NSFW Gamer Review: Saints Row IV

NSFW Gamer Review: Saints Row IV

When the Saints went marching into Simulation 31, I was happy and proud to be in that number.

Saints Row is a series that polarizes gamers, much like Dynasty Warriors, and divides us into two camps – those that loved the first two games and thought the third was utterly terrible, and those who adore the evolution of the series and can’t get enough wacky fun. Needless to say, I fall in the latter category.

Regardless of how the internet opinion swings like a windsock, this is a solid game, and deserves someone campaigning for its vote.

Not Safe For Work ~ Nude Shaundi

Saints Row IV
Systems: Playstation 3 [Reviewed], XBox 360, PC
Developer: Volition
Publisher: Deep Silver
Release: August 20, 2013
MSRP: $59.99

The game starts very much unlike any game previous in the series, in that it’s played very straight instead of tongue-in-cheek. The Saints are on a mission assisting British MI-6 agent Asha Odekar, and it all feels very similar to Splinter Cell. However, that quickly gives way when it comes time to disarm a missile, with the resulting aftermath leading the Boss to become the President of the United States. Unfortunately, you don’t get to enjoy your position in office for very long. Those who were hoping to inflict madcap policy change with Senator Hughes or pimp out the White House will be disappointed, as the Zin invasion breaks in just before you can hit the press conference and deliver a no-doubt would-have-been hilarious series of answers. ‘Merica, it seems, is not to be our playground.

NSFW Gamer Review: Saints Row IV

Instead, we return to what’s supposed to be Steelport, but it’s been rendered almost unrecognizable by the alien leader Zinyak and his Simulation 31. This plays to the game’s strength, however, lending the feel of a totally new city, and the early-acquired super jump and super run bring a whole new vertical perspective and high velocity to exploration. Long story short, anyone who worried this would feel like Saints Row The Third all over again can rest easy. It’s a whole new ball game.

NSFW Gamer Review: Saints Row IV

Speaking of powers, the abilities you’re granted as you play have excellent synergy. A favored tactic of mine was to Freeze Blast a group of enemies, then use the Ground Stomp for a grouped Shatter Kill. If that’s not your cup of tea, then perhaps you’d prefer to use the Gravity Stomp to send your enemies flying, then Fire Buff your gun of choice to burn your helpless victims. The possibilities open up all sorts of new character builds to accommodate any playstyle.

NSFW Gamer Review: Saints Row IV

The character customization is off the wall in Saints Row IV. Personally, I decided to make a Nova Terra clone and created my own Starcraft: Ghost playthrough, but if you’re the kind of person who gets your kicks from watching a fat guy run at superspeed and float like a balloon with a voice that sounds like he’s been sucking helium all day, go for it. Making your character however you want is easy, deciding how to play is the hard part.

NSFW Gamer Review: Saints Row IV

Story-wise, Saints Row IV brings a much more complete narrative than either two or three was able to offer. This is owed much to the fact that you don’t have to contend with individual gangs, but it also helps that your missions are now divided by main “quest” offerings and optional tasks. “Gangs out, aliens in,” is another decision that helped the game stand apart. Whereas enemy variety used to be defined by what colors the other guys were wearing, Saints IV’s Zin empire boasts cannon fodder foot soldiers, shield-bearing nasties, Murderbot mini-bosses, hoverbike and UFO-flying sharpshooters, and finally toughest of all, the Wardens. Wardens fulfill the role of area bosses, and are also the guys that will grant you new powers as you progress through the game. Some enemies can also be guarded by an eyebot generating a shield, lending a bit of tactical decision-making to all the mayhem. The health system has also received an overhaul, instead of auto-regenerating, you have to kill enemies for health pickups. At first this seemed like a step backwards, but once I started murdering whole groups with superpowers, I understood this was a necessity to maintain the challenge.

NSFW Gamer Review: Saints Row IV

When it comes to the big bad, Zinyak isn’t quite the bastard that you’ll love to hate like Killbane was, but he does retain a sharply poetic and aristocratic “better than you” nature, quoting Shakespeare in the same breath as denouncing the player to a non-threat. Besides that, he interrupts a Boss and Pierce sing-along, which is grounds enough to murder the daylights out of anybody.

NSFW Gamer Review: Saints Row IV

Outside of general combat, a host of new activities is now available, along with some returning favorites. Super-racing through checkpoints shakes up the gameplay you remember in vehicles, and the new platforming challenges make anyone who’s played a Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis sidescroller feel young again. But perhaps best of all is the return of the Fight Club, with a superpowered twist. You still have waves of enemies, but now they can have their own powers such as setting themselves on fire, making melee tricky at best. The clubs also now have a boss battle at the end to round them out, giving them new context and flavor. Each activity is also tiered with Bronze, Silver, and Gold challenges, differing from how quickly you can complete a challenge to how much money you can earn. Some mayhem activities are even suited to a certain power, which really pushes you to discover their potential.

