|Platform||360, PS3, PC|
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Saints Row IV doesn’t take itself too seriously. If you need further proof, simply admire the header image (above) one more time. That, my friends, is a gangster American President raising the roof while sitting in a patriotic-themed chair that fires homing missiles aimed at alien aircraft. Need we say more? E3 gave players a chance to play through two different—though highly engaging—demos. The first served as a reintroduction to the Saints, including a dialogue-heavy prologue that showcased an alien invasion on fictitious American soil. The second demo was a chance to test out some of the finer weapons and abilities, all while traversing the vast open-world city of Steelport.
Crazy stupid? Absolutely. Crazy bad? Certainly not. That’s the best way to describe my hands-on time with Saints Row IV.
The prologue’s cleverly written repertoire opens up at the White House, where we see the leader of the Saints—now the American President—outfitting himself to address the media. On the way to your Presidential powwow session, you, as the leader of the Saints, have the chance to either cure cancer or stop world hunger. You’ll also either punch a Texas oil tycoon in the face or take aim and sock him in the baby-maker—it’s this kind of outlandish humor that makes Saints Row memorable, and IV manages to even kick it up a notch. It’s not often videogames make humor work this well.
The second, exploration-based, demo was all about going completely bonkers in Steelport’s vast sprawling world. Without any missions—or even objectives—this segment provided a plethora of superpowers for me to test out—flight, telekinesis, the ability to freeze enemies, insane guns, and so on. With these powers—which I’m told are acquired a few short hours into the game—I dashed atop the highest building like Spider-Man after too many Red Bulls, reached the peak, and then nose-dived toward the ground at eye-watering velocity. I then decided to check in with Steelport’s citizens, at which point I pulled out the Dubstep gun from my inventory and, with tunes blaring, leveled an entire city block. If you make any attempt to expect the unexpected, you’ll only leave with a headache in Saints Row IV. There’s simply no making sense of this crazy world.
I appreciated the over-the-top mayhem that ensued, but there’s something to be said about being far too powerful in an open-world game. The ability to fly eliminates any desire to drive a car, and superpowers make guns and bullets feel like amateur hour. And dashing through city streets at high speeds, while casting aside cars/people/obstacles like tin toys, means you’ll never walk again. At some point, you’ll get bored, as crazy as it sounds. I’m hopeful the final game has a large variety of missions—ones that pay homage to old-school firefights, as well as new missions that warrant the superpowers. Balance is everything.