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Saints Row IV on PS3, Xbox 360, PC

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Comedy is a tricky thing to pull off in any medium. Good comedy requires exceptional talent and skill in writing, and is also intensly subjective. Truly, though, comedy is the most difficult to pull off in video games. The player controls the action of the character, so making sure everything is perfect for a good joke can be difficult. Some games can pull off comedy very well, be funny, and be unobtrusive on the experience all at the same time. Other games are might include Saints Row IV.

Saints Row IV starts off strong and immediately spirals downwards into the pits of despair. We start off with a Call of Duty style mission that leads to you becoming the president of the United States, before the country is attacked by aliens and you're thrown into a simulation version of the city from the last game. The first hour or so of this game had me in hysterics, from the Aerosmith's "Don't Want to Miss a Thing" to the entire 50's scene. These early scenes are very clever, very funny, and mostly very original, apart from the CoD "parody" mission. I use parody in only the lightest sense of the word, in the same tone I would use to describe Scary Movie or something like that. The missions immediately get worse from a writing standpoint, and after a certain point I would estimate I laughed at maybe one joke out of ten. Frequently missions devolve into bland "parodies" that employ my /absolute favorite/ form of "comedy," that being "Oh look at us, we're parodying by doing exactly the same thing but occasionally winking and smiling at the camera and saying how dumb it is, ha ha." This might have been okay had the missions been at all fun, however...

The main new conceit in SRIV is the concept of super powers. Now you can run faster than a speeding bullet, jump higher than a tall building, shoot fire out of the palms of your hands, and more! Open world exploration in Saints Row IV is absolutely fantastic. The radio is probably my favorite in any of these types of games and the super powers are so much fun to use. Running around the city, collecting hundreds of upgrade clusters, jamming to my mix tape of all my favorite in game songs created ten hours of ridiculous fun that I really only came down from when I started doing the missions. The missions delight in taking away your radio and your super powers, while drowning you in unfunny dialogue and boring gameplay. The missions are neither funny nor interesting most of the time, (I might say I enjoyed 9 or 10 missions out of the 30 or so story quests I played) and when the rare moments of brilliance shine through, it usually vanishes without a trace.

From a technical standpoint, this game is a mess. The dialogue is frequently drowned out by the music, sometimes lines don't play, sometimes lines play completely out of sync and make no sense in the scene. There were several occasions where if I hadn't had subtitles on, I'd have had no idea what was happening. Also, the game looks like something from 5 years ago, and the framerate is crap. As well, the game hard crashed on me at least 3 times, so I had to reboot my system just to get back into it.

When I started Saints Row IV, I honestly believed it had the potential to be an 8 or a 9. I could forgive the dated graphics and poor framerate, because the fun I had exploring the open world was unmatched by any other "superhero" open world games. However, I truly killed it for myself by doing all that stuff first, because then I had to slog through boring mission after boring mission, with hardly any reprieve. I recommend the open world, but the story drags this game down so much it can't be recommended. 4.5/10




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