Saints Row IV Preview
Steelport isn’t quite how we left it back in Saints Row: The Third. The purple and bling-clad gang have been abducted by a race of muscle-bound aliens, and it’s up to you, now as president, to save them. In the alternate reality, Matrix-style world you now find yourself in, you must gain superpowers to take on the city’s enemies and save the gang.
After the eventful interview we had a few months back with senior producer of Volition, Jim Boone, we thought it only right to get our hands on Saints Row IV as soon as physically possible. Would it live up to the wake of crazy that The Third left behind, or would it go beyond that to some realm of extremity we’ve yet to see come from Volition’s lovechild?
From the moment I picked up the controller I had a smile on my face. That has to say quite a lot about the game as a whole – it’s been made with fun in mind. So many titles these days take the art of gaming far too seriously, when really all we want to do is relax and smash things, just for shits and giggles. You can do that in abundance with Saints Row IV… it has smashing, and fighting, and comedy, and more smashing. You also have super powers… so yeah, smashing.
As the president, you begin your journey by making a few decisions about the world – naturally. Do you cure cancer, or rid the world of hunger? It’s a tough choice, but someone has to do it. You can also either punch a senator in the face or the balls… I know what one I chose. What happens next is one of the best introductions to a game ever – again it’s all about explosions, feeling bad-ass, and generally beating the crap out of everyone. Think the intro to Saints Row: The Third, where your gang attempt to rob a bank, only to end up falling through the air, and crashing through a plane (with style, of course), then times that by ten.
The Xin arrive on the scene; the alien race that end up placing the residents of Steelport into a Matrix-like state, and it’s your job to free them and your gang members. As with the Matrix, over time you learn to manipulate your surroundings and hone your skills; these include the ability to jump great distances, fly, smash into the ground, climb walls… the list goes on. With every super power unlocked during my demo time, I pretty much went on a rampage. It was like the scene from Archer, but without the cancer (because I cured that) – “Terms of Enrampagement”. If I could make you watch a film of my destructive powers over and over again, I totally would. RAMPAGE!
It’s not all about the open world power-mad president though – there’s also a host of weapons to use if you ever get bored of being pretty much indestructible (which isn’t likely to happen, but it’s nice to have the option). These include the insane Dubstep gun which, when aimed at people or even inanimate objects, everything begins to bounce and dance. The black-hole gun has to be one of my favourites, however, as you simply fire it in the general direction of your enemies, and everything within a certain radius gets sucked into a newly formed black hole. Perfect for eliminating multiple targets at once.
Both your character and your armoury can be customised to suit your style, in so many different ways to the previous game. Not only are there different skins for your guns, but completely different models; you could, for example, have an assortment of weapons that look like your favourite sci-fi pistols. It’s nods like this that makes the creativity from the Volition team really shine – they don’t have to include these references to make the game great, but with their inclusion comes something that little bit special. Of course, creating the most outrageous looking character is also a possibility… but that goes without saying. Who wouldn’t want a president dressed like a gimp? I know I’d vote for him any day.
As you progress through the game, you not only have the main missions to complete, but also ridiculous side-quests, with Genki making a triumphant return. It wouldn’t be a Saints game without him, really. Collectables are also scattered across the vast city; orbs, much like in Crackdown, are located on rooftops (some harder to reach than others) which, when collected, can be used to unlock and level up your super-powers. That was pretty much the first thing I did when I started playing the open world section of the demo – it was like I was drawn to the shiny objects, even though I had everything unlocked… stupid collecting OCD brain.
Due to the fact you can jump REALLY far, or fly… or climb… the use of vehicles felt a bit redundant, although without everything unlocked at the beginning I can see why these might be useful. Driving around felt fluid and intuitive, and although I couldn’t find any during my time with the game, there is an option somewhere to fly the alien space-ships. Something to look forward to, right?
So, the big question is: did I have fun? More fun than I thought was possible with a video game (other than the ending of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon – that was just insanity). Saints Row IV is what every super-hero tie-in game has tried to be, and failed. They all have their qualities, don’t get me wrong, but Saints Row iV encompasses everything exciting about being the ultimate super-hero… well, ‘hero’ might be the wrong word, seeing as you’re not too fussed about wreaking havoc, but you get what I mean. Powerful, silly, and without consequence; it’s a marvellous feeling, and Saints Row IV pulls it off with ease. Who wants to be goody-two-shoes Superman anyway?!