Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Not a Review: Saints Row IV


Reviews have a place in the game industry. Like anything that's designed to be consumed or entertaining there's a place for reviews. However, Scholar Two: Press Start and LoneGameMan are not one of those places. Instead I'd like to do recommendations of games, talk about what makes them good, what makes them bad, and talk about who might enjoy the game the most.

I just set down Saints Row IV for what I imagine will be at least several days. It's the kind of game that I think I see myself coming back to again and again and finding new things to mess around with. It's also one of those games that I'd love to have people over with and watch them play. Don't get me wrong, I love having the controller in hand but sometimes it's really nice to kick back and enjoy watching someone else play. So here is my Not a Review for Saints Row IV!
I know it might be strange to think about someone writing a "not a review". I do write reviews, just not here. Anyway let's talk Saints Row IV

I was really impressed by how much of everything there was. There's a lot of things and a surprisingly sparse offering of other things. I know, that sounded ugly but hear me out. The game has a ton of modifiers. You can change various effects attached to powers, reskin your weapons, enhance your weapons, modify your car, enhance your car, and there's an essentially inexhaustible amount of ways to create a character. There's so much customization available to the player it's amazing. I found myself not using the crazy alien guns mainly because I preferred how my character looked running around with pistols based on Nathan Fillion's from Firefly (I designed a sort of Malcolm Reynolds lookalike).

Fans of Desperado rejoice!
However, there's not a wide selection of guns. There's a few of each, enough for each to feel different but none of them play close to the same. The same goes for cars, though there are tons of cars driving around Steelport I found most of them handled pretty much the same and never felt the need to really modify or upgrade them. Saints Row is not particularly broad in it's offerings, however, it is incredibly deep.

Depth over breadth is fairly welcome in my opinion. I had the patience to make one ridiculous car but really not much more than that. I just couldn't be bothered and once I got my superpowers I never drove again unless it was a tank or the game forced me behind the wheel of a car. The same went for guns, I thought I was not collecting weapons but once I settled into a groove I just let things ride and focused on my powers.

Not flying, falling...with style!
And that's the rub with superpowers, they make everything else mundane. I rarely drove anywhere. Instead, I used a super jump/sprint combination until I could glide. Then I sprinted, jumped, glided, and then repeated. Eventually, my sprint speed exceeded that of gliding so I just ran everywhere I needed. I was like a muscular, purple, steampunk themed, Forrest Gump running everywhere and it was glorious.

But the whole way I approached the game centered around having powers. Why drive when you can dash around the map like the flash? Why pilot a UFO or a helicopter when you can jump over buildings? Sure each of those things have their own novelty but the practicality of simply jumping over any obstacle made my own two feet my preferred mode of transportation. If the melee combat system had been more robust (read: effective) I would have dropped guns altogether and just used my powers for everything.

Weirdly, sprinting and jumping over everything got me to experience a lot more of the map. There's no fast travel system so I had to leg it everywhere I wanted to go. If I had been using a car and kept to the roads I would have never discovered a lot of the collectibles. When you have to travel to a place and you do it in a straight line you cover a lot of ground you otherwise wouldn't have.

If that doesn't make sense think of the coast lines. In order to change islands in a car you have to use a bridge. If you can just jump across or glide or sprint across the water then the bridge loses it's importance. Every inch of shoreline is an acceptable place to cross. Over time, those bits add up, especially in the not downtown parts of the map.

The game sort of loses my interest with the side missions. They're repetitive and bland. The dialogue is generally enough to hold my interest but I can only replay the same mission so many times with different dialogue. It's a shame really, the campaign missions also begin to suffer from this but at least the voice acting really pulls through in here. The same, however, cannot be said for the character animations.

This kind of over the top
Some have criticized the look of the game for essentially looking like it could have come from last year. I don't dispute that the game looks like it could have been from last year but I kind of like the cartoonish datedness of the whole thing. The whole game is over the top and there's something really charming about the look and feel, though I definitely notice frame rate issues.

There's no good way to "conclude" a Not a Review, especially for this game which offers so many different options for customization at every turn. Saints Row IV is really stupidly fun. It's not fresh or new but it's certainly exciting. People make comparisons to the Grand Theft Auto series but I think it has more in common with Prototype than anything else out there.

Buy it Breakdown

Strong Buy: People who liked the other entries in the series, fans of having overpowered super powers, people who wish GTA was less serious, fans of open world games and action adventure games. It's pretty good all around.

Weak Buy: People who are not entertained by crude humor, people who think the best thing about GTA is how realistic it can be

Don't Buy: People who dislike violence in games, people who are disturbed by over the top and satirical depictions of...everything.





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