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Critics: Saints Row IV is big, goofy fun

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(Credit: Volition/Deep Silver)

Saints Row IV may not be a game people point to when making the "games are art" argument, but that's not stopping critics from lavishing praise on the latest installment of this open-world action romp -- even if they feel a little guilty doing so.

In a year filled with games that take themselves quite seriously, Saints Row IV revels in its utter ridiculousness. In the game's first 30 minutes, you'll travel from the Middle East to the White House to an alien space ship. And that's just the set up for a story that borrows liberally from "The Matrix," "Independence Day," Mass Effect, and Grand Theft Auto.

In many circumstances, that could result in a sloppy mess, but with Saints Row IV, it all comes together.

"Every single thing in Saints Row IV is worth doing, which is a huge accomplishment on its own, but its story missions in particular are inventive, hilariously unexpected examples of truly inspired game design," says Joystiq in a 5/5 review.

[Related: Special edition of Saints Row IV costs $1 million. Yes, $1 million]

The Escapist is even more effusive, giving the game another perfect 5/5 score and giving props to the game's introduction of super powers as well as its wide array of weapons, including a Dub-Step gun (yes, a gun that shoots dub-step music) and the head-popping "Inflato-Ray."

"You'll rarely find yourself lacking options over how to accomplish a particular goal," the site writes. "When it comes to clearing out enemy flashpoints, for example, you could run in and beat everyone to death with a bat, snipe them from afar with a disintegration rifle, or use your superpowers to throw them around like ragdolls with life-draining telekinesis. ... It's hilarious, it's action-packed, and most of all, it's fun to play."

USA Today is on board as well, calling it "an amazing experience" that "pulls off something rare in the video game realm: high-quality parody." They give it a 3.5/4.

Originally envisioned as an add-on, Saints Row IV became a full game while in development by Volition at THQ. When THQ floundered, Volition – and Saints Row – wound up in the hands of publisher Deep Silver. Because it builds off of Saints Row 3, some critics note that there's an awful lot that's familiar here.

"In plenty of ways it's all-but-identical to the previous game, but plenty of deviations both big and small make it feel quite different," writes Giant Bomb. "You'll feel like you've played some of this before, but if you're at all interested in Saints Row's brand of weird, it's absolutely vital." They award it a 4/5.

"[The game] doesn't do anything particularly new or revolutionary, and it certainly won't be remembered as a generation- or even genre-defining event," adds Shacknews in an 8/10 review. "But it is a thoroughly well-executed absurd empowerment fantasy. ... This might not be the game to evoke essays on meaning and artistry, but I haven't had more fun this year."

Of course, not everyone loves the game. The graphics are a bit dated; the framerate isn't consistent and the AI is wonky, something that led Official PlayStation Magazine to give it just a 6 out of 10.

"Occasionally excellent, often mired in mediocrity, Saints Row 4 is inferior to Red Dead Redemption and even five-year-old GTA IV in almost every way," they write.

But by and large, critics are having a blast blasting through Saints Row IV’s wild, wacky world, making it a no-brainer for fans of open-world games…at least until GTA V shows up in September.

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