Saints Row 4 Preview (Xbox360)

What do you do when you have a game as outrageous, entertaining, and crazy as Saints Row: The Third? You crank everything up to 11 and release as sequel, obviously. As you will have no doubt heard last week, The Saints are back for another crazy adventure. With more Sci-Fi references and parodies that you could swing a dildo bat at, the Earth is under attack from a highly advanced alien race known as the Xen(Zen?).

The leader of the Saints has taken his/her dual gangster/celebrity career to its logical conclusion and become President of the United States, and thus was abducted by the aliens as a key target for indoctrination, the idea being that they can could probably just fold the Earth into the empire without a fight. Unfortunately, they didn’t count on The Saints.

Is... Is that Adam Jenson!? With Superpowers!?

When presented with a premise like that, all I could really do was sit there and stare. And laugh. But mainly stare. A fourth game in the franchise was expected, but I don’t think any of us expected to go this far. I’m looking forward to it already, and all I saw was a ten minute demonstration. Prior to Saints Row: The Third, the franchise only really felt like a quirky GTA-parody that was fun to play, but technically inferior.

The Third, however, really helped the franchise come into its own, and that winning formula seems to have been applied to the fourth game as well – pure over the top madness. The major new features coming to Saints Row IV include Superpowers (as hinted at for the cancelled Enter the Dominatrix DLC), Mech Suits, enhanced customization, new guns and gadgets, and the game world itself.

In order to help indoctrinate the President, the player actually spends most of their time in a virtual representation of Steelport. Queue Matrix references. This version is a little bit more twisted than the ‘real’ Steelport, and it’s within the context of this computer simulation that concepts like Superpowers are justified.

You’re probably sitting there wondering why I’m trying to talk about a game I only really saw ten minutes off. If you haven’t realised after having read about Superpowers and Mech Suits, then I can’t really help you. Obviously, this was a very limited snapshot as to what Saints Row IV *might* be like, but it was enough for me to instantly warm up to the game.

The fact that it has a Dub-step gun as a new weapon epitomises the studios dedication to silly fun. Nothing that we’ve seen so far seems out of place either – the new guns (we also saw an Inflato-Ray), are clever digs at pop culture, and yet fit in perfectly with some of the previous weapons we’ve seen. The Mech Suit – whilst the coolest thing ever – is simply another vehicle which fits in with Saints Row’s roster of other vehicles of mass destruction.

For those of you who really got on with the high degree of customisation, you’ll be pleased to know work has been done in that area as well – it was pretty good in the last game, with everything streamlined into fewer interfaces, and now that same system is being applied to your weapons. The example we were shown was to take the Rocket Launcher, and make it look like a guitar case. It still had all the same stats and mechanically worked the same; it was just a guitar case. As you do.

There’s not a lot else to say at this point: The Superpowers we were shown ranged from flying and high/long jumping (very high/long jumping), do freezing people, to beating the living crap out of them. How much you interact with this element is probably going to boil down to preference, as we imagine you can still play Saints Row IV ‘normally’ without having to use these powers all the time.

Here he comes to save the daaaayyyyy!

It’s still early days yet for Saints Row IV. Despite claims from Volition that they’ve been working on this for a couple of years, we get the feeling things really didn’t start falling into place until relatively recently, when they decided to scrap the Saints Row: The Third DLC Enter the Dominatrix, and flesh out those system for the sequel instead.

At the moment, it looks like this is going to be a current-gen franchise, as the studio doesn’t want to bust their chops just so they can be part of the new consoles' launch programs, so by all accounts this is going to be one those ‘last of a generation’ kind of products – and what a way to send off the outgoing platforms, eh? Stay tuned for more information as it comes. Saints Row IV is due out on August 20th in North America, with the rest of the world getting it August 23rd, 2013.

Most Anticipated Moment: Mech suit. Enough said.

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