With the final game still a little over a month away, Deep Silver was kind enough to provide us with a pair of playable builds of the PC and Xbox 360 versions of Saints Row IV. John and I ran the various versions of the game through the ringer this past weekend and are walking away a ton of excitement for the final version of the game.
E3 gave me a glimpse
of Saint’s Row IV’s craziness. Deep Silver was kind enough to provide the chance to check out more of the game and boy, it’s damn fun. Being a fan of the past two, I missed my time with the Saints and I’m happy to see them back for a fourth go around.
You’re now the President of the United States after another one of those crazy intros that you play through, going after an old friend from the previous game. Unfortunately, aliens have gone and messed up your mojo. The Zins, lead by Zinyak, have invaded Earth and it’s up to you to save the world now from alien domination.
If you played Saints Row The Third, you’re going to feel right at home. At least I did with the preview. Jumping back into the role as leader of the Saints, I had my old crew with me Shaunie, Pierce, Oleg, Kinzie, Benjamin King) and some new faces as well like Keith David. Half of the preview was what I saw at E3 while the other half takes place in a simulation of Steelport. The goal in the preview was to get out of the simulation that Zinyak has you trapped in after being abducted.The scenario reminded me a little bit of Hot Fuzz, where you’re in what seems to be a happy go lucky town only to slowly uncover the dark underlying secret that these folks aren’t all that they seem to be.
As with the last game, various activities are labeled on the map that will give you more items when completed.The insane mayhem from the previous games is back, but now you can pilot an alien tank and the helicopter is replaced by a UFO. Added in were missions to take out old versions of you or to steal cars that look like they will be needed to completed in order to break out of the simulation.
One of the new features in Saint’s Row IV is the inclusion of super powers. In the preview, super speed, freeze, and super jump were available to play with. Once I got super speed, I found myself foregoing stealing cars because it seems quicker to get from point A to point B just by running and jumping. Initially, you’ll be limited to how long you can sprint, but I found that it was still quicker to traverse Steelport using my super powers than by vehicle. The super jump lets you jump high as well as wall jump making it so much easier to scale buildings and reach those hard to reach places.
Each power is upgradeable by picking up clusters scattered throughout the world. With enough clusters, you could upgrade a superpower with a brand new ability. It’s this part that reminded me so much of the old Xbox 360 game Crackdown, where you would jump to various places to pick up orbs. It’s the same here as the clusters are scattered on top of buildings and you have to perform these insane jumps to get to them. Some easier than others, of course. I had a fun time trying to use my powers in reaching these clusters and I definitely can see myself being addicted in collecting these items, not just so I can upgrade my super powers, but just for personal pride in getting them all.
The humor, while extremely childish, makes this game incredibly fun to play. I laughed a lot more than I thought in Saints Row The Third and I’m doing the same now with Saint’s Row IV. When you first wake up in the simulation, you saunter around in this ridiculous strut that put a big smile on my face. If you liked the back and forth that was in Saints Row The Third, then you’ll enjoy the dialogue here in the fourth game as well.
On the PC, the game looked pretty close to the Saints Row The Third, but it does look a little bit more detailed. It’s nothing that will make you say wow, but the style is pretty much the same and the performance on my machine consisting of an i7-2600K with a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760 was absolutely flawless. I did see some of the graphical issues that were at the E3 demo I played with, but let’s hope these are corrected in the final build of the game.
I was able to spend a good amount of time just doing side missions and wandering around Steelport. The preview unfortunately ended when I broke out the simulation Matrix style and had to fly a ship through the internals of the mothership. From the hour or two I had with the preview, fans of the last game and those new to the series should have a blast with the fourth game. It’s more akin to Crackdown then Grand Theft Auto now, and that’s a good thing. The fast gameplay, crazy events, and childish humor are back and I can’t wait for the game’s release come August 20th.
The Saints Row series holds a special place in my heart. Not just because the games are so incredibly insane and fun, but it was also the first game marked the first review product that I ever received. That is another story though, we’re here to talk about Saints Row IV! I don’t even know where to begin with the latest installment of the game. Within the first 20 minutes of the preview build I have I did all of the following:
- Rode on top of an airborn nuclear missile while Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a thing” blared through my speakers
- Ascended to the Presidency of the United States
- Cured cancer
- Decided against ending world hunger
- Shot down an alien invasion using an anti-air turret seated on the White House lawn
It seems as though the development team behind the series has decided to throw out any and all attempts of any “seriousness” when it comes to this installment (as if they hadn’t already). The truth is, the experience may be better for it in the end.
As John mentioned above, the game starts off like any other in the franchise, reintroducing you all of your favorite Saints: Pierce, Oleg, Shaunie, and more. This intro level plays something as both a tribute and a mockery to the Call of Duty or Tom Clancy games, complete with slow-motion door breaching action. While there are some over the top action pieces that play out in the form of cut scenes, the playable action is like that of a straight forward, third person shooter. However, once you make your way through the isolated enemy installation, and a nuclear missile is launched in the direction of the United States, the pedigree humor of the series comes in at full force.
As soon as that nuclear begins its ascension into the atmosphere, your character will make a miraculous dive on the side of it and begin an ascension to the top, deactivating the device and saving the world. While you are trying to complete this dangerous task however, the background music dramatically shifts to the Aerosmith song I mentioned above and it becomes clear that this game is about making you laugh and nothing else. The next thing you know, it is five year’s later and the Saints have ascended to the White House, outfitted it with stripper poles and a serving staff akin to using them. Oh, and you, as the leader of the Saints, are now the leader of the free world.
As if they haven’t already, complete hell breaks loose when the White house is attacked by Zinyak and his extra-terrestrial forces. He abducts all of the Saints, and isolates you as he views you as the one real threat to his Earthly invasion. In order to keep you in line, he banishes you to a simulated world of his own creation, a virtual Steel City of sorts meant to keep your mind rested and at ease, and out of his way. However, what he doesn’t count on is the brainiac of your outfit Kinzie hacking into the virtual simulation and leading you out and back into the real world. The entire section reminded me of a cross between Crackdown (as John mentioned) and the Matrix. Kinzie sort of overseas and manipulates everything in the world and helps you find cracks in the Steelport-Matrix’s code to break Zinyak’s spell. It’s crazy, fun, and the epitome of the Saints Row experience, especially when you discover your super / enhanced abilities.
Having any experience with the previous games will help you to feel right at home here. You get an open-world map of the city to explore and devastate at will. The game looks and runs gorgeous on the 360, despite some minor pop-up and clipping which is to be expected with an unfinished build. The world is insanely detailed and bustling with life at every turn. All of your mission options are laid out on the city map, consisting of both optional and required missions. the option ones in particular provide quite a bit of variety in the gameplay experience. I have done things such as stealing marked cars like the previous entries in the franchise to taking control of an alien fighter ship and creating as much havoc as I can in a limited amount of time.
Everything fan’s have come to know and love in the series has returned. there are a ton of customization options for the look and personality of your character, every vehicle in the world can be hijacked and use for your own will, and weapons can be found everywhere. There are even more weapons than before as the aliens carry their own variety which you can collect and horde for your own usage. The same can be said for their vehicles as well.
It is hard for me to guess where the devs are going with this tale but they can count me in for the ride. The first hour or so of the game that I experienced this weekend has completely sold me on the fourth game. Those hoping that the series would make a shift to a more serious approach (I am looking at you Jason Rubin), will need to keep wishing, because this series isn’t going that direction any time soon. This is classic Saints row through and through and it may just be the best one yet.