4. The Sense of Humor
Can you believe that one of the greatest strengths in a game dedicated to beating the tar out of aliens and people in deranged cat costumes by blowing them away with a rocket-launching guitar case prides itself on having a sense of humor? I know, crazy, right?
See, Saints Row IV has now evolved way beyond tackling the Grand Theft Auto series and has now set its sights on lampooning other video games. And by that I mean all the games. No wait, scratch that, it's going after everything. All the things. Shots are fired at Call of Duty, Armageddon, Star Wars, Prototype, Metal Gear Solid, and countless others, though its two biggest targets tend to be the Mass Effect games and The Matrix, to the surprise of no one. And thankfully, most of said shout-outs and parodies are subtle and rely more on spoofing a general tone and such, so they never feel obnoxious. It also helps that the game's dialogue is great as well, with a talented cast and a nice variety of puckish rogues whose own personalities and quips create the real heart behind the game's funniest moments, as it should be. The countless shout-outs, parodies, and visual gags are fun, but even without them the clever and numerous blue repartee is more than enough to carry the game's funniest bits.
Oh, and in one of the best parodies, like in Mass Effect you do indeed have the ability to romance/nail your entire crew in one fell swoop. Because if you can't appreciate the humor in being able to get a blowjob from a robot, then you are truly dead inside.
3. Your Lovely Arsenal
I know I mentioned earlier that a wide variety of destructive tools and powers can tend to make the game less easy...possibly true, but that thankfully doesn't stop the use of them from being any less fun.
Oh, the amount of divine ways to cause mayhem and mirth when taking out one's antagonists (or just random dicks on the street who looked at you funny). And with a myriad of optional upgrades and customizable models for your weapons and your powers, the options are endless. Where to start? Have your enemies float midair in a stasis field while you fire explosive wubs at them from a dubstep gun? Pick them off long-distance with a pixelated sniper rifle? Fling electrically-charged cars at them using your mind? Freeze them, and then shatter them with explosive bullets shot out of Malcolm Reynolds' pistol? Each little bit of death-dealing action comes via this whole lineup of lethal whimsy. Its just such a damn enjoyable lineup of things to do and things to destroy said other things with that you won't help but be able to experiment with everything possibly. And for all us Roboteers, that's especially true of...
...I know it's meant to be a Watchmen reference (if it were truly meant for us, they would've given that name to the Tentacle Bat), but a man can dream...
2. The Cast and Their Spotlights
So remember how I said there was a lack of focus on world-building this time around? Well, it almost feels as if, to make up for it, Volition decided to put a greater emphasis on the main cast this time around. After all, when one of your essential tasks in the game involves rescuing your allies from their own personal hells, you end up getting to know quite a bit more about them. Granted, what you end up knowing is that your allies can be quite a bit fucked up at times, but I was honestly surprised there ended up being quite a bit of heart to it as well. And beyond having to rescue them, you can also participate in "Loyalty Quests" for them...another dig at Mass Effect there, but one that I still highly recommend, as it lets you bond with your companions and get to learn more about them and what's been on their minds even further...over such activities as interactive expanded universe fiction, stopping viruses that causes people to suddenly turn into sex trade workers, doing drugs that glitch everything up, killing fur-suiters in a Japanese game show...you know the type of stuff the sophisticated sociopath and his friends enjoy.
Want more? Try calling up a wide variety of your unlockable allies to assist you in your merriment, and watch as they trade endless combinations of amusing anecdotes. Hell, you can even pick up collectibles such as audio logs to reveal even more, and you even get to discover optional text adventures chronicling Zinyak's rise to power. Speaking of which, all of these character moments would pretty much be meaningless without a talented cast to back it all up, and JB Blanc as the egotistical, over-the-top, and sophisticated-as-hell Zinyak is the highlight of this wild bunch, but pros like Terry Crews, Keith David, and several others I can't mention without revealing spoilers all give their best as well, creating an eclectic mix of mofos you'd be proud to have hobble a police officer's legs with.
1. Oh So Many Awesome Moments
...Remember in the intro how I said the number of screenshots I took for this game hit four digits? Impressively enough, that was not hyperbole. There were just that many moments of sheer insanity, glee, and fist-pumping kickassery that...well, I hate to choose this song to reference over "The Touch", but indeed, I did not want to miss a thing.
I honestly wish I could share more of this game with all of you and say more than just "this game has a lot of cool shit in it" (heck, I even feel guilty just for posting a video of the "Nytefall" mission), but that would most definitely involve giving away its best bits, both big and small. Every time you think the game has reached its limit of "Oh, SNAP!" moments, another just pops up a short while later to blow you away. It truly is an incredible experience, and while the flaws it has the same feeling The Third had of being two steps forward and two steps back for gameplay, in the end it all still comes together to creative an attractive piece of work priding itself on providing countless moments of pure mayhem and, most importantly, FUN. Light-hearted but never too silly that it undermines everything, Saints Row IV ends up being a must-play for all Roboteers, especially since the game's most coked-up moments and general feel verge towards essentially creating Topless Robot: The Game (complete with two TR contributors in it!).
Fans of the series will no doubt...oh, okay, I'll share one moment with you via these upcoming links, but spoiler warning, for it is one of the most expected yet unexpected and awesome celebrity cameos in gaming history.
Now where was I? Oh yeah. Fans of the series will no doubt love Saints Row IV, of course, especially since a good chunk of the game's best moments and characters include a ton of callbacks to the previous games in the series...there's a real sense of finality in this game, like this truly is the epic conclusion to the whole Saints Row saga (I've heard Volition might use a new protagonist in future games, and that might be wise idea given the ending here...no idea how you can go beyond all that), and if that is true, then while future prospects for the series might be up in the air, we can sleep soundly knowing it all truly went out with a bang, a shining and damn fun example of nearly everything that made all of these games fun and more. Bravo, Saints Row IV.
...Still, Volition, would it have killed you to bring back the poo-flinging activity?
Previously by Kyle LeClair