Soon after your masked character embarks on a self-sacrificing nuke destruction mission set to I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing by Aerosmith, you get to design your own presidential avatar. It was supposed to be self-sacrificing, but who cares? This is Saints Row. I’m now a Tom Selleck look alike who cheers like Lion-O from the Thundercats, taunts like John Cena from the WWE, and has Nolan North’s voice. I could have chosen Male 1, 2, or 3, but Nolan North seemed the proper choice.
Cut to some time later where The Saints have transformed the White House into the White Crib, and made it full of debaucherous activity. As President I decided to “Fuck Cancer” and break a southern politician’s nose right before aliens invaded and abducted all the Saints, including Vice President Keith David. From there, they dump you into a Matrix-like virtual world, with SR3 alum and former FBI Agent Kinzie as your omnipresent operator.
Here’s a fun game to play: Go out on the Internet and take a shot every time a preview for Saints Row IV mentions Crackdown. I’m willing to bet that you’ll be drunk after the third one. That’s because Volition has found a way to, thematically at least, bring some incredibly entertaining aspects of the Realtime Worlds classic into a world run by charismatic criminals. Well, the world outside of this VR world is run by the criminals, but really you’re already in a virtual world. So a virtual world inside a virtual world, run by aliens…
It’s a fever dream where your character listens to The Touch by Stan Bush on the radio in his head.
Before too long I was able to jump over buildings as well as run faster than cars, which is great because the default walk speed is agonizing. Most importantly, I spent plenty of time collecting “clusters” to increase my already strong superpowers, though the pickup sound isn’t as satisfying as that of the Crackdown Orb. It took every ounce of willpower to stop gathering orbs and continue with the preview’s story beats. I couldn’t jump and shoot at the same time though, so pogo firefights weren’t a thing. Maybe a later power?
Superpowers present in Saints Row IV aren’t limited to movement abilities; I was able to hit and shatter some baddies with ice blasts as well. These weren’t just to augment my carnage. Some bigger enemies required the use of ice as a shield buster first, before being able to shoot the crap out of them while Bombs over Baghdad plays in the background.
I’ve mentioned a few songs throughout this writeup. Here are some more songs I heard while spending a few hours with SRIV: Biz Markee – Just a Friend, Paula Abdul – Opposites Attract, The Romantics – Talking in your Sleep. If there’s anything I can say bad about SRIV, it’s that I still don’t like the Insurance Fraud mini-game and it remains to be seen if any other side content will be as compelling as the main campaign.
THQ has been shuttered, Volition was sold off to Deep Silver, and Saints Row: The Third came out less than two years ago. It’d have been very easy for this to be a cheap cash-in. Standing in the face of adversity, Saints Row IV seems to be kicking adversity in its un-American stupid alien face and laughing the entire time.