s incredible is that it doesn’t suffer for it. Sure, it’s the same city, and sure, they re-use a bunch of the last game’s locations (each time with an entertainingly specific justification). But it turns out that matters none, when you’re having more fun with a game than you can remember.

That’s what makes Saints Row IV so absolutely wonderful. It’s not the ghosts of controversy that the series once had, and the promotional materials so desperately wish was still there. It’s not dildo bats, or poorly pixelated winkies. It’s fun. It’s sheer, unbridled, unrestricted fun. It’s a game that boldly lets you do everything you could ever want to, and can survive such freedoms. It’s a game that realises its own potential – that this is a form in which no limitations are necessary, in which conforming to expectations is pointless. Games have the ability to let us live out such mad, explosive, eccentric nonsense, and yet they almost never do. Saints Row IV does, and that makes it incredibly special. That it does it with such panache, such ease, and such ceaselessly entertaining humour, makes it simply one of the most fun games I’ve ever played.

Oh, and stay for the credits. I couldn’t breathe for laughing.

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149 Comments »

Top comments

  1. Dozer says:

    “…or just stealing a bus and driving into things.”

    Finally! A game based on my life.

  1. Dominic White says:

    I also got a review copy of the game, although without any obligation to actually review it. I gotta echo most of the stuff above – you can tell that it was meant to originally be an expansion, but it grew into something brilliant and fun and it kept me rushing around raising hell for 16 hours solid. That’s only doing about a quarter (or less) of the optional stuff, too.

    • JackShandy says:

      Do you think that re-using so much stuff from SR3 may be the reason SR4 turned out so well? I know it worked for Fallout 2.

      • noodlecake says:

        I know that re-using so much stuff from SR2 is why SR3 turned out so dull. That and the “having everything unlocked to destroy any sense of progression” idea.

        • CobraLad says:

          Emmm….
          Did you played both games to know that they cut many content and customisation options because they needed to make new graphics? And less side mission types?

        • LionsPhil says:

          You can always spot the people who haven’t played SR3 by the way they say it has no progression.

          That or the poor sods who bought unlocking DLC, I guess.

      • realitysconcierge says:

        And Majora’s Mask! :D

  2. botd says:

    That was the kind of review I was hoping for EU4, detailed and full of enthusiasm.

    • S Jay says:

      I was thinking the same.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I read the first few paragraphs, the last line, and skimmed the middle (“…It’s gross, too. But at the same time, remarkably sophisticated…”, check) because I think I’m happy to have as little of this spoiled as possible.

  3. Dozer says:

    “…or just stealing a bus and driving into things.”

    Finally! A game based on my life.

  4. gibb3h says:

    I really need to finished Just Cause 2 before I can start Saints Row 3 before I can start Saints Row 4!

    • mouton says:

      Just Cause 2 is a lot of fun, but SR3 is a much more solid experience. I has much less interesting world – JC2 is beautiful – but it is much better written, has voice acting and characters from an entirely different league, and has much more fun and varied missions. Some JC2 missions are really fun – most are either just adequate or less.

      Both games are great, but I wouldn’t stick with JC2 too long.

    • LintMan says:

      JC2′s biggest flaw IMHO is that it at its core, it cared more about “challenge” than “fun”. SR3 was just the opposite. Not that SR3 was too easy — I found it plenty challenging — but in JC2, midway through it becomes easy to get into 5-star alert mode when you’re causing trouble, which quickly becomes non-fun and requires you to flee. In SR3, the game isn’t so eager to shut you down, so your mayhem continues unabated.

      • lordfrikk says:

        Yeah, that was a major problem with Just Cause 2 for me. The game had stuff that looked like it could be fun and was fun when you were allowed to enjoy it but the game was quick to restrict you and remind you that it doesn’t want to you to have too much fun… such a shame, too, because the game world is absolutely huge and gorgeous.

  5. analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

    You have been playing with wor lass judging by the pictures, you cad!!

  6. Jesus_Phish says:

    Wondering if anyone with a review copy has managed to try co-op and does it run well? SR3 could be a bit janky in co-op, hoping they fixed that up.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I’m particularly interested in if they’ve sync’d up the Boss quips and car radios.

      Singing along badly is a singleplayer-only experience in 3, even with Skype/Mumble/Teamspeak/whatever. ;_;

  7. Premium User Badge

    Keymonk says:

    Also worth noting is that Volition and the Saints Row modding scene are working together to create modding tools for the games – as I recall, they’re actually working on a full SDK for 2, 3 and 4, which should, in the long run, make the game even more worth the money.

