So I finally got to put in some quality time with the newest Saints Row game. A little bit ago a friend asked me how it was because of all the things she had heard, all positive. At that time I could only tell her what I had heard from others, that it was a crazy, offensive, hilarious, self-aware, journey through mayhem.
Now that I've played the game I can fairly comfortably say that's a fair assessment. The biggest thing that Saints Row IV impressed upon me was that it's a true sandbox game. The terms "open world" and "sandbox" get thrown around a lot these days, almost to the point that both are dirty words only to be spoken in hushed tones. However, Saints Row IV actually delivers on that promise, even in a way that GTA hasn't.
It's not that you can just go around doing anything. It's still a video game, which means that it's fundamentally limited by its creators, but it's a video game where those boundaries are drawn wide. The goals are pretty broad and many of the story missions tend to just be various of the side quests. This isn't to say those missions are bland or boring, it just means that when you do them they should be somewhat familiar.
A few people watching me play have made comparisons to the Grand Theft Auto series and I'm not sure those are entirely accurate. If I had to compare Saints Row IV to any game I'd pick Prototype. This is a game about becoming really powerful and blowing things up. The game is built around collectibles and upgrades fueling the fires that you will ultimately start. The game is not shy about powering you up early, though I found the introductory stages to be a bit slow. Once you get your powers and the game really gets going it's not boring. Everything feels really well paced and put together. I've noticed some lag when I really push the game to it's limits but nothing to keep the average player down.
I'm fairly comfortable recommending this game as a strong buy for anyone who enjoyed the previous iterations and also for people new to the series who enjoy open world and sandbox games. The game is not subtle, though when it is it's amazing, opening homage to Clockwork Orange I'm looking at you.
I've actually idea how long I played the game. I know with Blacklist I was able to sit down and write after an actual "few hours" but with Saints Row the time seems to vanish in a way very similar Civilization. It's that much fun, that over the top, and that engaging.
I'll do a more thorough write up on the comparisons between GTA and Saints Row and then update it once GTA V is released, if not write a whole new piece at that time. While the games might seem similar, their differences can tell us a lot about video games as well as society and culture.