The Saints Row series as it is now is a far cry from how it first began under THQ and Volition. What once seemed like a direct competitor to Rockstar's iconic Grand Theft Auto series has since evolved into something else. In 2011, the developers took a gamble with Saints Row: The Third. Well, that all paid off, and Volition is still running with it. Enter Saints Row IV, somehow bigger and crazier than its predecessor could ever hope to be.
Sure, Saints Row IV isn't exactly what you'd call a "serious" game. Yet after spend hours with the game over this past week, just punching aliens into oblivion while dressed as some kind of ridiculous superhero/villain, I suddenly remembered something: I really missed all this crazy.
The game's opening moments aren't exactly spoiler-heavy, but to describe it in great detail would definitely ruin the surprise. As we all know, however, Saints Row likes poking fun at other well-known games, and that's pretty much exactly how Saints Row IV starts off. A cover mission overseas, slowmo door breaches, and Aerosmith's hit ballad "I Don't Want to Miss A Thing" all come together to form a very unexpected and hilarious introduction.
In cased you missed the memo (and every single trailer over the last few months), the Third Street Saints have moved on from being pop culture icons to politics, and their illustrious leader now sits in the Oval Office. Yes, you're going to be playing the President of the United States. I really like to think of my Saint as being the first lady POTUS.
Unfortunately, your reign is cut short when the Zin Empire invades. Bummer, that. I won't give away too much of what happens here, but one thing leads to another, and suddenly, you've got superpowers.
The bulk of the preview -- early game content, basically -- revolves around these new superpowers. Think of Saints Row IV as everything you loved about Saints Row: The Third plus superhuman abilities. Despite how cheesy this sounds, the new powers are seriously a ton of fun, while also adding another bit of depth to the leveling system but giving you more things to actually level. Think of Crackdown or Prototype, in terms of how the powers are tied into an open world environment.
Saints Go Super Saiyan
Super speed and jumping makes cars pretty obsolete as far as transporation goes, but I still found myself grabbing/stealing vehicles here and there whenever the urge struck me. These abilities don't just help you get around, either. Try charging through a mob of enemies for maximum hilarity; they pretty much just ragdoll around for a while, because you're pretty much a rampaging bus.
More offensive powers become available over time, as well. In the preview, I managed to nab an ice blast ability (though in the E3 preview, I also sampled some fire-based powers). These can actually be combined with your traversal skills for some interesting tactics. You'll need these tools, anyway, seeing as how the Zin are a good deal tougher than any rival gang. There are a lot of them, too.
As you might imagine, these powers actually help out a great deal with collectibles. Some of these are rather important (but not integral) from a gameplay standpoint. In the preview, for instance, the city housed hundreds upon hundreds of data clusters, which worked as currency for your superhuman powers. They're scattered across buildings of all sizes, landmarks, and some tough hard-to-reach places that require a bit of third-person platforming to get to.
Simple as all of that may sound, I found myself returning to the game time and time again, and then sigh in disappointment when the demo ended at a turning point in the plot. Keith David had just saved my life! Seriously, how often can you say that happens?
I was actually pausing my precious Skyrim time to play this demo. It's an odd contrast, I know, but as any Saints Row: The Third fan can tell you, the game is really just about having fun, where you can be a complete badass without having to take anything too seriously. Saints Row IV is promising more of that.
As for the other Saints, I've seen everyone from the third game pop up in some capacity except Angel. Heck, last I heard, Oleg had managed to escape alien abduction. Still, I'm not going to tell you who will appear and how important their roles will be, simply because I can't know for sure at this point either. Keep your fingers crossed for your favorites.
Saints Row IV will be out on August 20 for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. If you're seriously committed, consider the rather pricey Collector's Edition, complete with a Dubstep Gun replica.
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