The Average Gamer

Saints Row IV Review (PC)

Saints Row IV - Inflatable Doll
Saints Row IV takes just about every annoying thing about an open world game and fixes it. Slow running speed? That’s okay, you have superpowers. Low on bullets? Superpowers. A quest is taking you from one end of the world to the other? That’s okay because along the way, you can pick up boosts for your superpowers.

Yes, superpowers are a key point of the game. In fact, they’re the thing that makes it magical, in every sense of the word. The core of Saints Row IV’s world is very, very repetitive. As you travel around virtual Steelport (because most of it takes place inside a Zin alien’s twisted simulation of Earth), you’ll come across a multitude of activities.

Flashpoints ask you to clear all the Zin troops from a control point. Insurance fraud missions need you to collide into cars and buildings, thus overloading the simulation’s ragdoll functionality. Hacking plunges you into a simple pipe-rotating minigame while other activities have you racing up and down building for time trials, tossing objects through virtual hoops or simply causing as much mayhem as possible.

There’s plenty to do, but every sidequest is simply a combination of those activities. This is where the superpowers step in. It’s easy to look at your fifth flashpoint of a gaming session and and sigh, thinking it’s just another place to mow down dozens of aliens with your favourite weapons. Nah, you’re playing it wrong. Mix things up a little.

You can “save” any vehicle that you like and summon it into being through your menu system. Why not call up a hoverbike and mow down the hapless Zin from above with its attached machine gun? Or run up the nearest building, fire down a bolt of ice to freeze your enemies and come powering in with your Stomp attack to shatter a quarter of them in one blow. Maybe fire up the dubstep gun, strut about in the mob and finish off the survivors with a tentacle bat. You’ll unlock eight classes of weapon and eight types of superpower, so there are plenty of combos to keep you busy for a long, long time.

Saints Row IV - XOR Hoverbike FlashpointSpeaking of tentacles, you may have heard a while back that Saints Row IV were modifying the game for Australia because the Aussie classification board didn’t like their Alien Anal Probe. Having played through the whole campaign and some 70% of side-missions, I’ve not seen hide nor hair of this weapon. Looks like they removed it from all versions.

While the side-quests just repeat the same goals over and over again, the main campaign is completely different. Each one drops you into a different type of crazy simulation. I won’t spoilt them for you here but I can tell you that they’re definitely seeing through to the end. Sure, most of them revolve around killing Zin, but the whole thing is just so stylish that it doesn’t matter. Campaign missions generally introduce you to a new power, weapon or vehicle, so things are always kept fresh.

Keyboard and mouse gamers should have no major problems here. The interface is clearly designed for controllers (as usual) so you might find yourself annoyed that you keep pressing M for the map to no avail, but it’s reasonably well laid-out. I did find scrolling through the weapon wheel to be quite jarring, as it rotates clockwise around a ring – perfectly intuitive for a controller but bit weird on a mouse wheel. The same goes for the button combos that switch between your powers but you get used to it. Sort of. Eventually. If you prefer, the PC version has full controller support.

Saints Row IV - GlideAs with Saints Row The Third, you can play through the campaign solo or in co-op. If you drop into a friend’s game where you’ve completed far more than them, you’ll retain your weapons and vehicles but your powers will be restricted to their level. If they jump into your game, they’ll only have their own gear and powers. Rather handily, if they pick up any glowing collectibles while in your world, you’ll get them too.

Saints Row IV is ridiculously brilliant fun. It retains the same quirky arrogance that people loved from the last game and takes things in a bizarre and new, but perfectly understandable direction. Go get it.

Saints Row IV will be out on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC from 23rd August.

Curious about the verdict? Read our review policy.