The release of Ubisoft's highly anticipated Watch Dogs back in May quite upset a few of our writers, myself included. Whilst both story and gameplay were okay, the 360 edition had such shockingly bad visuals it was almost insulting. In an attempt to cheer ourselves up, we're taking a look back at another open world game which was released nearly a year ago.
Saints Row IV is an expansion on its predecessor in much the same way that Saints Row 2 was an expansion of the original. It is a retread but the good kind of retread, and pays tribute to all of the games which preceded it (as well as every other sandbox game you’ve ever heard of) in a world created for a sole purpose, and that is to entertain you for hours on end. It retains all of the trademarks of the series whilst adopting a newer gameplay style, designed specifically to make the player feel like a total badass in every instance. This time, Volition take the same city that we knew and loved from Saints Row the Third and then defamiliarise it by adding a neon colour scheme, several new landmarks, and more importantly a game-changing new mechanic. You’ll never want to revisit Steelport as a mere mortal again after speeding across the rooftops with an arsenal of superpowers at your beck and call.
And the fun isn’t just limited to leaping, running up walls and gliding around like a lunatic. The city is filled with fun, new activities for you to test out your powers. These activities will also continuously reward you with upgrades. Also, by aiding your ‘homies’ in their various side-quests, they too can achieve superhuman abilities, and since you can have them follow you three-at-a-time either in the open world or on the story missions, it feels like you have built your own team of super-powered heroes (especially when facing off against super-powered foes!).
And herein lay the dents in the shining armour.
There’s no getting around it. Saints Row IV borrows heavily from Saints Row the Third and not just in the layout of the setting, but also in terms of customisation. In fact that entire system remains untouched and, although it was good that Volition recognised that the system worked well, it would have been nicer to have the customisation upgraded again.
It is a series strong-point and should always be a priority for expansion. Another problem with the gameplay is that, as yet another consequence of adding in superpowers, much of the replay value is taken away.
Despite the flaws (which are more nitpicks than criticisms and are completely forgivable), Saints Row IV succeeds where others fail because it caters to the needs of you, the player. It gives you a wide open space and then throws a new toy at you every five minutes, whether it’s a Singularity Gun or the ability to jump from rooftop-to-rooftop, and encourages you to find new ways to destroy things. This game is a rarity and a gem, and has definitely set a new standard for sandbox gaming.
When the Saints go marching in!
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