Saints Row IV Hands-On Preview

wh_walkingWho would have thought a little open world crime game from the makers of Red Faction about joining a gang and taking over the city would grow from being the only option for a GTA-esque experience on the Xbox 360 to one of the most interesting franchises of the console generation. Saints Row the Third could easily be considered one of, if not the best open world games this console generation. After THQ died, the future of Saints Row and Volition was questioned, but thanks to Deep Silver they are back on track to deliver one of the best looking games they’ve ever made.

Saints Row IV picks up five years after the events of Saints Row the Third. The leader of the Third Street Saints has been elected President of the United States and the game starts with just another boring day in the Oval Office. Your approval rating is down, but fuck that. Your close personal friend and cabinet member Keith David has you choose either endorsing the cure for cancer (titled ‘Fuck Cancer’) or ending world hunger (titled ‘Let Them Eat Cake’) since only one can go through senate. A senator tells you his plans to filibuster you, to which you have the choice to punch a dickhead or punch a dick in the head (I’ll let you sort that out). Then aliens invade and the shit hits the fan.

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After blasting my way through the invasion force in the White House, and I can confirm that if you shoot the invaders in the crotchal region they will grab their alien junk and hop around before dying an embarrassing death, I found myself in an enormous antiaircraft gun adorned in all sorts of patriotic decorations that I blasted spaceships out of the sky with while my character seemed to control it by conducting the Star Spangled Banner. Though even that wasn’t enough to waylay the invasion.

I shot down a ship that I then jumped in and in a quicktime event, tried to kill the pilot. While I’m not the biggest fan of QTEs, I found this one remarkably easy to pull off and it was nice and short. It also showcased that despite all of your testicular fortitude and badassery, these aliens are still going to kick our asses. The Saints are thrown into a virtual world and you’ll have to work with your crew to fight their biggest fears if you want to eventually stick it to these alien assholes with your even more insane assortment of weapons.

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After the opening, we were dropped considerably later in the game with a full assortment of weapons and superpowers at our disposal to test out two of the new activities in Steelport. Of course there are new weapons, as the fine folks at Volition wanted to top the dildo bat from the Third. You would think that a gun with infinite ammo that launched black holes would be enough, and the black hole gun is incredibly awesome, but they really outdid themselves with the dubstep gun, which by name alone sounds pretty stupid.

The dubstep gun looks like someone took some nice, professional turntables and turned them into a shoulder mounted cannon. Not only does the dubstep gun kill people with the power of dubstep, but it has infinite ammo as well, there’s just one catch. The dubstep gun has to charge for a few moments before you can use it, so yes, you have to wait for the drop. Once you can direct your stream of killer dubstep, it will randomly pixelate your targets on beat with the music and has a habit of keeping bodies twitching long after they’ve had their brains melted with the sheer force of your wubs.

Easily the biggest change to the franchise is the newly revamped superpowers from the cancelled ‘Enter the Dominatrix.’ We were given telekinesis, a freeze ability, a shockwave and an area of effect fire ability to fight with, and superspeed and jumping to maneuver with. After having my favorite handling system for open world games, Volition has completely eliminated the need to ever open a car door once you get your super speed power. It isn’t just functional, it’s incredibly fun and with the jumping reminded me of traversing in The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction.

One of the activities we were allowed to play was a checkpoint superspeed footrace. I’m never one for race events in open world games, but running around Steelport while everything I barreled into was flung out of the way by my face was fun. It also really helped hone my new found abilities, which can also be upgraded with collectibles found by exploring the city, finally coupling the addictive nature of the orbs of Crackdown with a game that is actually fun to play beyond just dicking around.

The other activity was a game show where you have to telekinetically throw specific objects into targets and is hopefully only the first part of Dr. Genki’s return. Just as with the race, it entertained and helped me get a real grasp on the new abilities. As exciting as it is to toss giant smiling cat heads into floating cat targets, I loved everything that Dr. Genki brought to the previous game and I want more, this does not nearly cover enough of that insane parody of the inanity of Japanese pop-culture.

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I’m not sure if it’s the insanity of the weapons and abilities provided, but there’s something about what Volition had done with Saints Row IV that made me want to experiment. I wanted to combine my powers and weapons not only just to see what they did, but reap the sweet rewards that come with shattering someone’s frozen face with the force of the wub. This is nothing that I expected of a Saints Row IV and everything I didn’t know I wanted.

Saints Row was a series that never truly captivated me until Saints Row The Third. Going from robbing a bank wearing oversized Johnny Gat masks to diving through a crashing plane to kill all the assholes inside tickled my ridiculous action fancy like so few games had. Saints Row IV looks to not only keep the franchise at the level, but from what I played, it far exceeds the insanity and spectacle of the previous game. Just when I thought I was getting sick of open world games, Saints Row IV came in and kicked those doubts in the balls and telekinetically threw them into a bus.