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Saints Row IV Review

  • First Released Aug 20, 2013
  • Reviewed Aug 14, 2013
  • PC

Saints Row IV's crazy missions, fun superpowers, and funny writing make it an enjoyable way to live out your destructive fantasies.

After Saints Row: The Third, it was hard to imagine how this series of increasingly zany open-world crime games could possibly get any zanier. Rather than attempting to tackle that challenge head-on, Saints Row IV sidesteps it by being an almost completely different type of open-world game. Sure, the core of Saints Row is still there; there are still plenty of absurd weapons, costumes, and activities. But the way you interact with the world has changed. No longer are you an ordinary earthbound mortal. Saints Row IV turns you into a superhero capable of running up the sides of buildings and flinging people with your mind. This isn't a refined game or a challenging one, but it is a sometimes hilarious playground of a game that gives you plenty of fun abilities to use and plenty of opportunities to use them.

How does the game explain your new capacity for doing things like leaping tall buildings in a single bound and zapping enemies with freeze blasts? It's simple. You saved the world from a terrorist threat and became the president of the United States. Then Earth was invaded by aliens, and the evil alien overlord had you placed in a Matrix-style computer simulation of a city where, much like Neo, you can acquire all manner of abilities that break the rules of the simulation.

Saints Row IV mines its goofy premise for all it's worth. When "What Is Love" by Haddaway comes on as you're escaping from an alien spaceship, the juxtaposition of grim sci-fi visuals with '90s dance beats is so unexpected that it's delightful. And there's an infectious joy in the way your extremely customizable character, puckish rogue that he or she is, delights in it all, whether you've opted for one of the male voices, one of the female voices, or the aptly named Nolan North voice.

The simulation in which you spend most of the game is a virtual re-creation of the city of Steelport, and the city's layout hasn't changed much since Saints Row: The Third, but the evil alien overlord, Zinyak, has remodeled a bit, and he likes to keep it gloomy. Because there's no day-night cycle during the course of the campaign and the whole city is shrouded in darkness, Steelport is a drab, monotonous setting. But it's much more attractive on the PC, where objects are sharp and defined well into the distance, than it is on consoles, where objects even a short distance away look muddy by comparison.

Hell yes! Pancakes!
Hell yes! Pancakes!

Given that this is a game in which you can run around naked shooting people with an Inflato-Ray, you might expect the humor throughout to be crass and juvenile. And, for the most part, it is, but not always in the ways you expect. The game's humor is unabashedly stupid, but it's smart about being stupid, working in references to Shakespeare, clarifications about the distinction between alliteration and assonance, and knocks at those silly people who don't know the difference between a robot and a mech suit. The banter among Saints is consistently sharp and will definitely have you laughing out loud on numerous occasions.

Yes, you will do a barrel roll. Keith David demands it!
Yes, you will do a barrel roll. Keith David demands it!

Very early on in Saints Row IV, you acquire the abilities to leap incredibly high and to sprint at superhuman speeds, and by collecting ubiquitous glowing blue clusters, you can enhance these abilities and the others you gradually unlock. Once you can sprint, you'll probably hardly ever use a vehicle again, since you can run faster than any car, which makes all of the car customization options carried over from earlier games feel a bit superfluous. But it's hard to lament the lack of emphasis on vehicles given the exuberance that can accompany leaping 15 stories into the air and gliding all the way across town.

Those collectible clusters are visible from a great distance, so on your way from point A to point B, you're constantly incentivized to divert from your path, zipping up this building or leaping atop that house to collect them. And if you've attracted too much unwanted attention from the authorities, you can wipe out your notoriety by pursuing a golden snitch-like alien computer orb as it zips around the streets of Steelport and destroying it. It's a refreshing take on the common process of wiping out your wanted level in open-world games, and one that makes using your sprint ability a lot of fun.

You're not really the president until you have your first West Wing-style walk and talk.
You're not really the president until you have your first West Wing-style walk and talk.

While sprinting may replace driving as your primary way of getting around, the powerful attack abilities you acquire, like freeze blast and telekinesis and stomp, don't totally replace your regular weapons, but instead just augment your arsenal. Your offensive abilities need a brief time to recharge, so in between each use, you have a reason to switch to another ability or fire a few shots of whatever weapon you have handy. Unfortunately, though enemies may sometimes overwhelm you through sheer numbers, their AI is thoughtless, so the satisfaction of battle comes not from overcoming a challenge, but from reveling in the power fantasy of obliterating them with energy swords and dubstep guns.

