Saints Row IV
|Saints Row IV|
|Composer(s)||Malcolm Kirby Jr.|
Saints Row IV is an open world action-adventure video game developed by Volition and published by Deep Silver. It is the fourth title in the Saints Row series. In the game, the playable character is the leader of the 3rd Street Saints, a street gang that has become the world's most powerful and popular organization, and must fend off an alien invasion after becoming President of the United States and receiving superpowers. The player is free to explore their environment while completing main and side missions at their leisure. The game incorporates elements from science fiction video games and films, and continues the series' reputation for over-the-top parody. It was released in August 2013 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360, and was later ported to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Linux in 2015.
The game was Volition's first after its sale to Koch Media in early 2013. The supernatural and superpower concept for the game started in Enter the Dominatrix, a cancelled expansion planned for Saints Row: The Third, which the team expanded into Saints Row IV. Volition later released a "director's cut" of Enter the Dominatrix as downloadable content for Saints Row IV alongside How the Saints Saved Christmas, other weapons, costumes, and vehicle packs, and a standalone expansion, Saints Row: Gat out of Hell (which serves as the epilogue to the story). Saints Row IV received several limited and summative edition releases, and was briefly banned in Australia. Critics praised Saints Row IV's humor and character customization options, but criticized its lack of challenge. It sold over one million copies in its first week.
Similar to previous Saints Row series games, Saints Row IV is an open world action game with third-person shooter elements wherein the player is free to explore the environment and, at their leisure, play story or side missions. As the leader of the Saints, a street gang that has become the world's most "powerful and popular" organization, the player is elected President of the United States, receives superpowers, and fends off an alien invasion. Most often the player will engage in shooting and racing activities, though other activities vary from fighting crowds of zombies, shoot-outs in tanks, side-scrolling brawlers, fights against supersized, daikaiju energy drink cans, and using a dubstep gun to interrupt 1950s Americana. The player-character receives elemental powers and superpowers that greatly increase their jump height and running speed, such that the player can hop over buildings and outrun vehicles. The elemental powers include abilities to shoot fire and ice projectiles, telekinetically toss things, and create shockwaves upon landing jumps. As the player progresses through the game, they can optionally upgrade their abilities and weapons skill tree by using collectible "data clusters" scattered around town. If the player becomes too rowdy, the alien race's police analogue will intervene. As in previous games, the player-character's look and feel is entirely customizable via a robust character editor feature.
The game is set in a nearly identical simulation of Steelport, the fictional city setting from Saints Row: The Third, though individual story missions have new, custom-designed levels. Saints Row IV's story parodies science fiction video games, especially Mass Effect 2, as well as films like The Matrix and Zero Dark Thirty, and other "nerd culture". Some story missions are propelled by individual characters' existential crises, as each Saint character is stuck in a personal simulation of their own hell, and must be rescued by the player. Other elements borrowed from video game culture include BioWare-style character romances games and a Metal Gear-style mission with an unhelpful partner.
City districts are "liberated" from alien occupation as the player completes side missions in occupied districts. Liberated districts increase the player's hourly income, which can be spent on weapons, skills, and perks. Side missions include Insurance Fraud (where the player jumps into traffic to collect insurance money), demolition derby-style Mayhem, and superpowered foot races. Saints Row IV has a two-player cooperative mode.
A few months after the events of Saints Row: The Third, The Boss, Shaundi and Pierce Washington are called upon to assist MI-6 agent Asha Odekar and her contact, reformed former Deckers leader Matt Miller, in infiltrating a Middle Eastern compound to assassinate former STAG leader Cyrus Temple and prevent a nuclear missile strike against Washington D.C. The Boss kills Cyrus, but is unable to stop him from launching the missile. Climbing aboard it, the Boss disarms the nuke before it reaches Washington, earning the adoration of America.
