Saints Row 4 Preview: So Far, So Good, So Maybe
For those of you unfamiliar with the nuts and bolts of Saints Row 4, check out our previous hands-on with the game that explains what exactly is going on in Steelport.
Just in time for the most patriotic of American Holidays, the freedom-loving people of Volition have given members of the press an early look at Saints Row 4, which might as well be called The America Ass Kicking Giggle-Fest Nut Punch Fireworks Spectacular.
The preview confirms that Saints Row 4 is letting the wheels fly off the Grand Theft Auto car entirely, perhaps finally establishing itself as a distinct experience from Rockstar’s similar car-stealing open-world title. Not necessarily by bringing anything new to the table, mind you, (though there is one bona fide new element I hope everyone else copies), but via adoption of an “everything but the kitchen sink” approach to humor, gameplay and story that tops even the slap-happy approach of Saints Row 3.
Patriotism? Mocked and celebrated. Copious video game violence? Ditto. An almost machine gunned-burst of jokes? It’s there, and it’s fabulous. I had a blast playing, and continue doing so even though I’ve nothing left to do but complete a very limited set of open-world objectives. This comes as something of a relief; in May, I had the chance to spend a couple of hours with Saints Row 4, and while at the time I mostly loved what I saw, I had several reservations.
For one thing, it was apparent I was playing something that started out as an expansion to Saints Row 3 and was later bloated into full-game status. For another, it appears the series is completely embracing wackiness, and while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, parody can turn into the ultimate diminisher of returns.
But in the month and a half since my first hands-on with Saints Row 4, I was able to play it on the floor at E3 2013 and I’ve now spent several days with the preview build. As a result, I’ve reevaluated some of what looked to me at the time like flaws, and I’m largely expecting it to be as fun and replayable as its predecessors.
First, the good (and great) of it. During my original hands-on, I noticed what looked like a shocking amount of aliasing. This signaled either a very unfinished game with only months left before release, or just cheapness all around. I now realize that this aliasing is a deliberate aesthetic decision. The majority of Saints Row 4 is set in a simulation; the aliasing is representative of the way you will f*ck the simulation up as you wreak havoc in virtual Steelport. Mea culpa, or as the Romans no doubt said in the Saints Row universe, mea fututiones culpa.
I’m also glad to report that if the game still feels like a padded-out DLC, it’s been padded with a ton of high-budget extras. The opening mission, which doubles as a bridging of the gaps between Saints Row 3 and Saints Row 4, is plenty of fun, if terse in narrative, and effectively satirizes Call of Medalfield games while setting the tone of SR4 early with one of the single funniest parody moments in series history. This is followed by a scene I mentioned in my previous hands-on, during the initial alien invasion inside the White House, which includes character creation, your first real SR-style battle, and your immersion into the main game. Each successive moment is firmly within the game’s tradition of holy sh*t moments, albeit with far more camp and slapstick than even that seen in Saints Row 3.
In fact, there are so many gags thrust into your face, and so many references to, well, everything, that to describe any one of them would tread into spoiler territory. And while much of what you’ll see in the first couple of hours or so of gameplay has already been spoiled by the rest of the Internet, the Saints Row 4 doesn’t come out until August. So I am not going to be a jerk and join the spoiler parade. If you really want to know what these punchlines are before you play the game, I trust in your Google skills.