Because the game is so good about doling out new weapons and abilities at a steady pace, you often feel like you have some fun new toy with which to torment your puny alien oppressors. However, because you have so many ways of so effectively overcoming them, combat eventually starts to feel rote and inconsequential, and you may often find yourself just freeze-blasting and shattering your enemies repeatedly to be done with a fight as quickly as possible. And it doesn't help that even though many of your weapons have crazy visual effects or other gimmicks associated with them, they lack any sense of oomph.

Keith David is very convincing in the role of Vice President Keith David.
Keith David is very convincing in the role of Vice President Keith David.

Thankfully, there are activities that give you a compelling reason to use some of your abilities. In the twisted game show Mind Over Murder (from the mind of returning murderous madcat Professor Genki), you need to use telekinesis to hurl people, cars, and Genki heads through designated hoops, and it's empowering to zip around the city streets, picking up hapless pedestrians and sending them flying for your own benefit. But the best activities are the old familiar standbys. Hopping into a tank to cause as much destruction as possible is a simple, explosive pleasure, and hurling yourself into oncoming traffic is still good for a few morbid laughs.

Saints Row IV definitely recycles plenty of ideas from earlier games in the series, but it's also frequently inventive, not just in its shift from absurd crime game to absurd crime game with superpowers, but in the content of its story missions. You play a 2D beat-'em-up, return to the series' Stilwater-set early days, complete a Metal Gear Solid-esque stealth mission, battle a Godzilla-size can of the Saints Flow energy drink, and get embroiled in all manner of other insanity. Almost every core story mission and optional crew loyalty mission has an entertaining concept or a funny surprise in store. However, these missions often focus on the same ho-hum combat you find throughout the game, so even though the ideas on display are varied, the gameplay feels a bit flat. Still, it's well worth playing through the story missions just because of their outrageous scenarios and sharp writing.

The sun never rises over Zinyak's Steelport.
The sun never rises over Zinyak's Steelport.

Even if combat sometimes falls into a rut, there are more than enough surprises in the game's story missions to keep you entertained, and as in previous games, you can increase the mayhem by inviting a friend along to do missions and other activities. Saints Row IV owes a lot to games like Crackdown and Prototype, but the absurd humor that infuses every aspect of this game gives it an identity all its own. The simulated city of Steelport doesn't offer deep gameplay or the most satisfying challenge, but it is a great place to mess around.

Back To Top
The Good
Fun movement and combat abilities
Wild story missions
Some very funny writing
The Bad
Combat grows dull despite your varied powers
Monotonous setting
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for Saints Row IV

About the Author

Carolyn has been wreaking havoc in urban open worlds since the release of Grand Theft Auto III. Alas, she hasn't yet figured out how to leap around San Francisco like some sort of real-life Neo.
106 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

Avatar image for patrickwwalker

Why does it seem like every game designer goes to the same school? Great game until and totally was let down by a sheerly awful final battle. Epicly bad. Seems no one can get away with the boss who can throw unlimited amounts of bodies at you while you have to do something amazingly annoying and convoluted...

Avatar image for differentiation

Let's just call this game for what it is: SR3 Alien Invasion DLC

Avatar image for biokrysty

it it very funny especially in co-op but I miss the sun it is so dark in the most part of the game....

Avatar image for nimd4

.. Just btw., read this in a review: 'But the powers do mean you rarely drive a car unless you feel you should or a mission forces you to.' & I thought I'd mention it for anyone else playing, SPOILER, you don't have to drive the car/tank because you can use telekinesis to get it to the destination! =)
Despite all the *simplicity* and all of the things people are complaining about.. This is a great little game, very neat. I liked it a lot, for a number of reasons (+dialog & Keith David! :))

Avatar image for nimd4

@mrboone01 Obviously you haven't played the game. It's dumbed-down, sure, but it's good fun!..:) Oh and no bugs here, no idea what you're talking about.

Avatar image for mrf47


Avatar image for nimd4

@mrf47 Nah, I love it. No more (boring ;) :)) driving around. Plus, it's a half-naked chick in the Matrix! Awesome, lol!!

Avatar image for elessarGObonzo

one of the most unique games i've played in a while. it is one of the best satirical achievements of my lifetime(30+ years). that's saying a lot coming from the most sarcastic generation ever.

very fun and entertaining.