  8. TheDreamlord says:

    How does it run on PC? SR3 for me was a mess with crashes, stuttering and generally crap performance. Is there significant improvement on this?

  9. Drake Sigar says:

    Now to find it for a reasonable price.

    • Schiraman says:

      Yeah, that’d be nice. Not buying this if it means paying more on PC than it costs on the console.

      So far it looks like the PC version is Steam-only, and taking advantage of that monopoly to charge over the odds. Frankly this strikes me as a worrying development and I’m surprised RPS hasn’t commented on it.

      • Kolbex says:

        Uh, the console version looks to be $60 as usual, and the Steam version is $50, so I’m not sure what you mean.

        • Fluka says:

          What it means is Go ‘Muurrica!

        • Schiraman says:

          I’m talking about UK pricing.

          The console versions here are £30 on Amazon, and the only place I can find the PC version is on Steam for £40 (or £36 if you pre-order and own SR3).

          • Premium User Badge

            strangeloup says:

            Yeah, I was frankly puzzled by that myself. I’m wondering if I shouldn’t save myself some money and get the console version; even with the 10% for owning SR3 the price is over the odds.

          • lordcooper says:

            Buy it for 33-50% off at Christmas?

    • Premium User Badge

      Colonel J says:

      A consumer perk of the stricken THQ’s recent games was you could expect the price to slump to 50% discount or more a month after release (hello Darksiders 2). Deep Silver I dunno, suspect they may milk full price a while longer so yes it might be have to be wait until the Christmas sales for me.

      • Premium User Badge

        welverin says:

        Dead Island Riptide has been as low $20 recently and that came out not too long ago.

    • nrvsNRG says:

      they could have garnered so much good-will, if they had charged an expansion freindly price of £25.

    • Stitch says:

      or how about getting it for free?! You might get lucky getting a free

  10. marbled says:

    Here we go, another grumpy old man review from John…. ;-)

    Seriously though, this sounds like exactly what I was hoping for from the sequel to a game that let me fight Mexican wrestlers with a Chainsaw and recruit Burt Reynolds as a companion. Very excited to get this, though I’ll wait for the crazy launch price to drop.

  11. mwoody says:

    So in Co-op – the ONLY way to play an SR game – which one is president? Or does it do that weird “you’re both player one in cutscenes” thing?

  12. I Got Pineapples says:

    I’m really not sure about this.

    I really liked Saints Row 2, which was probably the best GTA game alongside Gay Tony and San Andreas., but Saints Row 3 was so aggressively wacky and ‘random’ with so little actual game behind it that it kinda put me off the series.

    It tended to take a cute bit from 2, like the radio sing along, and GRIND IT IN OUR FACES WHILE SCREAMING ABOUT HOW HILARIOUS IT IS in a way that felt carefully calculated to appeal to the sort of people who communicate through hilarious cat memes and assume the word penguin is a punchline.

    In 2 it was fun to go to the funeral in the Hot Dog outfit. In 3 there would be a mission, which would become a minigame, where you’d dress up in a Hot Dog outfit and crash a succession of funerals. And then there’d be a bit where they’d go ‘Aren’t we wacky, crashing all these funerals in a hot dog outfit!’

    Then Ironic Yakity Sax.

    It was kind of like a carnival cruise director of a game, constantly trying to convince you that you’re having ‘fun’.

    I’m also curious to see how the confrontation between vaguely defined Stoner Girl Shaundi and Shaundi who has no personality at all is going to go.

    Not that it was a terrible game, but it was so awkwardly, painfully needy that it made me a little sad.

    On the other hand…superhero rampage. Which is tempting.

    • JarinArenos says:

      With the mention of the disjointed and just-flat-missing story segments, I’m expecting much more of SR3 than SR2. Haven’t seen anything yet to convince me not to just give up on this series. If I want proper mayhem, I’ll go back and play Just Cause 2. SR2 hooked me because it actually had heart behind the crazy. Then apparently they locked the writers and director of that game in an icebox somewhere…

      • Premium User Badge

        Screwie says:

        Actually (sadly) Volition were told by corporate to remove specific dramatic scenes from SR3 for being “too dark”. This is despite the drama working so brilliantly in SR2, and why things like Johnny Gat’s end in SR3 were so crummy. More info on IdolNinja’s blog.

