"Game of the Generation"
Saints Row IV lives up to the subtitle that its Limited Edition carries: Game of the Generation. Before you throw a fuss and call me out on this, it's not Game of the Generation because its world is deeper than the one in Skyrim, or because it keeps us on the edge of our seats like The Last of Us did earlier this summer. It's Game of the Generation because with Saints Row IV we've seen the series over the span of one generation carve out its own huge niche from the shadow of the genre juggernaut (Grand Theft Auto) into something that has somehow topped each previous installment in terms of scale, zaniness, and freedom.
After the epic finale of Saints Row The Third, people often wondered where could the series go next, and Volition came up with the perfect solution: super-powers and an interesting story that has plenty of twists and turns. The main player-created character, which is now the President of the United States, has been abducted by aliens hell bent on taking over the world while putting them in a computer simulation of the city from Saints Row The Third. Eventually, Kinzie, the computer super genius the player met up with previously, breaks free and hacks the player's simulation to give them super powers. The story hops between this simulation and the real world as the characters attempt to escape the alien's ship, escape the simulation and somehow get back to Earth.
Gameplay feels just like what super powers in the world of Saints Row The Third would feel like, and the game pulls no punches in making you feel powerful immediately. As soon as the player is set loose in the world, there are dozens of activities available and the leveling perk system is back to help the player upgrade and make their character powerful before even taking on the first mission. Weapons have been refined, with each category having different upgrades and skins, making each one feel unique and useful in its own way. The super powers definitely make the combat feel even more satisfying than before, and they make the vertical expansion of the world something enjoyable to explore without fear of death.
There are also a few twists taken with traditional open-world sandbox gameplay due to the nature of the story, such as combining the police of Steelport and the aliens into one power crazy authority. Morals are thrown out of the window in the simulation too, with Saints Row IV even offering a health bonus for killing civilians (relax, they're just computer data!). Without spoiling too much of the story, many characters from previous games also return due to this and those who have played the previous games in the series will recognize many of the references sprinkled throughout. Also, as the player completes more activities throughout the simulation, the way certain situations filled with police just disappear into thin air and the area just turns blue feels refreshing compared to other games where something is done and you STILL have to run away from the police.
While Saints Row IV does a lot right to earn the Game of the Generation title, the moniker also applies to the fact that while it feels different and a successful evolution of the gameplay from the previous title, it doesn't feel like its QUITE different enough to be a numbered sequel. The super powers are fun to use, and the scale of the story and world did increase, but I somehow always felt like I was playing a total conversion of Saints Row The Third rather than something that deserves and number. The feeling of the player becoming the leader of the gang in part 2 nor the feeling of just being allowed to take over the world granted The Third just isn't replicated in the same way. What's here feels pretty safe and a great way to send the series off on the current systems while we wait for the next evolution on the next-gen systems.
If you're in the market for a good game to play over the rest of the summer, before you send off this generation of systems, you're in for a great summary of what this generation has been about by making that game Saints Row IV. Where else can you hop on a building like in Crackdown, while looking like a gangster from Grand Theft Auto, while in a shoot-out with aliens almost on par with Mass Effect, while dancing around bullets to the tune of "This is How We Do It" like in Dance Central?
GameDynamo's Score for Saints Row IV (PS3)
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