Avatar image for gibbey531

You know...7.5 doesn't mean this game is bad. I look at the rating systems as recommendations, Example: rating a game 1 means never to buy even if on sale, and 10 is my cue to call in sick, buy the game asap, and binge play all day/night.

I for one LOVE this game! I can safely recommend it to anyone. whether or not you want a serious game, it's hard not to have fun with this title. 7.5 is a pretty accurate rating, though, as the story had so much potential to do some pretty cool things or introduce new twists and turns (in a totally acceptable sci-fi fashion mind you)

say what you want, but this game will forever be on my collection to just cause 2

Avatar image for y3ivan

dupstep gun is definitely the best weapon of the year

Avatar image for LordRork

Saints Row takes risks in the way GTA never has. GTA used to have a sense of humour, but over time lost it in the pursuit of gritty realism (starting with San Andreas, I'd say). My main criticism of SR4 is that it is so over the top that the big moments can lack the impact that the big moments of SR3 did.

SR does sometimes hit the wrong note, but at least they not afraid to give it a go. They play around with the genre in a way that is rare these days as games aim for "cinematic" experiences. I'd say only SR and Just Cause amongst the big titles aren't afraid to really poke fun at their own genres (Indie games often try it too).

Avatar image for brandonm236

@LordRork GTA has never had a sense of humor. Ladies and gentlemen I give you a saints row fanboy who has only played GTA IV. GTA V will be better than SR4 not because of how serious it is but because of the fact that it's a longer story, and there's more things to do after you've completed the story.

Avatar image for theCCyberDDemon

@brandonm236 @LordRork GTA always had a sense of humor, but in a contradictory, subtle and inteligent way. Is not that GTA just throws jokes and obscenity all over like Saints, looks like they're just trying to copy the primitive GTA 2 and 3 formula where unreal situations could not stand realism, like falling from a rocket without parachute and sitting down on president's chair on Saints. Whatever you think about GTA being comic or not, THQ is currently thinking that inteligent irreverence is the same thing as appealing absurdities. All of that which isn't that fun as gamespot tells you, for more than 20 minutes.

Avatar image for LordRork

@brandonm236 @LordRork

Really? You're going with the fanboy accusation? I've been playing the GTA games since the original came out in the late 90s with its obsession with running over Hare Krishnas. Vice City is still probably one of my top 10 games. Stick to the case presented instead of just trying to score points, eh?

GTAV will probably have a deeper story and more polish, I agree. But GTA doesn't really try to innovate - it's become a variation on a theme. SR isn't trying to be deep, it's just trying to be fun and humorous (comedies are rarely longer than dramas) instead of trying to be the GTA clone it started out as.

Avatar image for elessarGObonzo

@LordRork @brandonm236 ahhh, u hurt his little fanboy wannabe gangster nerve.

Avatar image for brandonm236

@LordRork @brandonm236 If something works then why try to change it? I'm not saying saints row 1 and 2 didn't work I'm saying they shouldn't have made saints row 3 and 4 like this because what they did in saints row 2 worked fine. The deep and serious story along with pretty fun gameplay. I mean saints row 3 had a fight club but they didn't use it as an activity. I'm not hating on SR3 because of the wacky storyline and gameplay. I'm hating on SR3 because of the short story and the lack of activities.

Avatar image for jerusaelem

An amazing and fun game that's going to be low balled by loser gamers and reviewers alike who assume their taste in games are much more refined than they actually are. It's unfortunate that you all have forgotten that games are supposed to be FUN. No hate, mind you. Just heaps of fucking pity. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to call up Keith David, and Rowdy Roddy Piper and go curb stomp some motherfucking aliens! If you can't appreciate that...****, I dunno...go play GoW again or something.

And as it would seem most of you have forgotten: You are ALLOWED to like Saint's Row AND Grand Theft Auto, you ridiculous chimps! They're both fantastic franchises, and while it may seem natural to compare the two and try to pick sides, it's not necessary. The only thing stopping you from enjoying both series is your own stupid brain meat. Get the **** over in and enjoy BOTH. I did, and the grass is waaaaaaay fucking greener on my side of the for the bits that are smeared with the blood and guts of 10,000 pedestrians...

Avatar image for thezhe

it is the time human become mutant, Saints Row X evolution

Avatar image for faizankhan23

Some twisted lil fairies competing this piece of shit with GTA V.

Avatar image for SteXmaN

Fun little game that gets repetitive very quickly.

Avatar image for Eraldus

Might get it, once it hits the bargain bin

Avatar image for 00J

You all don't think it's funny? The character creation and the voices are so stupidly funny, especially to see them talking in the ingame cut scenes.