        • Xocrates says:

          For what it’s worth, the main reason I hated SR2 (and never finished it) was specifically because the game couldn’t decide whether to be serious and dark or fun and silly.

          That SR3 was much more consistent is why I loved it quite very much.

          • mwoody says:

            Hunh, different strokes etc. I guess. For what it’s worth, I agree with those above: I loved SR2 because YOU were the crazy. In SR3 everything is crazy, and they’ve continued in that direction for 4.

            It’s sad, really: I applauded Volition for SR2 because it came out at the same time as GTAIV, and it seemed to remember what was great about San Andreas while Rockstar moved in another direction. Now Volition are headed in another direction, and… well, maybe on a cosmic level, this is some weird karmic confirmation that GTAV might actually be a return to form.

        • malkav11 says:

          I didn’t even realize Gat was supposed to have been killed until I got to the mission where the Saints held a funeral for him and I was like “wait, what?”.

          I can kinda understand corporate getting leery, though. The dark bits in SR2 were really goddamn dark. I appreciated that, but it was kinda tonally odd.

    • kingkongfive says:

      This nails it for me. This is exactly why SR3 was such a let-down for me and why I probably won’t bother with the fourth.

  13. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    YES! This is exactly what I was hoping for!

  14. Premium User Badge

    basilisk says:

    I was almost sold on the game before, but I’m still so very happy to hear this. Screw principles, time to preorder this.

  15. deadly.by.design says:

    But will this finally make Volition enough money to make Freespace 3?

  16. tellrov says:

    SR3 seemed incredibly tryhard to me. Somehow 4 being even more crazy seems less of a problem, maybe because they’re not even hiding it. But I still can’t decide if they’re genuine or ironic or what.

    Also did Deep Silver ever get back to RPS? I can’t remember the last time we got an update on that.

  17. SuicideKing says:

    the writing is absolutely stunning, with stellar voice acting to match. There’s barely a wasted line, conversations packed with humour, pathos, and surprising earnestness. The timing is always exquisite, the animations matching the delivery, such that an eye-roll can deliver a punchline.

    …which is another reason why i want to see FreeSpace 3. Which i’ll never, i know.

    • Wedge says:

      I’m curious as to how this can be the same people that did Red Faction, as RF:A has one of the most cringe inducing, painful, cliche and plot hole ridden messes of a “story” I’ve ever been through.

      • SuicideKing says:

        Lol yeah from what i’ve heard their in-between games were mediocre.

        The only [V] games i’ve played are FreeSpace games, so i know they can be really good if they want to.

  18. S Jay says:

    SR3 also had a not so great ending, I believe. Just keeping up with tradition: maybe it is so crazy that by the end devs are tired and just want it to end it.

    • Teovald says:

      I replayed SR3 recently (to prepare myself for SR4 ^^ ) and I am starting to suspect that it has been rewritten very late in the development.
      First, in the early scripts, Shaundi was supposed to defect from the Saints and join the STAG. Her discontentment with Johnny’s death and the Saints is something that is present in the whole story of SR3 but does not lead anywhere in the final game.
      Also, the mars mission that concludes the game for one ending is just horribly bad very very far from any other mission in the game. It smells like something they did not have the time to correct.
      Not to mention that the final dilemna does not make a lot of sense. You have already defeated Killbane and took his mask, why would you let your friends die just in order to kill him to ? He is already as good as dead. And why would saving your friends make your revert into a corporate whore ?
      I hope that the ending of SR4 is better than this. This is the last game with the original Saints Row crew and I am hoping for a satisfying conclusion.

      • Sian says:

        The game playing “Holding Out For A Hero” helped in making the decision a very easy one, too. ‘Twas inspirational, though, and I didn’t think I’d ever say that about a Bonnie Tyler song.

        • Teovald says:

          That & ‘You’re the best’ during the MurderBrawl XXXI match were surprisingly good choices. Not to mention the protagonist & Pierce (horribly) singing along What I Got.

  19. noodlecake says:

    “After the fantastic Saints Row: The Third, the question from everyone went: how can Volition top this?”

    Not really. The question from me is “Can Volition actually make games that don’t have really shallow dated gameplay cunningly disguised by adding tons of even more shallow mini games and held together with a horrendously embarrassing script and story.”

    and the more important question “are we getting GTA V any time soon?”