Five years later, The Boss has been elected President of the United States, with the other members of the Saints, Keith David and former Vice Kings leader Benjamin King acting as cabinet. While preparing for a press conference, the Boss is told that Asha and Matt have arrived at the White House to warn them of what they suspect is an impending alien invasion. Just as the Boss is informed, the invasion begins, spearheaded by the alien warlord Zinyak, who captures the entire cabinet, including the Boss.
The Boss wakes up in a 1950s sitcom set in the city of Pleasantville, devoid of violence and foul language. The Saints' computer hacking specialist, Kinzie Kensington, contacts the Boss and informs them that they are trapped inside a simulation, with each of the Zin's prisoners trapped inside personal simulations of their own fears in order to break their will. With Kinzie's help, the Boss breaks free of the simulation and joins Kinzie and Keith in a stolen Zin ship.
While the trio attempt to contact reinforcements from Earth, Zinyak atomizes the planet, killing everyone not already captured by the Zin, including Oleg Kirlov, Josh, Zimos, and Viola. Enraged, the Boss returns to the Steelport simulation to find their friends and reach Zinyak. After rescuing another prisoner of Zinyak, an artificial intelligence later named CID, and providing him with a physical body, the Boss, with his help, goes into the other Saint's simulations and rescues them from their nightmares.
As the simulation begins to weaken under the Saints' influence, Zinyak floods virtual Steelport with copies of gang members the Boss has faced in the past. Kinzie determines that the copies are being made from someone's memory, leading the Boss to conclude Johnny Gat, who was seemingly killed during the events of Saints Row: The Third, is still alive and trapped within the simulation. Despite protests from Kinzie and Matt that rescuing Johnny will reveal their location to Zinyak, the Boss rescues Johnny from his nightmare of Aisha's death and gets him back to the ship. Johnny explains that during the fight in which he was presumed killed, he was actually abducted by Zinyak years in advance of their invasion, as Zinyak had concluded that Johnny could have single-handedly stopped him if left on Earth.
The Saints rally inside the simulation in order to confront Zinyak, but are ambushed by an enormous Zin force. They escape, but Kinzie is captured by Zinyak and the Boss emerges from the simulation to find that Keith betrayed the Saints and fled. Returning to Steelport, the Boss finds Keith has been declared president of the simulation. When confronted, Keith claims that Zinyak has the means to restore Earth, and has agreed to do so in exchange for the Boss' life. The Boss, determined to find Kinzie, pursues Keith into his nightmare, and with help from Roddy Piper, beats Keith up until he barely manages to tell them where Kinzie has been taken to, Keith ultimately comes to his senses and rejoins the Saints.
After the Boss rescues Kinzie from her nightmare, she devises a plan to crash the simulation, which will force the Zin to draw power from their ship to keep it running, thus weakening the ship itself and creating an opening for the Saints to enter. Working together, the remaining Saints manage to overload the simulation, shutting it down just as the Boss escapes. Assaulting Zinyak's ship, the Boss finds power armor emulating the powers they had in the simulation, and confronts Zinyak in his throne room. While the entire Zin Empire watches, Zinyak and the Boss battle each other. With help from the Saints, the Boss kills Zinyak by tearing his head off and emerges victorious. Impressed, the Zin forces surrender to the Boss, who becomes the new head of the Zin Empire.
The Boss asks Zinjai, Zinyak's main servant, for technology to bring Earth back. Zinjai says they cannot restore Earth as it was atomized, but can use time-travel technology to return to Earth, explaining that Zinyak had used this technology to collect his favorite historical figures, keeping them in suspended animation. The Boss looks at the Saints and says, "Let's go on a field trip." In a post-credits scene, the nineteenth century writer Jane Austen, whom the Boss is a fan of, is woken out of her stasis, revealing that she had been the narrator throughout the game.
If all of the loyalty missions have not been completed, an alternate ending plays out, which sees the Saints make plans to take over more planets, unaware of their ability to use time travel.
