We've played through both the US and AU versions of the game. Read on for all the info.
By Josh Whittington on September 17, 2013 at 11:52 am
Every now and then you play a game that reminds you why you’re so invested in video games.
Saints Row 4 is one of those games. It’s a slightly clumsy butler — sure, it may occasionally spill a drink or put your clothes in the wrong drawer, but it’s so determined to make you enjoy yourself, and makes your experience a pleasant one. It’s a game that sets out to give you a damn good time, and the sheer joy that it does bring prevents its flaws from having too much sway.
There’s been a lot of talk about Saints Row 4 appearing to be too much of a step up the stairs of insanity from previous instalments, or that it was just DLC disguised a as a full retail release (SR4 began life as a cancelled DLC for Saints Row The Third), but when playing the game these worries are unfounded.
The game world is mostly the same as that of SRTT, but is reworked with alien structures and oppressive pro-alien propaganda across the world. The time and resources saved from avoiding drastic changes to the world has allowed Volition to concentrate their efforts on the game’s other areas. It’s a fair trade-off, it means that we get a heap of new systems to play around with (the dubstep gun alone seems to have some really in-depth systems behind it, each song it plays has people and cars move to different rhythms), new enemy types, and a number of large levels used just for one or two missions.
The world may be similar, but there’s a heck of a lot of new content in the rest of the game.
The most prominent of those new elements is the superpowers. They add a lot to the game, giving you fun new ways to dispose of enemies, as well as letting you traverse virtual Steelport in totally different ways. The world feels hugely different when you’re able to easily access the whole playing space. You could easily spend hours just flying around or seeing the other ways your powers can interact with the game — leaping into the air towards an enemy UFO and freezing it to make it crash to the ground never gets old.
The game doesn’t try to hide how overpowered you are; in fact it constantly throws upgrades at you and will take your superpowers away from you in a few missions, but it does make the game really easy if you’re not playing on the highest difficulty. It doesn’t help that you can often unknowingly gain upgrades from side missions — one of the earliest ones gives you unlimited sprinting!
If you’re worried that superpowers dominate the game and leave your other options pointless, don’t be: you’ll need to use a combination of superpowers and weapons to defeat your enemies. When you upgrade your weapons some of them can even prove more useful than your powers!
“But what about vehicles,” you say. “Why drive when I can fly?” Well, to paraphrase the game’s constant Matrix references: “Because I choose to”. They’re certainly a viable option in most of the game, upgrades are cheaper and available sooner than in past instalments, and on the highest difficulty you’ll be really thankful for aerial vehicles allowing you to evade and fight at the same time. When you can drive a glowing neon monster truck while Vice President Keith David rides shotgun, how can you ignore the vehicles entirely?
The game’s over the top gameplay is accompanied by an equally crazy plot that — somehow — manages to be a surprisingly dark, character-driven one. It’s a tale of how the President of the United States was thrown into a virtual simulation by an alien empire and assembles a crew to fight them off, and features hilarious references to just about anything you could think of (mostly The Matrix and Mass Effect).
Yet even in this craziness there’s a lot of great moments where you really bond and form a connection with the other members of The Saints. Almost every character from past Saints Row games returns to play some role. The game’s antagonist, Zinyak, uses twisted versions of past events in the series to try and break the Saints’ spirit. This provides some interesting mission designs, and a chance to get into the heads of your homies. However, the game does suffer from some rushed pacing at the beginning- within about four missions you’ve stopped a terrorist plot, become President of the United States, fought an alien invasion and gotten superpowers.
Unfortunately, while SR4 is an incredibly fun game, it does lack a fair amount of polish. You get the occasional minor bug, such as bigger enemies getting stuck under small structures, or enemy ragdolls wigging out a bit, as well as bigger (but rare) bugs, like a couple of crashes to desktop. Then there’s faults on the presentation side of things. A couple of the game’s lines and interactions are designed for a male protagonist, so if you’re playing as a female one they don’t quite make sense, or refer to you as a male character.
There’s also the strange oversight by Volition that the game undoes its own great work in setting up an oppressive world where the Saints don’t exist — by leaving in some elements of SRTT, like Saints mascots and vehicles still hanging outside the stores the gang used to own, and cops yelling out lines referencing the Saints as celebrities.
One of the more glaring flaws of the game is actually in its customisation. That sounds odd since high levels of customisation is something the series is known for, but somehow the character creation system is more limited than SRTT. While some new clothing and other options are added in (like a self-referential Nolan North voice), some items from SRTT have been outright removed. The game still provides a lot of options when creating your characters, it’s just really jarring that for some reason the developers have made a conscious decision to remove options that are sometimes still even in the game’s code and can be accessed with mods.
As you probably already know, the Australian version of SR4 is a slightly edited one compared to the rest of the worlds. Having played through both versions extensively, it appears that the only differences between the two are what Deep Silver have claimed, so it’s good to see they were upfront about it.
The Australian version has Shaundi’s loyalty mission (yes, this game has loyalty missions) cut out of it, which is disappointing due to it offering a significant amount of character development, but all the rewards and links to the rest of the game that the mission offers are still present. Because of the altered content, the Australian version is incompatible with other versions, which is the biggest downside to it.
It’s not all bad though, as this version is totally mod-compatible (the game has full mod support on PC), which was a pre-release worry as edited versions of the past games in the series didn’t work with mods. So the differences aren’t huge, but when it’s so easy to get a Steam key for the US version there’s really no reason not to.
Saints Row 4 is an absolute blast to play from start to finish, with very few unenjoyable missions. From the very beginning of the game when you climb a nuke while Aerosmith’s “Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing” roars in the background, you know you’re in for a treat — and the game doesn’t let you down.
- Successfully balances over the top humour and dark moments
- Plenty of fanservice for fans of the series
- A great variety of tools to use in the open world
- Absolutely oozes fun
- Lacks polish
- The beginning of the game suffers from pacing issues
- You can quickly become too overpowered if not playing on Hardcore Mode
- Customisation options have bizarrely taken a step back from Saints Row The Third
Both of the links above are for the censored Australian version.
The reviewer purchased their own copy of the US version of the game at their own expense, and was provided a copy of the Australian version by the publisher.
Screenshots used in this review taken by the reviewer on their own machine.