Friday, August 16, 2013

Games on the Ave: Gamespot Reviews Saints Row IV

Also available for PS3 & PC





After Saints Row: The Third, it was hard to imagine how this series of increasingly zany open-world crime games could possibly get any zanier. Rather than attempting to tackle that challenge head-on, Saints Row IV sidesteps it by being an almost completely different type of open-world game. Sure, the core of Saints Row is still there; there are still plenty of absurd weapons, costumes, and activities. But the way you interact with the world has changed. No longer are you an ordinary earthbound mortal. Saints Row IV turns you into a superhero capable of running up the sides of buildings and flinging people with your mind. This isn't a refined game or a challenging one, but it is a sometimes hilarious playground of a game that gives you plenty of fun abilities to use and plenty of opportunities to use them.How does the game explain your new capacity for doing things like leaping tall buildings in a single bound and zapping enemies with freeze blasts? It's simple. You saved the world from a terrorist threat and became the president of the United States. Then Earth was invaded by aliens, and the evil alien overlord had you placed in a Matrix-style computer simulation of a city where, much like Neo, you can acquire all manner of abilities that break the rules of the simulation.
The simulation in which you spend most of the game is a virtual re-creation of the city of Steelport, and the city's layout hasn't changed much since Saints Row: The Third, but the evil alien overlord, Zinyak, has remodeled a bit, and he likes to keep it gloomy. Because there's no day-night cycle during the course of the campaign and the whole city is shrouded in darkness, Steelport is a drab, monotonous setting. But it's much more attractive on the PC, where objects are sharp and defined well into the distance, than it is on consoles, where objects even a short distance away look muddy by comparison.
Saints Row IV mines its goofy premise for all it's worth. When "What Is Love" by Haddaway comes on as you're escaping from an alien spaceship, the juxtaposition of grim sci-fi visuals with '90s dance beats is so unexpected that it's delightful. And there's an infectious joy in the way your extremely customizable character, puckish rogue that he or she is, delights in it all, whether you've opted for one of the male voices, one of the female voices, or the aptly named Nolan North voice.
Given that this is a game in which you can run around naked shooting people with an Inflato-Ray, you might expect the humor throughout to be crass and juvenile. And, for the most part, it is, but not always in the ways you expect. The game's humor is unabashedly stupid, but it's smart about being stupid, working in references to Shakespeare, clarifications about the distinction between alliteration and assonance, and knocks at those silly people who don't know the difference between a robot and a mech suit. The banter among Saints is consistently sharp and will definitely have you laughing out loud on numerous occasions.
Very early on in Saints Row IV, you acquire the abilities to leap incredibly high and to sprint at superhuman speeds, and by collecting ubiquitous glowing blue clusters, you can enhance these abilities and the others you gradually unlock. Once you can sprint, you'll probably hardly ever use a vehicle again, since you can run faster than any car, which makes all of the car customization options carried over from earlier games feel a bit superfluous. But it's hard to lament the lack of emphasis on vehicles given the exuberance that can accompany leaping 15 stories into the air and gliding all the way across town.

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