A number of characters from earlier games in the franchise - both members of the Third Street Saints and former adversaries - make a return in Saints Row IV, many of whom take up the protagonist's Presidential administration. Kinzie Kensington, the socially awkward FBI hacker from Saints Row: The Third becomes the White House's Press Secretary, often tasked with clearing up the mess left behind by the President's verbal missteps. Benjamin King, former leader of the Vice Kings gang from the original Saints Row, becomes the President's Chief of Staff, while Pierce Washington has been appointed the Communications Director and Shaundi as the Director of the Secret Service.
Matt Miller, having abandoned the Deckers and, according to news broadcasts in Saints Row: The Third, announced an abstinence from the use of technology, presumably returned to the United Kingdom and became employed by MI-6 alongside new character Asha Odekar. Johnny Gat also returns after being thought dead in Saints Row: The Third. Stilwater, the location of the first two games, makes an appearance for one mission with most of the street gangs from the first three games making appearances as well.
After the release of Saints Row: The Third, preliminary work on a game called Saints Row: Part Four began. The game would take place after the events of The Third in a new city and feature gameplay similar to The Third. Meanwhile, a standalone expansion to The Third called Enter the Dominatrix was first announced as a 2012 April Fool's joke, but still went into development. The expansion pack's basic concept included a superpowered player-character trapped by alien commander Zinyak in a simulation of Steelport. With THQ suffering financially, its president Jason Rubin encouraged company subsidiary and Saints Row series developer Volition to grow elements from the expansion into a full game. The company announced this change in direction in June 2012, cancelling Saints Row: Part Four and expanding Enter the Dominatrix into a full sequel, Saints Row IV. The company's strategy was partly to avoid sales issues by releasing the game in August 2013, prior to the circulation of rumors about next generation video game consoles. Volition was sold to Koch Media in early 2013 when its parent company, THQ, filed for bankruptcy. It became Koch's first internal video game studio. The studio officially announced Saints Row IV two months later, which was published by Koch Media brand Deep Silver. Acquired without rights to their Red Faction series, Volition's new goals were to make connected, open world games where "the player is an agent of mayhem". The entire company worked on the one game.
Each of the Saints Row series games had a core intent, and while the first three games built on the first's "outlandishness and irreverence", the fourth focused on "the supernatural and superpowers". Senior producer Jim Boone recalled reviewers that asked whether the company could be "more over-the-top" than Saints Row: The Third, which they took as a challenge. The team focused more on making the game "fun" than "for the sake of being over the top", and felt that superpowers helped the game's basic navigation and combat. They also chose to remove the previous game's in-game mobile phone-based navigation, which hindered its narration, and replaced it with a "quest log structure". The team chose not to devote as much time improving the game's graphics, considering the impending release of next generation platforms. The game spent less time in development than prior series games.
The in-game radio has seven pre-programmed radio stations and 109 licensed tracks. The game's original soundtrack is composed by Malcolm Kirby Jr., who also composed the previous game's soundtrack.
Release and downloadable content
Saints Row IV was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 in North America on August 20, 2013, and worldwide on three days later. Preorders included a patriot-themed downloadable content pack that included flamethrower, dubstep, and rocket launcher weapons, a bald eagle jet, and an Uncle Sam outfit. A limited edition release of the game included a replica of the game's dubstep gun, a doomsday button, and Johnny Gat statuette. Another limited edition release, the Game of the Generation Edition, included the previous items as well as a display case for the game. The game was originally refused ratings classification and effectively banned in Australia, but was later accepted when modified to remove an optional mission that involved an anal probe weapon and incentivized drug use. The country's PlayStation 4 release was later recalled due to a classification error.