    • noodlecake says:

      Although I do actually quite like the look of this. I liked the look of SR3 until I played it and realised it was as terrible as SRII and SR and they hadn’t really improved it at all. I think I forced myself to play for about two and a half hours because I thought it might pick up and it really didn’t.

    • jonahcutter says:

      “really shallow dated gameplay cunningly disguised by adding tons of even more shallow mini games and held together with a horrendously embarrassing script and story.”

      Hmm…

      That pretty much sums up my reaction to GTA 4, and why I’ve put GTA 5 onto “wait for sale” status. Who’s up for some bowling? Darts anyone? How about some internet surfing?

      GTA 4′s script and story speak (poorly) for themselves.

      • Ataru Moroboshi says:

        That pretty much sums up my experience with Saints Row 2, and why I didn’t play SR3 after making in about an hour or two in.

        Why should I want to be interested in a game where I want to shoot almost every supporting character in the face and feed them into a woodchipper? Especially the autotune vocoder pimp.

        I’ll stick with the leagues superior Prototype, until this game is on sale for 75% off on the next Steam Sale.

  20. ansdor says:

    haha, first the review tells you that the game has “absolutely equal-opportunity offensiveness. This is a game where women are as strong as men, not under their ultimate authority, and give as good as they get.”

    then, one paragraph later, it praises a scene where a girl punches a guy (or another girl, I presume the scene plays out the same way if your character is a woman) and then proceeds to have sex with him/her

    but I don’t think there is a scene in this game in which a girl (or the PC) asks a guy a for sex, he punches her in the face and then jumps on her. Just imagine how video game journalism in general would react to that. So… is that really equal opportunity offensiveness?

    • Drake Sigar says:

      Context is a wonderful thing.

    • PopeRatzo says:

      If it doesn’t start out equal, then turnabout is not fair play.

      I’m kind of surprised that this has to be explained to you.

      • Premium User Badge

        RedViv says:

        It has to be explained to EVERYBODY pulling this card, and it’s getting tiresome.

        • ansdor says:

          forgive me, I had forgotten that up until 2001 it was perfectly legal and even encouraged by society to punch a woman in the face and then have sex with her. I’m getting old, I tell ya

          • The Random One says:

            It is perfectly fine to punch a woman and have sex with her if the two of you have agreed beforehand such things can happen. Consent is very important when you’re into BSDM (which Kinzie is).

        • SuicideKing says:

          Yes, it is getting extremely tiring.

    • Milky1985 says:

      I kinda agree on what would be the presses overreaction if it was a guy doing that (since the gaming press on a whole recently seems to be a lot more lynchy than a while ago)

      But if you follow saints row 3 that’s actually quite in keeping with her character, she is into some…. interesting stuff, and her safe word is Tea Cup is if remember correctly :p

      • ansdor says:

        my complaint is not about the scene in the game, I’m perfectly fine with that, the problem is how the press reacts to such stuff.

    • John Walker says:

      You are so astonishingly tedious that the RPS Tediometer just fell off its own mounting out of utter boredom.

      • Gamboni says:

        Hey now, there’s an audience here (myself included) who aren’t very deeply familiar with the issue at all, or the common arguments made by either side. For someone who cares about it so deeply, you sure don’t seem to be very interested in affecting peoples’ thoughts on it. What I’m left with here is someone making a seemingly rational argument and you brushing them off with something entirely irrational.

        • Premium User Badge

          Lamb Chop says:

          generations of discrimination are woven into our social fabric and latent biases make it incredibly important not to consider actions in a vacuum. Man punching woman and woman punching man are incredibly different acts because of their socio-cultural context. Only someone who has gotten the better side of historical power relationships has the luxury of being able to abstract from that history and pretend it doesn’t matter. That’s what is generally meant when people talk about privilege, which admittedly, has become a loaded term.

        • Lusketrollet says:

          Hey now, there’s an audience here (myself included) who aren’t very deeply familiar with the issue at all, or the common arguments made by either side. For someone who cares about it so deeply, you sure don’t seem to be very interested in affecting peoples’ thoughts on it. What I’m left with here is someone making a seemingly rational argument and you brushing them off with something entirely irrational.

          ^ This. Care to at least try to make an actual counter-argument, Walker?

        • SuicideKing says:

          Probably because a lot of us, including John, have repeated ourselves time and time again…and then we’re asked the same questions, with the same excuses, the same logic and reasoning thrown at us…it gets tiring.

          • Gamboni says:

            In that case it would seem prudent to not respond at all. That way you at least don’t actively make your side seem like antagonists to spectators who are open-minded but more or less ignorant on the finer points of the issue.