Saint's Row is just a toy, a playground, don't you all get it?

GTA 5 will of course be 10.0 but these are 2 TOTALLY different games.

You can't tell me you can sit in front of your T.V. and not laugh at Saint's Row...

Your BSing if you say you sit there and frown...

Avatar image for 00J


Avatar image for picho86

Am I totally imagining this, or didn't it get an 8 originally?

Avatar image for FCT-Steve-O

@picho86 I thought it originally had a 9ish on this site. They've changed the score on a couple games lately but usually its like .5 higher or lower. Ducktales was 4 and went to 4.5, there was a few others too that I dont remember.

Avatar image for PetJel

omfg the ending tho

Avatar image for Shane747

Yep, this cheap cash-in of an already mediocre game is as good as Skyward Sword :

Avatar image for toshineon

@Shane747 Actually, this game goes a completely different route than Saints Row 3 did, even though much of the city is reused.

Watch this, it sums it up pretty well.

Avatar image for OurSin-360

The review and the score don't seem to line up for me. Saints Row the third was easy as well, you could kill all the gang missions with the V-tol in the first few minutes if you wanted to. But it's not about challenge, it's about the experience and the humor. I didn't play the first 2, but since the 3rd the series is basically a sandbox where you make your own fun. (I can't truthfully discount the score yet since i haven't played it, but reading and watching the review it seems to have everything i loved about the previous game which i would score over a 9). I thought the only challenge in SR 3 revolved around figuring out the broken physics lol.

Avatar image for 00J

@OurSin-360 LOL, you figured it out. Saints Row isn't about skill or challenge it's about sitting back and having fun. It's so stupid fun.

Avatar image for Thesuperstar2k

Eh, 7,5? Not agreed with the score. Looks just the same as the third where that's good, but this is just getting old. Not buying it. Wish they do just like the 2nd.

Avatar image for Majkic666

@Thesuperstar2k or a combination of the 1st and 2nd... 1st one had the best story

Avatar image for ziproy

I like the reference to past games they threw in. Having all the different Shaundi's the developers went through, kinda makes me wanna see wats up

Avatar image for AllHailTheSith

I can tell this game already has a disappointing ending. This would have been the perfect opportunity to save the world from aliens, using Earth's most powerful weapon... Chuck Norris... but no, they had to go screw it up...

Avatar image for devastator1991

It doesn't look bad, just not my type of game though.

Avatar image for deactivated-5b59688fc6492

Yep, it looks ridiculous.

Avatar image for jmmijo

What is freaking better then Keith David playing himself in SR4 ?

Maybe if Rowdy Roddy Piper shows up as himself wearing sunglasses ;)

Avatar image for MrMoBdick

I just couldn't enjoy it. I loved the first Saints Row more than the GTA at that time. It was so great as an alternative to the GTA series. Seemingly unlimited customization on everything, great writing, robberies, etc. With every passing installment this game has grown worse and worse. It may be a well conceived and well done game, but I personally, can't get over the fact that they went totally out of the way of what made the game great. I tried to get into this game, I really did, but could not in the least. More power to you if you enjoy it.

Avatar image for Tidal_Abyss

I just saw at SR4 reviewed as 93/100. I guess I'll have to see for myself, on PC.

Avatar image for coldscooter

30 second long adverts on every f**king video! Why don't you just punch me in the face GS?

Avatar image for Thesuperstar2k

@coldscooter Adblock (:

Avatar image for ThAdEa82

@coldscooter adblock...before you're committed.

Avatar image for Stabba_The_Kutt

@ThAdEa82 @coldscooter adblock is a bigger pain in the ass than the ads.

Avatar image for Scarshi

I love being a PC gamer.

My 360 is getting very dusty :)

Avatar image for pal_080

@Scarshi You could always use it as a space heater, or a really loud fan!

Saints Row IV More Info

  • First Released Aug 20, 2013
    • Linux
    • PC
    • + 4 more
    • PlayStation 3
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox 360
    • Xbox One
    When an evil alien overlord traps the human race in a simulated world to enslave them, only the Third Street Saints, having been elevated to the office of the President of the United States, can save the world.
    Average Rating865 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Saints Row IV
    Developed by:
    Volition Inc., Deep Silver
    Published by:
    Deep Silver, E-Frontier, Spike Chunsoft
    Action, Adventure
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Blood, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Content, Strong Language, Use of Drugs