The game received multiple downloadable content packs. A Season Pass, which features two new mission packs and the aforementioned anal probe weapon, was announced prior to the game's release. The first mission pack, Enter the Dominatrix, was released October 22, 2013. The pack was originally intended as a mission pack for Saints Row: The Third but evolved into the full sequel, Saints Row IV. The leftover content became the sequel's first mission pack. It tells an alternative story about the Zin invasion wherein the Steelport simulation is hijacked by a rogue artificial intelligence called the Dominatrix. The pack's storytelling frequently breaks the fourth wall and self-referentially acknowledges its own plot holes and incongruence with the larger Saints Row story. Some scenes end in concept art or videos of Volition employees acting out the drama so as to give the game an unfinished feel. The pack also casts characters from Saints Row: The Third who did not return in the sequel. There are five missions in total, new weapons, vehicles, and computer-controlled support characters ("homies"). The second and final mission pack, How the Saints Save Christmas, features new weapons and vehicles and a plot to save Santa Claus from the Steelport simulation. It was released in December 2013. Non-mission downloadable content packs include new costumes, vehicles, and weapons, e.g., face masks of United States Presidents George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.
Saints Row IV was released in several summative editions. The Game of the Century edition included 20 downloadable content sets and was released May 9, 2014. The National Treasure Edition included 29 downloadable content sets and was released on July 8, 2014. High Voltage Software ported the game to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One with all of its downloadable content as Saints Row IV: Re-Elected. It was announced in late August 2014 alongside Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell, a standalone Saints Row IV expansion developed by Volition in conjunction with High Voltage. Both were released in North America on January 20, 2015, and worldwide three days later, both separately and bundled together. The release included new features such as voice commands. A Linux port was presented in December 2015.
The game received generally positive reviews, according to video game review aggregator Metacritic. Reviewers praised its over-the-top humor and character customization options, and criticized its lack of challenge. Several also commented on its "even-handed treatment" of gender, particularly female characters, and spotlighted hacker and former FBI agent Kinzie Kensington's character performance. Saints Row IV sold over one million copies in its first week, and as of 2013, Volition has not released total sales figures.
Polygon's Danielle Riendeau described Saints Row IV as "big, goofy, and self-referential fun" and thought that the game accomplished what it set out to be: "an outrageous exercise in player power fantasy". She also praised the game's degree of freedom around character identity, its "dumb and lovable" narrative, and its transitions between varied sequences. Riendeau wrote that Volition "trimmed the fat" from previous games, and that their addition of superpowers "blew the constraints off a genre already known for player freedom". She considered the story funny and "as obvious as can be", but found its characters "well-realized". Riendeau particularly praised the game's "treatment of gender"—bold female characters who could pursue same-sex relationships or even switch their gender mid-game, and were not treated differently for being female—but found the game's continued association between women and sex workers "problematic" and a "vestige from the series' roots as a juvenile crime drama".
Reflecting on the series' progression, Eurogamer's Chris Schilling said that Saints Row IV successfully reinvented the series yet again, with superpowers replacing the usefulness of in-game vehicles. He compared the game's exploration mechanics to that of Crackdown, and its superpowers to the Infamous and Prototype series, and added that the game's silliness fulfilled a specific niche in gaming. Schilling wrote that the need to restock at ammo shops was a "jarring holdover" from the previous games, but appreciated the recurrence of elements such as the GPS navigation system, side mission gameplay, and city district liberation. He regarded the game overall as artful but "gloriously dumb", like "the Sistine Chapel ceiling of stupidity". Schilling also commented on how he felt an urge to simply forgo the story to search for collectibles, though despite these options, the game became "wearying" over long play sessions.
Similarly, Dan Stapleton of IGN became bored when his superhero protagonist had little "to overcome", and ultimately likened the game to "enabling god-like cheat codes" in its predecessor. He wrote that it was very difficult to die, given the large amount of power-ups dropped by enemies, and that the otherwise praiseworthy features from Saints Row: The Third felt "vestigial" when outmoded by superpowers. Stapleton said the player received the powers too early, which let the player play without caring about the city, and thus removed the "sense of place and character it had in the previous game". He considered the game's large number of collectibles an acknowledgement of this hole, which while originally rewarding, quickly becomes a "chore". Stapleton praised the Red Faction-style Disintegrator and Abductor guns, though considered the dubstep gun an "ineffective disappointment". As a symbol, though, Polygon described the dubstep gun as "iconic" of Saints Row IV.
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