          • Phendron says:

            It’s a combination of fatigue and being British that gets John in a bad way.

          • nindustrial says:

            @suicide
            Exactly it.

      • Grover says:

        If, as he seems to indicate in the comments of multiple articles, every time John Walker sees any sort of critical comment it’s always an intolerable bore then his lower jaw must be frozen in a yawn by now. Poor fellow. I bet you’re yawning right now. :)

    • -funkstar- says:

      MISOGYNYFACE

      (also, what LambChop said.)

    • TsunamiWombat says:

      I hate the stupid social justice drum reddit bongo shit that’s mucked up RPS as much as the next guy but even I don’t see the issue here. Yes, a woman punches you and then you have dirty sex. …So? How is that supposed to be Misogyny? The fact it’s ok for a woman to punch you but if a man punched a woman this would be BADBADBAD? I guess that’s true but that’s a real stretch to the context, feels like you’re looking for excuses to start an argument.

  21. radian says:

    What if you’d never played an entry the series and came to it fresh ?

    • PopeRatzo says:

      Then go get Saint’s Row The Third and start right now. If you stay home from work you’ll be done with the game in time for the release of the new game.

      I never played Saint’s Row 2, and I had no problem jumping into Saint’s Row 3. The plot isn’t all that hard to follow.

      • Keyrock says:

        Not to mention that the plot is meaningless. It’s all just an excuse to let you do crazy ****. I like the fact that Volition remember that this is a video game, it doesn’t need to be deep or thought provoking, it just needs to be fun.

        • mouton says:

          It isn’t meaningless, it simply knows what it is and what it wants.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Worked for me, although you will probably end up not particularly liking or caring about Shaundi, whereas people who’ve played 2 generally seem to and got angry at how she was written in 3.

    • Dominic White says:

      You’d be missing out on a lot. This ties together the story from 2 & 3 and brings all those character arcs to a close.

    • Teovald says:

      Don’t do this ! There is too much insanity in that game. Your brain will not be able to take it and will fry!
      I only played to SR2 long after SR3, it is not too much of an issue. There are some subtle references to the events of SR2 in SR3; but nothing too central.
      SR4 seems to directly continue the SR3 storyline, so you may want to start there.
      Since SR 1 is a console exclusivity, starting with this one might be difficult (I have not played it yet). Reading its storyline on wikia helped explain some minor plot points though.

    • tungstenHead says:

      The entire series is fantastic and very worthwhile playing. I’d recommend playing them in order, because of the way the series escalates, but you’re not going to go far wrong playing a Saint’s Row game. SR2 is a bit clunky (get The Gentlemen of the Row mod if you’re having stutters when moving around the city — it’s supposed to have a fix for that) so if you find it a bit frustrating, go ahead and skip to The Third. The controls and progression systems are smoothed out a lot.

    • John Walker says:

      You’ll have a huge amount of fun, while being bewildered what everyone’s going on about in the game.

      Get SR3 too. It’s wonderful.

  22. Stevostin says:

    “Come the end of the game and I’ve played for 24 hours, finishing it at 91%.”

    Wow, that’s quite short then for an open world game.

  23. PopeRatzo says:

    You had me at “Biz Markie”.

    • Fumarole says:

      Wasn’t the Biz Markie singalong bit in SR3, or was that another song? There was definitely a moment matching what John described above in SR3, in any case.

  24. Banana_Republic says:

    91% completion in 24hrs of gameplay, certainly doesn’t make it sound like there’s that much to do, though those 24hrs do sound like an absolute hoot. But for games that use activities like collectibles and achievements to provide an expanded metagame, that’s NOT a whole lot of expansion. I mean, I played the holy hell out of GTA:SA and I’m not sure I ever got over 90%.

    24hrs would be a decent time frame for the core of a game, but not for one supposedly packed with optional activities. Or maybe I’m still living in the 90s when most games were designed to last more than a couple of sittings.

    • Teovald says:

      I recently replayed SR3 and I am at 100 %. However, I have not done everything in the game. Just all the minigames, main missions, the assassinations, vehicle thefts & the collectibles. I don’t think everything counts in there and I have not finished all the challenges and did not find all the stunt locations.
      So there could be a dozen hours more to do everything in SR4.
      SR3 had an huge issue when you arrive at that point : the last upgrades that you can buy make you almost invincible (no domages from bullets, fire, or fall). It is fun for 10 minutes, especially since you can jump from a plane without dying. But after that, the whole game is suddenly very boring.

