Deep Silver’s Saints Row IV has suffered from a famously turbulent time in development, most notable for the fact that it wasn’t always Deep Silver’s. You’d be hard pressed to point out exactly how this has affected the videogame however, as for all these discussions of cancelled expansion packs and rushed development cycles, Saints Row IV is looking none the worse for it. In fact, it’s looking better than ever.
Saint’s Row has turned the corner. Saints Row: The Third made a bold statement for the future of Saints Row as a ludicrous open world videogame that no longer existed as a open world criminal caper in Grand Theft Auto’s shadow: this is a series with it’s own personality as far removed from gritty, urban gang warfare as possible. Saints Row IV doesn’t even attempt to convince us there was ever the intention of being true-to-life, as the leader of the Saints becomes president within the opening moments of the videogame, and then is given superhero powers shortly thereafter. This is an opening that promotes fantasy over realistic interpretation, and Electronic Theatre couldn’t be any happier with it.
The ‘vertical slice’ of Saints Row IV that was presented to Electronic Theatre was decidedly limited. Keener to offer a representation of what would be possible in the videogame than actually presenting the videogame itself, progression systems and story missions were kept tightly under wraps. We do know that there’s been a heavy influence from the underrated Crackdown in both the controls and the upgrade system – with collectable blue ‘data clusters’ dotted throughout the map aided to build your superpower abilities – as each new ability becomes available. In this build of the videogame however, Electronic Theatre was given everything.
Super jump, super sprint, glide, wall run, ground stomp. These are just some of the special abilities the player will have in Saints Row IV, and despite being blessed with such a variety there’s only a very short learning curve thanks to the immaculate control system. Simply tapping the jump button will launch a slightly exaggerated jump, but holding it will allow for charged leap that will send you rocketing skywards. The LB button (L1 on PlayStation 3) allows you to perform a super sprint that sees you move faster than cars. Combining the two allows you to bunny hop across the city with astounding speed, but better still is combining the button presses in the air and gliding to your chosen destination. Then it’s simply a matter of pressing the right trigger to execute a devastating ground stomp attack: Stillwater simply won’t know what’s hit it.
Which is a good thing, of course, as fighting the alien invaders isn’t exactly a run-of-the-mill activity for the leader of a criminal gang, convicted felon, celebrity, president or all of the above, which you now are. But to ensure the Zin are pushed even further onto the backfoot, the player is granted access to some incredibly powerful and suitably ludicrous weaponry. The Blackhole Launcher was undeniable a favourite, sucking enemies, vehicles and unfortunate civilians into the abyss without hope of return. The already infamous Dubstep Gun, however, is one of Saints Row IV’s many light-hearted designs, simply in place to earn a smile from its player: which it never fails to do.
Of course Saints Row IV does feature all of the usual emergent gameplay demanded of an open world videogame: planes, helicopters, alien vehicles, bizarre side missions and navigation challenges. But these are just the icing on a very sweet cake. Set to launch next month, Deep Silver is looking set to deliver the perfect accompaniment to the moments of downtime between those reckless late summer evenings, as even at it’s most serious the team at Volition have ensured that Saints Row IV is never anything less than utterly absurd and ridiculously fun.