Review | 8/14/2013 at 9:00 AM

Saints Row IV Co-Op Review

A little too familiar

Flames erupt from my customized Peacekeeper as I jump over a gap in the bridge. The sleek car’s jet-black exterior reflects the nighttime city lights as I race through crowded streets. This is one of the first cars I 'jacked in Steelport, and it’s also my favorite...

This is all disturbingly familiar. Wait. There's something different. I look up and see a huge alien ship blotting out the Steelport sky. I abandon my ride and begin sprinting faster than the surrounding traffic. My co-op partner flashes by me, a wake of shattered vehicles and ragdoll bodies in her path. I gather my energy into a tremendous charged jump and leap over a building, soaring out of the hostile neighborhood. 

While gliding through the air I spot a group of the oppressive aliens, the Zin, on a nearby rooftop. I blast them with my freeze power and then my partner brings down the thunder with her Death From Above attack. There are no survivors. We're already moving on to the next enemy icon dotting our minimaps.   Welcome to Saints Row: The Third --now with aliens, super powers, and a Presidential story that makes no sense. Or you can call it Saints Row IV. Same thing. 

I'll let you know right now, this is going to be one of those weird reviews where I seem to pick apart a game but still give it a decent score (at least for co-op). Why?

Because Saints Row IV may be stupid, but it's also a hell of a lot of fun --just like Saints Row: The Third! They both use the same boisterous, unapologetic humor to tell their absurd stories. They use the same engine, the same graphics, feature the same awesome co-op, and the same damn open-world map. Sure, you'll travel to a few other random locations during your time with SRIV, but most of these mini-adventures are brief and forgettable. This is clearly a fluffed version of the Enter the Dominatrix DLC originally intended for SRTT

Here's the rundown: You are trapped in a simulation of Steelport for the vast majority of the game. There are some visual differences in the city, such as Tron-like street lights and alien propaganda,  but this is the same city we thoroughly explored back in 2011. The open world events mostly consist of racing, blowing stuff up, or blowing stuff up in a vehicle. There are something like 1500 collectibles, but most of these come in the form of brightly colored data "clusters" which serve as currency for upgrading your super powers. They're about as collectible as coins in a Super Mario Bros. game.

You, the leader of the Third Street Saints street gang, are now the President of the United States. I have no idea why. I'm pretty sure this story only exists to distract us from the fact that we're playing DLC from a year ago. It drives some dialog and plot elements, but it's entirely unnecessary. There's no purpose to being President once we're in the simulation. 

I don't want to cover too much more of the plot. I feel it's a minefield of spoilers for die-hard Saints fans, but I will touch on the Super Homies. You'll have to complete a series of missions for each of your pals to unlock their super powers. Fighting the Zin accompanied by three super-powered Saints is gaming bliss. It's a bummer that almost all of the Super Homie side missions focus on completing the repetitive open-world events. They become tiresome rather quickly. I don't know how many stores I hacked for Kinzie or how many viruses I injected for Keith David, but it was too damn many. 

On a happier note, the critical path missions change things up while experimenting with some gaming genres. SRIV touches on text adventures, stealth games, and offers up a pretty good side-scrolling beat'em up, but these are brief and under-developed. Sadly, the often loose gameplay isn't refined enough to be taking the piss out of anything. 

Two of the high points of SRIV are the wonderful weapons and super powers. Upgrade your speed and jump powers immediately. You'll never have to jack a car again. The customization options on the firearms is absolutely badass. You can change the skins of your firearms to knock-offs of famous movie guns. The SRIV in-house fantasy weapons, like the Inflat-o-Ray and much lauded Dubstep gun are nice, but I was rolling with a gold-plated pulse rifle from Aliens and dual-wielding Robo-Cop pistols. When these were paired with my Freeze Blast and Gravity Stomp I was formidable. When I had a co-op partner we were unstoppable.

Co-op is handled incredibly well, just as it was in SRTT. Two online or system-linked players can co-op every mission and side mission in the game, as well as freely explore the world together or apart. All XP, cache, and collectibles are shared between players and saved to both profiles. Story progress will save so long as you both are on the same mission or have the player with less story progress hosting. SRIV gets a little boring as a solo game. Co-op makes it something special. See it in action in our video review. 

Thanks to Locke Vincent for putting this together.

I defeated the game, unlocked the Super Homies, and reclaimed all of Steelport in 24 hours of gameplay. I wasn't rushing. I still have several challenges to complete and hundreds of upgrade clusters to track down, but I already feel like a god amongst men and monsters. 

Saints Row IV will keep the fans happy, but it's simply an extension of a game I enjoyed a few years ago. 

The Co-Optimus Review of Saints Row IV was based on the Xbox 360 version, which was provided by the publisher.