    • John Walker says:

      You’re aware the average single-player game lasts 6 to 8 hours, right?

      Weep.

      • Wulfram says:

        Not the average single player game I’ll buy, outside of absurd steam sales.

      • Vinraith says:

        I don’t know how you’d even generate an average like that, considering all the single player games that offer essentially limitless playtime. I suppose if you very strictly limit genre to “action games with a plot” that might be true.

    • lomaxgnome says:

      Yeah, I’m reading everywhere about these same game length numbers (24-25 hours) and they are definitely disappointing. I have 66 hours in Saints Row 2 and 51 hours in Saints Row 3, and I didn’t 100% either one of them (though Saints Row 3 was close). Granted, I’m sure most of these reviewers don’t spend a ton of time customizing outfits and the like, but still, I had been seriously considering a pre-purchase but this definitely has me waiting now for a sale.

      Not saying the game doesn’t have value at that time point, and I certainly appreciate shorter games that I can finish, but this particular series has always given me a lot of content, and it’s very disappointing to see it shrink down so much. Hopefully the inevitable DLC will add a lot of worthwhile stuff and not just vehicle skins.

      • Premium User Badge

        FriendlyFire says:

        Um, most reviews also pitched SR3 at around 25 hours. That you’ve played double that implies that you’ll also play double of the alleged SR4 play time. I’d say 50 hours on SR3 is an unusually long play time.

  25. Megakoresh says:

    Like I said before:
    “This is not worth 50 bucks. No bloody way. I’d pick it up at 40, at 30 without question, at 20 I’d pre-order it, but charging full price for what is essentially an “expandalone”, even if a very well done one, is just a rip-off, I will have to wait for a discount.”

  26. Bing says:

    Saint’s Row V will be a spray shit on pedestrians simulator. And the old fans will love it.

  27. Lagwolf says:

    Woah they did a Blood Dragon restyle to SR3 & decided to charge $50 instead of $15. Why no mention of the price?

    • Premium User Badge

      darkChozo says:

      Blood Dragon was a much, much smaller game than FC3. It had like 5 missions to FC3′s way too many, fewer outposts, fewer weapons, and a number of stripped-out mechanics. It cost 15 dollars because of the limited scope, not because it used the same engine and a number of the same assets.

      From the sound of things, this is a full game, with significant updates to mechanics and lots of new content. It’s not really comparable.

      • Premium User Badge

        FriendlyFire says:

        I like how you just can’t win with people. Focus on graphics and you’re criticized for being superficial and that the game would’ve been so much better if you diverted all the time spent on graphics on gameplay instead (like things work that way…). Focus on gameplay and story, maximizing asset reuse and keeping the engine similar, and you’re accused of ripping people off because well it looks similar!

        Good grief.

  28. Bing says:

    I love how he’s killed more humans than aliens!

  29. Keyrock says:

    I have to wait 6 more days for this… Aargh!

  30. botonjim says:

    Funny how Mossmouth failing to support out of the box 2560×1440 resolution in Spelunky is “lazy” but Volition passing a total conversion mod of their latest blockbuster for a full on 49.99 € sequel is, on the whole, totally ok.

  31. sinister agent says:

    Small objection: the first one wasn’t a pathetic rip-off of GTA. It was a GTA clone that was actually fun, and added lots of innovations that GTA4 copied (which is fine – you can’t really complain about that when your entire game is based on GTA), but the latter completely forgot to be fun. Sure, it was buggy and sometimes frustrating, but to make out it was some z-list knock-off is doing it a disservice.

  32. airtekh says:

    I don’t get Saint’s Row.

    I’ve played a few hours of 2 and 3, and they were ok I suppose, but I really can’t work up the same enthusiasm JW has for the series.

    The strange thing is that I quite like the Grand Theft Auto games, and have played most of them to completion. I think it might be Saint’s Row’s attempts at wackiness are a bit too extreme for my tastes.

    • Teovald says:

      On all articles talking about these games, you always have some ramblings about how GTAIV/San Andreas/SR2/SR3/Prototype are “way better of this shit because reasons”.
      It seems that these free roaming games are just hugely divisive, so maybe SR is just not for you.
      I think this sentiment is also fueled by the shitty journalist trope (I am not referring to RPS) of opposing things. Headlines like “is SR4 the GTA5 killer ?” tend to infuriate fanboys.