NSFW Gamer Review: Saints Row IV

The game’s music is yet another good mix of tunes I haven’t heard before with ones I haven’t heard in a long time. One of the big reasons I love the Saints Row series is that it introduces me to new favorites with just about every entry. Even though they’ve cut a small number of radio stations from the list, I’m sure everyone can find their favorites in the playlist offered. For instance, Gen X now carries a harder sound, making up for the loss of The Blood. Best of all, the leader of the Saints apparently has finally afforded him/herself an MP3 player, so the music is no longer limited to vehicle play. The Dubstep Gun gets a special mention here, as Volition went the extra mile and included a different track than what we’ve seen in trailers for one of the weapon skins. The only negative I can find here is that they didn’t include the dubstep “Hail to the Chief” or the blues rock song from the intro.

NSFW Gamer Review: Saints Row IV

There are, of course, a few bugs which hold back the experience. For instance, with all the super-jumping you’ll be doing, you may get stuck in the descending animation. It first happened to me during a platforming challenge (clearly the worst time for it to happen). It gets reset if you choose to retry the mission, but it’s an annoyance that you would think would have been nixed during playtesting. During Ben King’s loyalty mission, the audio was badly synched with the talking animations, and the voiceovers actually overlapped, making the conversation hard to follow. Obviously it also jarred me right out of the immersion. A third and apparently wide-affecting bug concerns a pre-order DLC costume bundle, the “Volition Comics” pack. This is the one that carries the Iron Rogue and Queen Amazonia costumes, which many have yet to be able to access. I’ve tried to download and re-install the pack several times, but to no avail. Considering how much customization has been touted in the series, you would think bonus costumes would be priority one. With a day one patch, issues like these left me scratching my head.

NSFW Gamer Review: Saints Row IV

Something else I found very odd is that the photo sharing is buried in a menu and has to be enabled, then re-enabled after dying or finishing a mission. With the taunting and blast power on the same button, the only difference being that you need to hold to taunt, it’s very strange you can’t simply hold for a photo. For a game that is building itself around socially integrated features, these barriers to sending and sharing don’t make any sense. Also, you’re out of luck if you want to capture an image from a cutscene. What may be strangest, though, is that during the drugged-and-fighting trope where people’s proportions go haywire, taking screen grab cuts the rendering and they appear normal. Not being able to showcase the weirdest moments of the game is a little disappointing, but Volition definitely deserves a pat on the back for giving us a share button before we have a share button.

NSFW Gamer Review: Saints Row IV

Saints Row IV is a game that knows exactly what it is, and wallows in its own gleeful wonderland of references, tributes, and parodies. Anyone who grew up on 90’s TV will love the good ending, and when the narrator is revealed, it sets us up one hell of a sequel. That said, I would love to see Volition either cut their teeth on a fresh IP (Summoner reboot anyone?) or assist with another Deep Silver project. That way the Saints can come back for the next generation with a million fresh new gameplay ideas in the mix. Given that Volition aren’t shy for trying new ideas in their DLC’s, however, we may see an inkling of what’s to come sooner than later, and I can’t wait to be a part of it. A few eggshells aside, Saints Row IV is a tasty omelette of gameplay mechanics adopted, perfected, repackaged, and given a Fleur-de-Lis seal of approval. Don’t let it pass you by, vote with your wallet in favor of my proposition to buy this game.

Game 4/5

In case you needed another reason to pick this up, I present you with the following:

NSFW Gamer Review: Saints Row IV

Holy bangable bohemians, Batman! Saints Row IV pulled out all the stops for this entry, not hiding Shaundi’s Virtual Vixen image as an Easter Egg, but putting it full-blown where it couldn’t be missed with Keith David looking at a “Boytoy” centerfold with fun Shaundi in all her sexy glory. But they didn’t stop there. If you go for a female character, you can buy the “cover your nips” bra and make her essentially topless. Given the generous jiggle physics the game allows, as well as being able to customize your character to have Dragon’s Crown‘s Sorceress-size breasts, there’s plenty to keep you happy in your pants as you play. Top that off with a scene where you actually get to go onstage and be a stripper, giving me one of the few quicktime events I’ve enjoyed in recent memory, and you’ve got a perfect storm of M-rated fun.

NSFW Gamer Review: Saints Row IV

Don’t pass on the loyalty missions, either. The absolute best costumes for Kinzie, Shaundi, and Asha are unlocked through them, bringing super saints and super sex appeal. Kinzie’s in particular may be the best, with her full cleavage out from under that frumpy FBI jacket and spankable latex-clad ass glistening like purple neon. I’m partial to nerdy girls, so this one took it home for me. If, however, you’re not quite into tight outfits, a little work with the in-game challenges will net you Genki Girl homies, wearing even skimpier costumes than the Saints.

NSFW Gamer Review: Saints Row IV

Speaking of costumes, you’ll be able to fulfill most any fantasy, whether you want to see a cheerleader busting the Zin with superpowers or a tough militant and muscular babe tearing up virtual Steelport with high-firepower. “Sexy Sandbox” has never applied to a game quite as well as this.

NSFW Gamer Review: Saints Row IV

Hotness 4/5

– Brad Cowan aka “DevilSugar”

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