The Saints Row series has always served as a comfortable staple in the gaming community as a franchise built to satisfy our innate need for catharsis. Volition likes it that way, and their goal with every installment isn’t “how do we capture the industry’s hearts and win all the important awards?” but “how to we make our game even crazier!?” You know what? We love them for it. We know they love us too, and the first-hand look we got at Saints Row IV at this year’s PAX East is irrefutable proof of that. Let’s have a look at what exactly is pushing the Saints way over the top in their latest venture.
Commander in Chief – What more is there for the leader of the Saints to achieve? Steelport is essentially his backyard and every gang that has tried to wrestle it from the prince of purple’s grasp has been taken out of the picture. If you were thinking it’s time to branch out and expand influence, then how does president of the United States strike you? No I’m not kidding, but when you think about the history of Saints Row this isn’t particularly hard to believe. Yes the head honcho is now that and more for the entire nation; a damn scary thought yet this is hardly the craziest aspect of the game. That last statement alone is also a damn scary thought. Volition has assured us that while the typical duties of being in such a high office may not present the best opportunities for fun and exciting activities, this is a Saints Row game and nothing is ever “typical”.
Saints or Superfriends? – One of the most outlandish, if not the most outlandish addition to SRIV is the ability to utilize superpowers. Cole McGrath eat your heart out because the big man in the oval office is coming to town with powers such as super speed, flight, the ability to freeze others, and a lot more. The effects this will have on combat are fairly obvious, but what is important to take into consideration here is how it will change navigating the city. While Steelport is essentially the same design minus some…well you could call them aesthetic changes (to be discussed in the following paragraph), verticality wise there is more to explore. With the option to leap tall buildings and fly around the city more had to be made available to players than the usual landing zones for jumping out of planes. It’s a rather elegant solution to giving gamers a change in scenery from past games without actually moving the entire setting. According to Volition, the overall point of adding these powers to your repertoire is exactly as it seems, to make the leader of the saints more of a badass.
Enter the Extra-Terrestrials – It’s been confirmed that one of the staples of Saints Row games past has been done away with for SRIV; I speak of the concept of gang warfare. However the idea of territory control is still very central to the story; this time around the struggle is on a much grander scale. Steelport has been invaded by aliens known as the Zin, who primarily serve as the counter-balance to the superpowers so that a challenge in combat is still present and the gameplay avoids a totally broken feel. Having tiers of difficulty within their ranks as well, the strongest methods you have available to fight with at any given time could possibly matched by a Zin encounter; after all players won’t start off with every single ability learned. During the demo is seemed as if the Zin can take the form of humans, as several encounters with the police force actually turned out to be the aliens in disguise. It is also these invaders that cause the twisted types of changes to the appearance to Steelport that was discussed earlier. Structures have been destroyed and ships can be seen hovering above parts of the city, it would seem humanity has a common enemy now but you can still bet there will be plenty of idiots on the ground that deserve to get groin punched or tossed head first into a street sign. The joys of mindless violence on the innocent is not lost in Saints Row IV. Thank god.
More Wacky Weapons – I would just like to start by saying I always knew dubstep would be the death of humanity; or at least it can now be harnessed as a weapon…um…sort of. Another trademark of Saints Row is the insane weapons you can wield, and the addition of superpowers will not be a deterrent for that. Guns are wackier and more fun to use than ever before it would seem with demonstrations by such weapons as the dubstep gun which when fired makes everyone in its range break out into dance to the tunes of…well you guess it, dubstep. Hilarious in design, perhaps even more so in social commentary. Another of the crazy weapons showcased was the inflate-o-ray which turns your target’s head into a hot air balloon. Of course the game will also feature the infamous Penetrator, which I will only say is long, purple, and dangerous…ok and hilarious.
It may not seem like it on the surface but Volition prides themselves in dealing in fun within responsible boundaries. The whole idea of the over the top entertainment in Saints Row is to make sure there’s a reason for something and nothing is being done only for the sake of being ridiculous. The sense of crazy will always be pushed to its limits, but without overstepping the sensible nature of an M-rating. After working on the series for so long the team has a sense of what lines not to cross while still offering what no company out there is offering on the market today. The team also promises there will be plenty of reasons for veteran fans of the series to smile as well, including some appearances by past characters. Who are they? We’ll just have to wait and see.