What more is there to say about the Saints Row franchise? To be honest, after Saints Row: The Third there isn’t much more developer Volition needs to say or do anyways, besides put out more games. They clearly have discovered Saints Row’s identity, and things can only get better from there.
The first phase in Saints Row’s inevitable transformation into tongue-in-cheek blockbuster series starts with Saints Row 4, which we had a chance to play at E3 2013. The demo featured a brief story primer before throwing players headfirst into the sequel’s super power infused open world.
Most people are already familiar with Saints Row 4’s story, in which the player character assumes a position as our Commander in Chief, so not much to add there. As one might expect, the player character is a terrible President, and things only get worse when a race of aliens invade and abduct the President’s cabinet, including Vice President Keith David (voiced by Keith David).
After that brief introduction, the Saints Row 4 demo jumps into the game’s open world. For the purposes of the demo, Volition did not show how the player ends up in the game’s virtual world, or acquires his super powers, but we know that it involves being held captive in a suspended animation chamber (a la The Matrix).
First things first, though, Saints Row 4 looks and feels like an extension of Saints Row: The Third…Saints Row 3.5 if you will, which it more or less is. That isn’t a knock against the game, mind you, but players should be prepared for a game that has the same visual style, a lot of the same mechanics (with a few deviations), and similar activities.
Within the open world, players can zip around the landscape by car, but the more exciting options are by super speed, super jump, or super hover. Yes, players cannot “fly” per say, but they can hover for a prolonged period of time. And you can combine those super moves by running fast, leaping high into the air, and then hovering to your next location.
Combat also has its own superhero twist via the game’s four abilities, which are mapped to the d-pad. Players can lift items (people, cars, trashcans, what have you) and throw them using telekenesis, freeze items in ice, or pound the ground with tremendous force.
In addition to a decent-sized selection of super powers and movement options, the game also has a healthy arsenal for gamers to fool around with. Most have heard about the dubstep gun – which pixelates enemies and civilians until they collapse – but there is also a laser pistol skinned like a Nerf water pistol, and a black hole launcher that causes immense destruction. Much like in Saints Row: The Third combat is more of a sandbox than a challenge. The fun comes from mixing and matching Volition’s tools, and seeing how each impact enemies.
It didn’t take long for Saints Row 4 to convince me that, as a fan of the series, this game will be worth checking out later this year. Granted, it’s not the evolution some fans might want or expect, but there’s enough new stuff – with the super powers, weapons, and story – that the game doesn’t feel like a complete retread.
Most importantly, the series’ trademark goofy humor was on full display during the demo, and for a lot of gamers that tongue-in-cheek approach is why the Saints Row franchise is so appealing. It says a lot when a demo room filled with war-weary, hungover press featured regular outbursts of laughter.
Are you excited for Saints Row 4? What about the game has you the most intrigued? Is there something you think Volition specifically needs to change about this sequel?
Saints Row 4 releases August 20, 2013 PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.
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