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Saints Row 3.5
on August 27, 2013
This is a single player critical review for people that are fans of the Saints Row series of games. I know the game is called Saints Row IV but I will call it Saints Row 3.5 since it does not feel like a whole new game.
A quick little bit of info here... Saints Row IV started off as DLC before THQ shut down, it was originally meant to be the final big DLC add-on (us older gamers would call it an "Expansion" pack) to Saints Row 3. THQ went bankrupt and Volition was bought up by Deep Silver. They took the final DLC, the core game, and stretched it out into a full game. I also wish I could give it a score of 3.5 but it feels good enough to go with 4 out of 5 for the moment.
So to be clear, this game is still Saints Row 3. Same city, same vehicles (less of them though), same graphics, same game engine. Just certain things added or taken away.
This game is absurdly fun and funny. So let me break it down as spoiler free as possible:
Game engine: The exact same as Saints Row 3.
Graphics and Models: Deep Silver took some vehicles and assets from the previous games and reworked them to the wonderful level of detail seen in the First Saints Row game, mainly the vehicles. They have a much higher level of fit and finish than even Saints Row 2 had. BUT, there are fewer vehicles in this game than in any of the other games. Boats are completely gone, so waterways are absolutely empty. Only 2-3 Airplanes remain and there is no civilian air traffic, though once you see the plot, it kind of makes sense to be that way as opposed to the same lack of boat and air traffic from SR3. The animation and characters are much nicer looking and seem to have had a once over by Quality Control. So all round the models are much nicer.
Sound and Music: The sound effects are pretty much the same from SR3. The music on the other hand is absolutely great, they have just about everything, and lots of big name songs. The voice acting is wonderful, even Nolan North (of Drake, Deadpool and seemingly every male video game character ever made, fame) lends his voice to the player character list, along with quite a few name brand voice and film actors as other characters... The roster is rather impressive and makes the game all the more fun.
Story: The story in this game is much more fun and involving than SR3 was. You will need to play all the previous Saints Row games to understand the back stories, banter, and in-jokes of many of the characters in this game. Plenty of "OMG!" moments, and lots of laughs. There is some great character development and banter that was sorely missing from SR3. Though at times it feels the game/writers spent too much time watching cyberpunk and action movies from the 90s and early 2000s instead of creating something entirely new. It was great fun, and worth seeing all the parodies of other games and movies, but at times the parodies feel more like blatant rip-offs. Also, the Choice/RPG style options are pretty much entirely gone after the first few minutes of the game and are there for comical reasons instead of giving you any rewards or boosts of any type. Example: In SR3 you could choose to destroy a building for a respect boost or keep the building for a cash boost, save someone or let someone die, and so on.
Player Customization: The level of visual player customization is the same as SR3 and nowhere near as amazing as the player character customization from SR2. Though carried over from SR3 is the selectable player upgrades/leveling system.
Vehicle Customization: The same as SR3 but with quite a few more parts and accessories for some vehicles, though you still cannot customize "special" vehicles, planes, helicopters, and VOTLs. Though for a game with cars and car customization it severely lacks in vehicle based missions compared to previous games as most of the time you are running, jumping, shooting, and fighting with super powers, instead of driving or riding shotgun like previous games.
Weapon Customization: Weapons have non-visual upgrades now instead of the visual upgrades like from SR3 (when you upgrade a weapon, it does not change its base appearance with things likes scopes or suppressors and such that SR3 had). Though you can change the "skin" of the weapon to look like other types of weapons and most have 1-3 selectable paint jobs, but you cannot add or remove parts of a weapon.
Other Customizations: Cribs/player bases are completely gone so absolutely none there. Gang customization is the same as SR3.
Game World: Still in Steelport, or a simulation of so to speak, exact same map size and most every location remains the same as SR3 just add some cyber bits here and there. Also, during the game it is perpetually Night/dawn/dusk/dark and there is no day cycle until you completely beat the game. The city doesn't really feel as "alive" as SR2 did, but when you figure out the plot it makes a bit more sense to be that way.
Super Powers: While they are fun, and have lots of upgrades, it ends up feeling too much like the game "Prototype" and not enough like Saints Row. Most of the game vehicles become pretty much pointless when you can leap, climb, fly, and run better than nearly any vehicle in the game rather early on.
Controls: It controls nicely and has the exact same layout as SR3, though with the super powers, some buttons now have secondary functions when you hold them or tap them.
Game play: You will go everywhere from space, to text adventures, to 2D fighters, to top down pixel battles, to platforming, robot fights, and more. The variation keeps things interesting, at least on a first play through. There is even a massive list of cheat codes built into the game as well to make the game even more fun, crazy, hard, or easy. So it works if you are a casual gamer or one of the hardcore challenging types of players. There are optional side missions that are basically just activity completions and rewards. There are no activities left over after doing the character "side quests" so at that point the end game just becomes a run around and collect random stuff/points you missed kind of thing. You can replay activities for money or better medals, but There is still no main mission or special character mission replay options... We had it in SR2 why can't it be in SR3.5?
Re-play Value: As with most the Saints Row and open world games, it is pretty high in the re-play department. With the amount of character and vehicle customization, as well as upgrades, it is worth revisiting to see what can be changed or done differently on another play-through. Not to mention the amount of in-jokes, Easter eggs, and other things that you may have missed.
Overall Opinion: This game is much more fun than SR3 was, but still not as much fun and time consuming as SR2 is for me. It has more polish than SR3 did, and I hope the future of Saints Row gets much bigger than Steelport or Stilwater combined as the map just feels small compared to many other games out there, especially when you have super powers. My biggest gripe is that it needs more side activities and player customization. In SR2 most side activities had 6-12 levels to them, whereas SR 3.5 has about 2-4 levels or so to each activity (seriously, we want more Genki and mayhem levels!). They still have not added back in the optional service vehicle activities and rewards (taxi cab, tow truck, ambulance, fire truck, police car, police helicopter, and so on that SR2 had). Still no "Fuzz", "Septic Avenger", "Demo Derby" and so on. There is a distinct lack of vehicle races as well. If you are going to give us all these customizable vehicles; give us something to do with them.
It is a stupidly fun game, but many times felt too much like the game "Prototype" and not enough like Saints Row. The absurdity has been turned up to 11.5 and had the knob broken off, so don't buy this game thinking it will have an award winning plot or basis in reality in any way what-so-ever. (And that can be a good thing as games are meant to be fun to play. That is why they are called games and not movies.) The vehicles and player models seem much more polished over SR3 with the wonderful detail that was put into the first Saints Row game. The voice acting makes it worth replaying, as the different player character voices have different things to say throughout each play-through. Goofing around and being a completionist and rabid customizer will take around 20-30+ hours depending on how much of a "collector" you are. Throw in Co-op craziness and extend that time quite a bit more. (playing Telekinesis catch with a car or baddie, racing, cat and mouse, Vs, and so on.) It is just a fun and silly sand-box game and not for people that take things too seriously, and if you have a twisted sense of humor, make sure this game ends up in your collection.
I say wait till it is more "expansion pack" priced, under $35 before getting it as I just could not get over the feeling it was an expansion and not a whole new game, since super powers were already introduced in SR3 add on content. Plus with the amount of DLC planned for this game, even if you get it cheap, you will likely end up paying full price or more anyway once Deep Silver finishes nickel-and-diming people for DLC for the rest of this game.