Saints Row IV ReviewGuest_Jim_* - August 28, 2013
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Saints Row IV has a Dubstep Gun. That possibly captures the temperament of the game quite well, as you are empowered to do crazy stuff, because the developers had ideas and made them happen. You can even acquire a superpower that sets off a nuclear explosion, if you are feeling particularly destructive.
Many of the weapons are your standard video game weapons; hand guns, submachine guns, shotguns, and assault rifles. Visit a gun store, though, and you can change them into less standard weapons, such as a block gun, rubber band gun, and Kardak Lasershot with the customization options. For the default weapons there are multiple customizations, but the special weapons; including the Singularity Gun, Abduction Gun, and Inflato-Ray; the only options are to change their coloring and not their structure.
All of these weapons, though, can be upgraded at weapon stores, with the singular exception of the Energy Sword. The typical stats of damage, reload speed, and recoil reduction are almost universally present, but the weapons can also have unique stats, such as explosive rounds, lightning rounds, and increased experience for each kill. This makes it worth experimenting with your weapons, to see if something you had not considered before is actually more powerful than you expected.
Some guns use ammo, which has to be picked up or purchased, but others use energy, which recharges overtime. This includes the Alien RPG, Bounce Rifle, and Dubstep Gun. For this reason, and not the audio-visual experience, I used the Dubstep Gun a great deal. I am a very conservative gamer and am always trying to conserve ammunition, so having effectively unlimited ammunition is great! Of course you can run out of energy and have to wait for it to recharge, but that is what the other weapons are for.
Switching weapons is a little less smooth than I would prefer. Using the scroll wheel to cycle through them brings up a menu, so you can see what is available. That is not particularly uncommon in video games, but in Saints Row IV, bringing up this menu briefly pauses the game and blacks out the screen. When all I want to do is go to the next weapon in the cycle, this break in the action is somewhat annoying.
Vehicle use, however, has gotten a lot faster, thanks to the simulation. Instead of having to drive vehicles to a garage to store them for later use, you can press and hold a button to have it added. When you want a vehicle, just pull up the Hub, go to your phone, and find it under vehicle delivery. It will appear near you and you will instantly be teleported into it, unless where you are standing is not large enough for the vehicle. This goes for cars, motorcycles, tanks, and aircraft. Any vehicle can be summoned at almost any time, including during a mission. Have to clear out some enemies? Go ahead and call in a tank. You are also able to get homies to join you in a fight at almost any time, which can be very useful when all you need is a distraction or a turret gunner.
While vehicles are definitely useful for getting around and blowing stuff up, eventually their only utility is blowing stuff up as you acquire superpowers by defeating the simulation’s wardens. These powers include superspeed and superjump, which combined allow you to get past just about any obstruction. Demonstrating this is the GPS system, which sets you a path through the streets to your waypoint when in a car. When on foot though, the dotted path is a straight line, because you can scale the sides of buildings and eventually learn to glide for great distances in the air. This can actually be a little annoying though, because sometimes I do not feel like going vertical and want to stay on the streets, knocking cars around as I sprint on the wrong side of the road.
As you play you will unlock access to upgrades for your powers and other abilities. The regular abilities can be upgraded using 'cache' while upgrading your superpowers requires finding clusters, which cover the simulation. In total there are 1,255 of these out there, with some standing out in the open, and others hidden where you need superpowers to reach. To help you find these and other collectibles, there is the Collectible Finder, which displays them on your minimap. You unlock the Collectible Finder not by reaching a certain level and purchasing it, but by completing a specific mission, for which it is the reward. Multiple powers and upgrades are rewards like this for completing missions and challenges. (Finally I can get to the missions; just needed a decent segue.)
To start a mission you have to pull up your Hub, go to Quests, and select it and the objective. Yes, you have to select the objective as well, so just selecting the quest will not initiate it for you. Quests are sorted into Primary and Side quests, which is always useful so you know what you need to do to advance. You are also able to see what the rewards are for the different quests, so if all you want is the Unlimited Sprint ability, just look through the list for it.
By the nature of side quests, you may accidentally complete certain objectives for them before knowingly starting the mission. When this happens the objective is just crossed out as being completed, and you can select the next objective.
Unfortunately you cannot replay completed missions, which is a little disappointing because I find the campaign and loyalty missions to be extremely fun and exciting. They are definitely more exciting than the side quests that require completing activities in the simulation, such as hacking stores to take control of them. While the open world is fun to play in, it is not the same as the missions you play to rescue your friends. However, the activities can be replayed at any time and will still award you with experience and cache.
Before wrapping this section up, I do need to mention health and stumbling. The primary method of regaining health is by picking up drops that fall from the enemies you kill, instead of just regenerating. You will still regenerate health when you are out of combat long enough, but it can be awhile and you cannot upgrade the regeneration. This actually can have the effect of increasing the action of the combat, as keeping distance from your enemies also means you are keeping your distance from health packs.
When knocked down by an enemy, vehicle, or explosion, you have the ability to recover from the fall and get up faster. This is definitely useful as you can take damage when on the ground, and cannot defend yourself then either. Also, if you are in the air when you are struck, you can recover and continue gliding, or just fall to the ground. There is no fall damage, so either option works.
Some games are works of art; others are arenas for virtual violence; and some are just fun games. Saints Row IV definitely falls into that last category (though it does contain the aforementioned arenas). I beat the campaign in just 11:43, and I would be willing to say an hour and a half of that was completing side quests, activities, and finding collectibles. There was still much to do, so I kept playing (after I finished this review but not before I could make these additions) and have put in about another twelve hours to complete every mission and activity, and have found most of the collectibles. However, though the activities are complete, I am not done with them because many have Bronze, Silver, and Gold rankings to achieve, and some of the Golds still elude me. I cannot guess how long it will take me to win them, but that is a little more time.
That puts the total single-player game time at about 22 hours, but the game also sports co-operative multiplayer, which can add even more time by adding another playthrough, or using your completed playthrough to help out a friend. There are also special co-op missions that are actually visible on the single player map, but obviously you cannot play them without being in a co-op campaign. These do not appear to influence your completion percentage.