Saints Row: The Third successfully managed to redefine the franchise and carve out a niche in the sandbox arena by offering, extreme and over-the-top visuals and gameplay scenarios, with the primary focus being simply on crazy fun and just plain crazy.

So, with THQ gone, and Deep Silver now picking up the publishing reins for developer Volition, how does Saints Row 4 raise the bar from having Burt Reynolds on speed dial, a dildo bat weapon and singing zombies? It’s simple. Give the 3rd Street Saints a dragon to fly. No, not really – although that was the original plan – just put them in charge of the entire nation, give them Dubstep weapons, mechs, superpowers and… aliens to fight.

What was originally meant to be a DLC expansion for Saints Row 3, Enter the Domintrix, has been mostly scrapped and its development team merged with the team working on Saints Row 4, which began development two months before The Third released.

For that reason, and the seemingly quick release date after the THQ bankruptcy, there are obvious concerns that Saints Row 4 is more of a rushed cash-in before the next-gen consoles (and Grand Theft Auto V) release and that it’s more of a 3.5 than a 4. The game’s creative director Steve Jaros tells Joystiq that’s not the case:

“We had to go in and totally gut the [Dominatrix] story for Saints Row 4. Everything that was the missions or the story we did for Dominatrix was totally thrown out. All the voice recording that we did all thrown out. We redid the entire story. The game is mission wise the same length as Saints Row 3, plus other open worlds on top of it.”

“Everyone on the team had the same concern, we didn’t want to make a 3.5, we aren’t making an expansion pack. What we put out to the world has to be worthy of the name Saints Row 4. I really think everyone on the team will stand behind it. So much stuff has been changed and thrown out. Even the best of the [Dominatrix] stuff that we liked and pulled into the game we still changed. Nothing was drag and dropped in.”

With Javros previously reiterating to game press at PAX East over the weekend that Saints Row 4 has a “F*** ton more” open world content than Saints Row: The Third, we’re feeling rather optimistic about the next 3rd Street Saints adventure, even though it’s always a little disconcerting to hear of there being so much post-launch DLC in development. Javros told Destructoid not to worry, explaining  that some of the DLC is outsourced to other developers including High Voltage Software (Kinect Star Wars).

Saints Row 4 Trailer

What also has us excited are not the UFOs players will battle in the air, but that players of Saints Row: The Third will be able to port their character over from that game, a la Mass Effect although we don’t know what that means in terms of story or character stats/custom vehicles/weapons, etc., especially since Saints Row 4 takes place a few “years” later.

If you’re excited about Saints Row 4 and interested in the Collectors Edition, help Deep Silver determine what it’s going to include by filling out this survey.

How will Saints Row 4 compare to its predecessors and will it stand out against Watch_Dogs and GTA V?

Saints Row 4 releases August 20, 2013 for the PS3, PC, and Xbox 360.

Sources: DestructoidJoystiq, NY Post