      • Phendron says:

        Kotaku said DOTA was better than LoL. The gall, man! THE GALL

        • Premium User Badge

          strangeloup says:

          Saints Row MOBA confirmed.

          • Premium User Badge

            Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

            One side is 3rd Street Saints, the other side is the Syndicate. The creeps are gang members, some with fists and baseball bats. Others carry pistols. Destroy the Hangouts located in each Gang’s Hood to provide your own gang members with additional weapons like “Penetrator”-brand bats, Dubstep Guns, laser rifles, and Predator drone briefcases.

            On the street corners stand robot hookers affiliated to one of the two gangs, extremely tough despite their revealing attire, and they fire bazookas at the enemy when they stray too close.

            Dotted around the map out of the main streets are neutral police officers who normally turn a blind eye to the gang warfare going on, but they can be taken on by players who want to level up out of the streets. Take on the STAG Commander to earn buffs!

            “Benjamins” can be earned by last-hitting gang members, killing police, and through slow natural accumulation. You can purchase additional “bling”, from pimped guns to body armour, upgrades to your weapons, new hats, new hairstyles, new beards, and new outfits, and also tanks and fighter jets with your Benjamins.

            You level up by accumulating Respect from being seen at street brawls and performing impressive feats of badassness like killing other gangers. Higher levels of Respect allow you to call on your inner badass to perform ever more insane moves, like Shaundi’s powers based around kicks to the balls, Johnny Gat’s specialty of gunning down wave after wave of cops, and Pierce… Fuck Pierce; he’s an asshole.

            Destroy your opponent’s Crib, located deep within his Hood, to win!

          • Premium User Badge

            ffordesoon says:

            Well, you just designed the Saints Row MOBA. Well done.

          • tormos says:

            This is also a context in which Denying syncs perfectly with the fiction. Shooting your own gang for XP is in character for the boss.

  33. Premium User Badge

    phuzz says:

    My favourite moment from SR3 was the moment both I and my character shouted out in unison, “BURT FUCKING RENOLDS?!?!”.
    Actually, I might have been the bit when I surfed a tank as it fell out of a plane.
    Nah, maybe it was it played “I need a Hero” during one of the missions.

    Whatever, it wasn’t the deepest or most innovative of games, but it did know exactly how to be fun, hopefully SR4 will be the same.

  34. Fluka says:

    So John, did you feed the hungry or fuck cancer? And you did you rooomaaaaance?

    I think this game is tapping into the usually deeply hidden sector my brain which also enjoyed Pacific Rim. This is the only AAA title this year that I’ve actually been excited to play… It just looks so damn fun!

  35. The Godzilla Hunter says:

    For some reason the premises of these sort of games always make me feel somewhat uncomfortable. This probably applies more to GTA, but the whole idea of glorifying gangs, killing lots of innocents etc. has never sat well with me. Yes, I know that dub-step guns and what have you are most definitely fictional, and I can tell the difference between real life and fiction – I am not afraid of GTA causes people to murder each other, but I still don’t like the undertones.

    So I’m wondering: do the more recent entries in the Saints Row series move far enough away from that via refuge in audacity, or does it still have the underlying message of “This stuff is cool in real life, and not in any way horrific and tragic”.

    • Fluka says:

      In this case, from what I understand, a lot of the crazier violence is ameliorated by the fact that it takes place inside a computer simulation? So you’re mostly causing simulated outrageous violence. (I usually have the same problem with GTA in terms of the random callous deaths.)

      • Convolvulus says:

        In what video games do you cause violence that isn’t simulated?

        • CMaster says:

          That arcade cab where you have to punch the pad?

        • Fluka says:

          We’re playing a character in a story. Within the reality of the videogame, you’re committing acts of violence. The sense of agency within a narrative is what gives games like Spec Ops: The Line their power, and what causes many people to feel bad about choosing the “evil” option in RPGs. Having the violence be an extra level of “fake” gets rid of some of the whiplash people feel about killing even fake humans within a (completely outrageous) story.

      • DrollRemark says:

        It’s OK guys! You’re only killing people in a computer simulation within your computer simulation! NO MORAL QUANDARY FOR YOU!

    • Vinraith says:

      Not only is Saints Row so completely removed from reality as to essentially mitigate this concern, SR3 actually manages a fairly extended parody riff on the absurdity of popularized gang culture and the cult of celebrity surrounding it.

