Saints Row IV Hands On Preview
Hail to the Chief, baby!
It’s been a long, hazardous road from Saints Row the Third to the fourth entry in the series. As Volition began work on a final (and massive) piece of DLC for the third game, THQ was collapsing around it. Realizing that Saints Row was one of the company’s last best chances for survival, then-CEO Jason Rubin got the team working on a proper Saints Row sequel, using the DLC as a springboard for the new game. While this news rubbed some fans the wrong way, it seemed like it wouldn’t matter, as THQ indeed shut down, its major IPs and studios sold off to the highest bidders. Thankfully, Volition survived intact, and from what I’ve seen of Saints Row IV, fans have a lot to look forward to.
Saints Row IV starts off with the appropriate amount of hilarity and ridiculousness. It’s not quite up to the level of insanity that was the intro to Saints Row the Third, but there are some moments during the first hour that are best left a secret so you can experience them for yourself. If anyone thought for a moment that Volition couldn’t ratchet up the craziness they need only play this game for an hour to see how wrong that thinking is.
It’s already been widely reported that this time around the boss of the Saints (that’s you) becomes the President of the United States. What might be a little surprising is the fact that this happens right off the bat. As is the M.O. of Volition with these games, Saints Row IV doesn’t hesitate to put players into the fun right away. The Saints rendition of the White House—sorry, White Crib—is equal parts trashy and badass, with the requisite stripper poles and gambling in the background, while the Oval Office is packed with a medium-sized arsenal.
Those guns are needed, as this time around the threat isn’t a rival gang or the government. Nope, this time it’s aliens.
Because they can, that’s why. Stop asking silly questions.
The Saints, including Vice President Keith David (Yes, that Keith David.) get abducted by the Zin, and even the boss gets waylaid by their leader. He (or she in my case) wakes up in an area of Steelport that has to be seen to be believed. It soon comes to light that this is a complicated computer simulation that even Neo would have a hard time breaking out of.
Luckily, the Saints hacker extreme, Kinzie, manages to help the new President out, finding ways to tinker with the program. This gives the main character the chance to learn what can only be described as super powers. Again, because they can.
The first two powers are the super jump and super sprint. It’s clear from these abilities that at least some of this game was meant to be post-game content for the previous game, as the super sprint makes cars nearly obsolete. Sure, the stamina bar will eventually run out, but when you can run faster than the speediest sports car why bother with the jacking? There's also the danger of the world outside of the simulation seeming bland when compared to the super-powered insanity contained within the Zin's virtual construct.
As potentially game breaking as these abilities can be, I can’t deny how damn fun they are. Sprinting through traffic and overturning cars, jumping from rooftop to rooftop all feels incredibly fun and freeing. I have my fingers crossed that one of the later abilities is full-on flight mode, but even if I don’t get to go that far I can see myself falling down the rabbit hole that is Saints Row all over again.
Of course, there is the small (or possibly big) issue with the fact that, when all is said and done, this is a reskinned version of Steelport from the last game. It was a little off-putting when, during the tutorial, I realized that I was driving onto a highway ramp that I had driven across hundreds of times before. The new powers are awesome, and the story already is suitably crazy, but it begs the question how fans of the previous game are going to react to this one.
For my part, I’m sold, but after Saints Row the Third that was already a foregone conclusion for me. The couple hours of time I had with Saints Row IV was just enough to remind me how much fun this series is, and how much I’m looking forward to it. With the next generation of consoles looming on the horizon, this is a great reminder that we still have some awesome times ahead with our current consoles.