Saints Row 4 PS3 review – Uneven open-world is a clear and President danger to itself

saints row 4 screens

Clearly, the 3rd Streets Saints have never had a scan of the Declaration of Independence. You can forget about all men being created equal in Saints Row 4 on PS3 the first time you zip up the side of a Steelport skyscraper or bound 30 metres into the air with your superpowered President. Volition’s madcap sandbox has donned some fetching tights and emblazoned a big, fat S over its chest as it looks to soar over its predecessors while zapping Infamous with a freeze ray and punching it into the stratosphere.

Saints Row 4 PS3 review

Not that Cole MacGrath should start furrowing his bald brow just yet. While Saints Row 4 admirably nails the mechanics of being a Superman-rivalling badass, the game is still haunted by the Ghost of Rubbish Missions past. This is a series that has always managed to throw effortlessly daft weapons, vehicles and minigames at you. Yet attempting to conjure up a truly gripping open world campaign proves to be the toilet-mouthed gangsters’ Kryptonite once again.

“Cue an eye-catching setpiece that starts with you clinging on for dear life to a rocket while being serenaded by Aerosmith’s Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing”

I’ll take a critiquing crowbar to the game’s uninspiring, samey missions shortly. But first, some context. Just why in the name of The Flash’s fetching red onsie is your Saints gang leader a cross between Neo and Nixon in the first place? Well, after a truly bizarre opening that riffs on Zero Dark Thirty, your customised character averts nuclear catastrophe. Cue an eye-catching setpiece that starts with you clinging on for dear life to a rocket while being serenaded by Aerosmith’s Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing, and ends when you plummet into the Oval Office and are immediately declared Leader of the Free World. Phew. Oh, then aliens totally blow up Earth, leaving any survivors to live on through a Matrix-style simulation. Double phew.

Enter some dang satisfying superpowers. Keanu might have been able to duff up 300 Agent Smiths with a washing prop, but he certainly couldn’t freeze enemies or envelop his gunfire in flames. Aside from the aforementioned Blast and Buff abilities, you’ve also got a Hulk-shaming leap on x and a preposterously nippy Super Sprint executed with L1. Forget walking on water with the latter… try darting across vast expanses of the wet stuff like you’re Jessica Ennis-Hill pegging it for the last bus. Throw in a dollop of telekinesis and gliding powers that let you hover over the skies of the simulated city like a supernatural flying squirrel, and you have quite the recipe for heroic success.

saints row 4 screensThat the game conveys such a simple joy of character movement then squanders it with a thoroughly dull city and shoddy missions is a crying shame. Virtual Steelport is an unremittingly dreary place to be, regardless of whether you’re wielding a rocket launcher shaped like a snow cone while flying through the air dressed as a giant panda.

Until you finish the main story, the entire metropolis is bathed in darkness, with an extra layer of blurry colour filters and horribly plain textures slathered on for eye-offending good measure. Add to this every main character looks like a Smackdown CAW from six years ago and there’s no question Saints Row 4 is uglier than Quasimodo in a mankini. Worse, the framerate frequently tanks. It may have been a glitch with our review code (or a fault that can be fixed with a day one patch), but the game dropped to about 10-15fps for over ten minutes on three separate occasions over the course of the story.