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Saints Row IV Hands On Preview

Fear not, Saints Row is Still NUTS!

Within 20 minutes of my hands on with Saints Row IV I had stopped a nuclear explosion, become president, punched a guy right below the belt, and laid waste to an army of aliens with a Red, White and Blue machine gun turret. I might add, all in hilarious fashion. As I played, I had this huge grin, which kept getting bigger. One of the things I appreciated with Saints Row 3 is how it redefined itself and set itself apart from the juggernaut Grand Theft Auto by getting creative and going off the wall. Saints Row IV has clearly continued down that path.

My preview opened up with a mission where I teamed up with Shaundee, and other accomplices from past Saint’s Row games in order to stop a nuclear bomb from blowing everything away. Upon reaching the bomb, it takes off and I had to climb the bomb and sabotage it, while my partners comically said their final words for their soon-to-be dead ally. Of course, right before the explosion, my character jumps off with style, and appropriately lands in the oval office, setting up the major premise for the game – becoming President of the United States of America.

After this extremely off the wall scenario, I was given the opportunity to create my character. Many of the options from Saints Row 3 return, and there are a few included surprises as well. For example, a voice option simply titled “Nolan North”. And yes, it is voiced by Nolan North, so obviously the game continues to make fun wherever it can.

After creating my character, I had to walk down to make a speech. As I did, I met multiple people who brought up different interactions like one guy who threatened me with a filibuster. The game then gave me the difficult choice of punching him in the face, or punching him below the belt. Also, did I mention that my vice president was Keith David? Yup, you read that right. The Real Keith David, in name and voice. Why, I have no clue, but the idea of that pleased me greatly.

As I continued on and began my speech, the White House was attacked by a group of aliens who are attempting to collect the greatest minds on Earth. So naturally, I had to fight to defend my country. This included fighting off a horde of alien ships with the massive, American machine gun turret that I mentioned earlier. Despite my efforts, I was captured by the aliens and it faded to black.

My character awoke in a 1950’s style world, with the clothes and happy-go-lucky banter to complement it. Naturally, this led to a few laughs, but eventually as I explored more of the world, my character began to piece together that things weren’t right. Eventually I figured out that the aliens had placed me in a virtual world. After I figured out the scam, I had to cause as much chaos as I could with a Rocket Launcher to get my senses back. By doing this, the game is simply enforcing the ridiculous nature of the game, and wants players to know that explicitly.

Eventually, I was given the open world to explore that the series is known for. I found that crazy weapon skins and customizations return, including a free upgrade to the shotgun that turns it into a laser gun. While mostly cosmetic, it’s still pretty satisfying to use and cause mayhem with.

Scattered around the city are these virtual collectibles, which help unlock super human abilities for your character. The first of which that I unlocked were super speed, and a super jump. Super speed, as the name infers, lets you run at an insanely fast pace, meaning things like people and cars no longer stand in your way. The super jump worked similarly to how it does in the Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, as you can charge your jump and vault over high buildings. You can even jump up the side of walls to help you get extra height if your jump falls a little short.

Using this to cross the city was an absolute blast. In some ways, I felt like I was playing an open world super hero game, only to remember that I was playing Saint’s Row when I would get into combat. This is not a bad thing however. The gunplay and combat is largely the same as it was in past games, meaning that it’s not perfect, but it operates more than well enough to make it fun to play. Tons of challenges and side missions that required usage of the powers are scattered around the city for you to engage in. One side mission tasked me with doing as much damage to myself by rag-dolling myself into oncoming traffic, or if I had performed a huge jump. Missions like these are wildly entertaining, and only add to the insanity.

Eventually I gained another power called Freeze Blast, which let me freeze enemies in place to deal damage to them. However, soon after it was time to get out of the virtual world and head back to the real world.

I escaped the virtual world to find that I was naked, trapped inside of an alien space ship. After taking part in a small stealth section, I stole a gun and--like a true madman--ran through the ship, still naked I might add, creating as much destruction as I possibly could in order to escape. Upon making it on to my rescue ship, I had to control it in order to fly out while “What is Love” played in the background. A “do a barrel-roll” joke later, I had escaped the ship only to the disappointment that my demo was over.

If I found out anything about Saint’s Row IV after playing it, it was that I am more excited for it than I ever was. Sense-wise, this game has completely lost it – which can be good or bad to some. For me, it’s that kind of insane action that makes Saint’s Row one of the more entertaining franchises out there and people who love that kind of random, off the wall action might be pleased to know that it will probably just get crazier.  Saints Row IV will be released on August 20 for the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360.



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