What more can you do after leading a gang on a homicidal rampage against all the people that stood in the way of your position of power? I don’t know, maybe, save the United States from nuclear winter and become The President! The next logical step is to take on the problems of the U.S. and make the tough decisions that can affect millions of people. Well, that could have been what the game was about if aliens didn’t come down and ruin the fun.
The Zen army has captured the Saints and flung them into a digital world much like the movie “The Matrix”. Instead of squashing them like bugs, the leader of the alien army decides to play with his ant farm. The President (you) is trapped in a virtual representation of Steelport and the entire program is out to destroy him. Luckily, the technical genius Kenzie is alive and well outside of the program. With her help The President will find a way to fight back against the program and free his friends.
The concept of this title started as downloadable content for Saints Row the Third. For obvious reasons I will state later, it grew too big for its boots and became a thing of its own. Raucous comedy returns in abundance with parodies of other video games like Call of Duty, Mass Effect, and Metal Gear Solid. This whimsical take on The Matrix may have finally stolen the championship from Conker’s Bad Fur day.
With superpowers comes great responsibility or lack thereof. The essence of Saints Row stays the same by allowing you to steal cars and shoot guns, but the dynamics have shifted to a godlike level to make things fresh. In the Zen Matrix, The President is imbued with a bevy of special abilities. He can catapult across the sky like The Hulk, zip through the streets at high speeds, or toss people and vehicles through the sky with his mind. Players don’t spend cache (Saints Row’s form of money) to upgrade powers, that’s reserved for buying things like bonuses and gang upgrades.
Instead, The President will have to traverse the urban jungle to find data clusters that will increase his capabilities. My friend Matt says it reminds him of Crackdown, and it’s just as addicting to bound around the city collecting every juicy cluster. I spent two hours after I earned my new abilities just running around gathering data clusters in preparation for the next power increase.
The distraction was enough that I realized that I was only a few missions into the actual campaign, and this trend continued as I spotted new activities and side-missions. The content level for Saints Row IV tops anything that The Third brought to the table. While in the Zen Matrix, new mini-games like The Rift and Professor Genki’s M.O.M put the ridiculous new powers through their paces. Outside of the false world, the ship houses comrades in arms who have many tasks for The President to complete.
The wealth of challenges and side-missions offer cache, costumes, and even upgrades to powers. If you want a little downtime, you can talk to people on the ship and even proceed to have romantic relations with them. The content itself varies so much that you would think that Saints Row would suffer from “Jack of all Trades” syndrome. That’s not the case in the least, each mini-game is exceptionally well done. Once you’ve played Saint’s representation of Streets of Rage, you’ll be itching to play it for more than the nostalgia factor.
The main portion of the game is littered with high-speed escalation and devastating combat abilities. While down in The President’s simulation, there are super attacks that are useful in tandem with weapons. Weapons are still the main way to inflict damage on the aliens. Super powers are governed by a recharge meter and should only be used tactically. Let’s say you need a breather for a moment, you can release an ice blast to freeze your enemies and sprint through their bodies for maximum carnage and health pickups.
The powers cease to exist when playing in different simulations during the story missions. The President has to count on his trusty weapons and his driving skill to stay alive in a different mind. Luckily, these moments of being de-powered are filled with impressive alternative content. They range from taking down a ship full of enemies with a Mech, to reminiscing with old characters from previous games in the series. Yes, that means that Johnny Gat is back in action, and damn if it isn’t good to see back in action.
I’d say the worst part about Saints Row IV is the visuals. The engine is stretched a bit thin with all the happenings going on around the world. It looks like Saints Row the Third, but it’s a tiny bit uglier in my opinion. This iteration is a bit blurrier and suffers from heavy frame rate issues. The music selection for the radio channels is interesting, but it’s highly likely it’ll all start to blur together after about ten hours of game time. I didn’t mind shutting it off since one of the new voice choices is none other than Nolan North himself.
Saints Row has officially taken itself to a new level of greatness. The superpowers, movie references, and game parodies have turned this series about street hustlers into something infinitely more entertaining. Saints Row IV receives four stars out of five from Geek Citadel. This outlandish and self-aware comedy will keep you laughing until the end.