There are games that challenge the player’s convictions, their sense of morality, even their assumptions about reality. And then there are games that let you beat people senseless with giant purple dildos while wearing sports mascot outfits in the shape of energy drinks. Guess which category Saints Row IV falls into? The big, stupid, ridiculous, nonsensical anti-GTA IV series is back, and we got some time to play with it at E3.
The hands-on session was divided into two portions. The first was the opening of the game itself with the players taking control of the gangster leader from previous games, now in the role of President of the United States. A few over the top jokes and potshots at Washington politics are just about all that players get of enjoying some time as the most powerful leader in the world before aliens show up and attack the White House, proving that the world still has some serious competition in the Bad Ass department from the rest of the galaxy.
There’s really not much to report on the opening. The controls still work and respond as well as they did in Saints Row III and it’s obvious that the engine hasn’t been tinkered with a whole lot. This is not Volition’s swan song game with some loving optimization to kiss the current generation goodbye, so don’t expect anything on the graphical level of The Last of Us here. The White House attack was just a way to ease players back into the style of gunplay and over the top plot developments that Volition has shamelessly embraced to differentiate their series from that other huge, famous, more ponderous open world franchise.
Where things get more interesting is in the second segment of the hands-on session where the scene switched to the virtual Stilwater that the presidential protagonist—a la The Matrix—is trapped in. For the purposes of the preview, the President came equipped with an already “stocked” array of super powers and no fixed story mission to complete, thus allowing full freedom to run rampant through the city.
Volition have taken a lot of the things that made infamous such an interesting game, and drained them of all class and taste. And that’s not a bad thing.
The demo started at the very top of a skyscraper, easily demonstrating the main character’s nigh invulnerability to injury from falls. There’s now also the ability to run at extremely fast speeds (fast enough to run up walls) and leap into the air for massive jumps that can quickly turn into a gliding move to stay afloat longer and travel more easily.
Basically this has made hijacking vehicles redundant. Unless you just like the look of a particular car and want to add it to your collection.
And of course, there are the other super powers. The ability throw up a shield of fire, or a tremor attack that wipes out large groups of enemies are a few of the new abilities players can now use for combat, but there’s still a choice of using good old fashioned SMGs for shooting things, or the heavily advertised dub step gun that makes everything in the area—including cars—hit the dance floor. Volition have taken a lot of the things that made infamous such an interesting game, and drained them of all class and taste. And that’s not a bad thing.
The only downside to this is that the controls for the new super powers can feel a little clunky. The transition from a super run to a jump to a glide isn’t executed as smoothly as it could, and the other powers also require some controller configurations that don’t feel quite as natural to pull as they would in dedicated melee combat games.
A helping of side-quests were available on the map, such as the domination rounds where players simply entered an enemy controlled area and tried to kill everyone within the time limit. Most of it will be familiar to gamers who played the past games. For fans of the series, this is probably a natural progression, and the game looks like it will satisfy people who are already on board for the ride. For others who are probably wondering what all the fuss is about, Saints Row IV is likely going to make that question mark even bigger since it’s more the same but even sillier than before.