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Brothers in Gaming and Tech

Saints Row IV: First Impressions

As a technology writer and a young family man, I get very little time for games compared to my youth.  What used to be eight hour days in front of my favorite game at the weekend is now a mix of work, responsibility, and all that grown up stuff.  Do not get me wrong, building a future for oneself is a valiant goal and enjoy every minute of it, but as a result I tend to restrict myself to one or two full gaming titles a year.  In 2012 it was Borderlands 2, and for 2013 it is Saints Row IV.

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I am about three hours into the melee, and being a veteran of the previous three Saints Row games, I was hoping for more of the same.  The over-the-top style that Grand Theft Auto lost around GTA4 is something I enjoy – there is no fun in driving around a sandbox city where people roll over the bonnet and start crying when you plow into them.  I want my pedestrians going sky high, and the fun of introducing a Grandma to a tree via a giant Dildo bat is something you do not get in any other gaming series.

Let me start with a little story.  I kept up a little with the media that arrived with the SR4 launch – you are the president of the United States (a.k.a. the free world) and aliens have invaded.  In true Third Street Saint’s style, you as the leader have to rescue both your crew and the world.  In the pre-launch videos, we saw a multitude of oddities that can only have sprouted within the Saint’s Row franchise: a dubstep gun, the Violator (an anal probe gun used to fire people at other people), over the top customization options, and the final piece of the puzzle – Super Powers.

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So I am three hours in and the following has happened: the Aliens (the Zin) have destroyed most of the White House and taken all the common Saints Row characters (Kenzie, Shaundi, Pierce, King) hostage.  As the President and the main character, you have been placed in a simulation of Steelport, where the Zin leader rules all and Kenzie is on the outside trying to help you.  The benefit of being in a computer simulation is that it can be hacked, and Kenzie attempts to help you by breaking the system via actions done in the simulation.

At this point in time, this is where the Super Powers kick in.  The first three are Super Speed, Super Jump and an Ice Blast.  In order to best describe these Super Powers, imagine playing a game of Crackdown – it is now easier to run and jump anywhere rather than taking a car.  Call me an idiot, but there are a few issues with this.

The point of a Sandbox game is to learn the map, get introduced to the shops and where everything is.  SR1, 2 and 3 did this, as do all the Grand Theft Auto games.  SR4 does not, and you are propelled into a world where it is way too easy to move from place to place to complete story missions.  As a result of super jumping all over the place, then super running around everywhere, the ‘law enforcement’ (the aliens) are easy to run away from, and with the ice blast, easy to get rid of.

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I am looking forward to the story, but at this point in the picture I am wondering if the missions are just a deterrent from the story.  Sure they are used as plot devices, but there is nothing stopping me running around the whole map boosting up my super powers.  We still have the mad array of sub-quests and side-games that is essential to Saints Row, but as I am jumping about all over the place, I rarely see them and head straight towards my next mission.

Perhaps when I get a good amount of the way in the game I will change my mind, but at this point in time I am wondering if SR4 is a good continuation of the franchise.  The story seems bang on with the older Saints Row games, but the way I can just skip to the next missions without playing around power sliding and doing mad car flips is a bit unexpected.  After three hours I am some 15% of the way through the story mode, so it seems like a 16hr game in all.

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Result so far: Cool story, bro.

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This entry was posted on 2013/08/26 by in PC and tagged , , .

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