The Third Street Saints are back and bigger than ever in Saints Row 4. Five years have passed since the crew’s last adventure took them rampaging through the streets fighting a war against rival gangs and even the military. They are no longer just running Steelport, however. Now the leader of the infamous purple-themed gang is the President of the United States. Let’s back it up a bit, though. The upgrade to the new digs (AKA the White House) happened when our heroic gang banger went all Seal Team Six on a major terrorist group and saved the US from a massive nuclear missile. In typical Saints fashion, things escalated fairly quickly and the leader of the Saints found himself (or herself) riding the nuke in a final act of self-sacrifice in what seemed like a one-way trip played to the tune of Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing. Against all odds, the militarized Saint not only saved countless lives, but also happened to rocket straight through the roof and into the Oval Office. Now that’s lucky.
Sadly, the Saints were better gangsters than world leaders. There’s little time to deal with falling approval numbers since an alien invasion orchestrated by their leader Zinyak makes an explosive entrance and begins kidnapping all of your long-time friends and allies, which you will immediately recognize from past entries. This is where the game really begins, with you being thrown into a Matrix-style Steelport simulation.
Volition has turned up the insanity in Saints Row 4 to 11. Has the new level of craziness the proper next step for the series or have the Saints strayed too far from their roots? Read on to find out what’s HOT and what’s NOT in our review of Saints Row 4.
Rescue/Loyalty Missions Stand Above the Rest
Saints Row 4 offers up a consistent flow of varied story missions — the exception here being when the game wastes a story mission to introduce a side activity — that succeed in getting you pumped up. But no mission set better grabs the player and throws out punchline after punchline like the Rescue and Loyalty missions available for each homie. You see, since everyone was abducted it’s up to you to save them from their personal, virtual hells. Kinzie and Kieth Richard’s early rescue of the Boss has given you access to an alien vessel in the real world where you can interact with crew mates and plug back into the simulation, granting the ability to switch between both realities whenever you wish. As you free your friends they begin to fill up different areas of the ship. If you’ve ever played Mass Effect, you’ll know exactly how Volition has set up this aspect of the game. You can chat with your homies and even romance them. Romance isn’t as tough as other games with branching dialogue and reputation systems. It’s as simple as, “Hey Kinzie, wanna f*ck?”
That’s not to say that you can’t “build” a stronger relationship with your crew outside of mindless sex. Each character that joins the fight against the aliens known as Zin must first be rescued from their digital torment, resulting in levels that heavily parody other titles. For example, one mission sees you tactically working through a compound shooting out lights and hiding in cardboard boxes while alerted enemies have “WTF” appear above their heads instead of an exclamation point. Another level provided one of the greatest homages to Streets of Rage that I have ever seen. This is what you should expect from Rescue missions.
Now once these people are rescued, you’ll open up the opportunity for Loyalty missions. Loyalty missions move away from parodies and focus more on highlighting past events from the Saints Row series. You’ll see plenty of old faces and hear numerous references to the gang’s older days, meaning that long-time fans will get the most out of this experience as they’ll be happy to reminisce about the actions they directly took part in so many years ago. Furthermore, the completion of these quests provide access to Super Homie versions of each Saint, meaning you can call upon a group of superhero gangsters to fight beside you.
I’m sure you’re not going into Saints Row 4 just for the fond memories. The super powers are probably being fairly persuasive. The Saints Row: The Third DLC gave us a glimpse at some powerful abilities, but unfortunately we were unable to bring them back to the main game. Saints Row 4 gives us our fix by crafting this installment entirely around the idea of having super powers. These powers range from super sprint to telekinesis to firing fireballs from your fingertips. Progressing through the main story will gradually introduce the Boss to new abilities, all of which can be upgraded. To enhance these skills, you’ll need to scour Steelport for Clusters (there are over 1,000 to collect) and use them as skill points. It’s very similar to hunting orbs in Crackdown and, just like the aforementioned game, you’ll find yourself killing hours jumping from one Cluster to the next as you catch the blue glow on a neighboring building.
You start off the game as a demi-god with the ability to sprint faster than cars, jump a few stories and kill everything with your fists. And that’s just the beginning. By the end of the game you’re basically Superman Prime. No force out there can touch you (the Zin’s own powered-up beasts are no match); no bullet can penetrate your armor-like skin; you shrug off explosions and fire without flinching; skyscrapers are easily leaped over. Saints Row 4 is a gang member’s journey to immortality. Combine this with the new weapon additions, such as the Dubstep Gun and the Abduction Gun, and it’s seriously unfair that the Zin are forced to fight you.
The odds only further stack in your favor when you bring a second player in via co-op, a feature that Saints Row has made commonplace now. Placing two players into the mix is an extremely gratifying experience, taking a game you didn’t think could get crazier and managing to make it more insane. Whether you’re double-teaming waves of Genkis or telekinetically tossing objects at each other, you’re sure to have an unforgettable time with your friend.
If there’s one thing Saints Row has always done well, it’s comedy. Saints Row 4 is all about making you laugh and it definitely succeeds in doing so. The Boss is more crass and juvenile than ever. Along with his one-liners, the back and forth between Saints members typically results in a chuckle at the least. Having decided I wanted Nolan North to voice the leader this time around instead of Male Voice 1, I laughed at the moments where Nolan randomly became self-aware — maybe he was still used to voicing Deadpool when Volition had him record his lines — and mentioned himself by name. The quirky dialogue paired with the even odder situations the Saints find themselves in make for one wild ride that will have you laughing out loud.