    • JonathanStrange says:

      I agree with you entirely. I’m so sick of violent games where I play some psychopath that murders their way past dozens if not hundreds of otherwise innocent people. It especially bugged the hell out of me in games like Bioshock Infinite and Tomb Raider recently because they’re clearly trying soooo hard to be sincere and tell some sort of a story, yet here I am shooting and murdering people in the face…

      HOWEVER while I can’t speak for Saints Row 4 obviously, it 3 it’s just so wonderfully over-the-top and ridiculous it’s impossible to take seriously. The game makes it clear this isn’t earth, it’s some crazed alternate dimension where hundreds of swat rush eagerly to their inevitable deaths because “AW Man, it’s the Saints!” and then ask you for your autograph moments before opening fire.

      It’s just so cartoonish and silly it’s impossible for me to be bothered by it!

    • Wulfram says:

      There were a couple of occasions where the refuge in audacity didn’t work for me, in SR3. But generally, yeah, it’s sufficiently silly to get away with it. And SR4 seems sillier

      I quickly headcanoned that hey, everyone probably has access to the hospital respawning like the Boss does. Unless you’re killed in a cutscene, anyway.

    • Premium User Badge

      ffordesoon says:

      Refuge in audacity, more or less. Although the other thing about it is that Saints Row’s world – especially SR3′s – is so unabashedly insane that you feel like the Saints are the Good Guys, if only by default.

  36. Premium User Badge

    strangeloup says:

    For those looking for a cheaper copy of it, you can get it on Nuuvem for ~£22 if you have a Paypal account (the site is in Portuguese, I think, but it’s not too hard to figure out — Google Translate handles it fine if you have problems), or you can get it from GMG for about £32 if you apply the code GMG20-4B9NY-L4FEN.

    Unrestricted, worldwide steam keys in both cases, but they won’t be sent out until the 28th.

    • Premium User Badge

      Cyphran says:

      Thanks strangeloup that code worked for me even in the US store. Appreciated.

  37. cdx00 says:

    I /loved/ reading this review and now, I’m impatiently awaiting the 20th. Thanks, John. :(

  38. TsunamiWombat says:

    Here’s hoping they don’t release a million billion DLC’s this time…

    • MSJ says:

      Do you really need all of them? Most are cosmetic changes or even early unlocks for stuff you get just playing normally. The only DLCs of note were probably the story ones (of which there were 3 or 4) and the one that gives you the Collector’s edition stuff.

  39. Bob says:

    Oh this is great news. I was always going to buy IV after laughing so much playing the previous iteration.

    The only downside is not being financial enough for a week or two after release to grab it.

  40. Premium User Badge

    Rufust Firefly says:

    I should probably play Saint’s Row 3, but I’m too busy punching things, singing karaoke, and eating pork buns in Sleeping Dogs. That game is easily the most fun I’ve had in ages.

    Wei Shen would choose to feed the hungry. With his fists.

  41. Jerakal says:

    A John Walker article that doesn’t make me want to choke the life out of him!
    Delightful!

  42. RProxyOnly says:

    “I think I can sell Saints Row IV to you in one anecdote:”

    I’ve suspected that was your professions job for a while now, John. Given up all the pretense of so called ‘journalism’ and reverted to calling a spade a shovel?

    Of course that’s all you, and your colleagues here and elsewhere, have ever been, salesmen. Here to sell us games you can talk about to legitimise your existence.

    It certainly explains the lack of consumer support in the face of industry bullshit, oh a few of you will point out the occasional game that simply shouldn’t have been released in the state it was in , but in general you all seem more than satisfied to fall for the company line and to release the news they want released, how they want it released regardless of the facts you know or we suspect.

    I mean really.. you expect ALL of us to fall for crap hype stories about being mislead by publishing houses and ‘just having’ to show resultant outrage.

    So yeah, salesmen.

    • MSJ says:

      Pee pee doo doo you are bad journalist fuh fuh fuh walla walla bing bang.

  43. ibebyi says:

    holy shit a first person camera mod for this would be FANTASTIC.

  44. NetDemon says:

    I must comment on this article. First let me say great article. The game is great and some what as fun as saints row 3. I will also point out that most of the ideas in this game was taken from movies and other games. They basically took all these other ideas that has been done in other games and movies and added them all together. I am not knocking the game at all nor am I saying the game is a rip off or even sucks. The game is fun and a great game at that. I do however wish they would have put their own ideas in the game instead of others.