Saints Row IV Preview: Parody Or Exaggeration?
Essentially Saints Row: The Third, Part II
If you’ve been paying attention, you know that Saints Row IV started out as a stand-alone expansion to Saints Row: The Third called “Enter the Dominatrix”. Dominatrix was cancelled just ove a month after it was announced, and all assets for that expansion were immediately applied to the expedited Saints Row IV. And frankly, it showed during the demo.
There’s the city of Steelport. Returning from Saints Row: The Third in the form of a computer simulation, the city is almost exactly as you remember it from that game. I drove around the map for several minutes and can confirm it is essentially identical; shops are in the same locations, the roads remain unchanged, and major landmarks look much as they do by the end of SR3. The difference is a new verticality facilitated by The Boss’ new super powers, and the inclusion of gigantic alien buildings dotting the landscape and serving, at least in the demo, as respawn points during open world play. (More on that shortly).
There’s also the return of Professor Genki. In SR3, Genki is a murderous Japanese game show impressario whose show, Super Ethical Reality Climax, has players killing their way through obstacles for money and prizes. The difference here is that the hosts of Professor Genki (one of whom is voiced by Hulk Hogan) have also been kidnapped and forced into the simulation, and the new version of PGSERC makes heavy use of the Boss’ new super powers.
Add to this the inclusion of every single model of car seen in Saints Row 3. I was told by developers that there will be new vehicles in this game, however, I saw none in the demo. It’s no big deal, but it does serve to illustrate that SR4 makes heavy, heavy use of assets from Saints Row: The Third. Further, everything in this game is SR3 turned up to 11. Explosions are bigger, the Boss has super powers you can activate without cheats, and the weapons are even wackier than SR3, but in essence it feels very very familiar because it builds entirely on the tone and content of that game.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. This game has perhaps the first real sense of continuity ever seen in the series (Saints Row 2 is effectively a wacky/Dark rebootish of Saints Row, and Saints Row 3 changes things so much it barely feels like a sequel). Based on what I saw, Saints Row IV is a lot of what we loved from SR3 with tons of references to previous games, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun.
But it also looks… rushed. I noticed a shocking amount of aliasing during the demo, strange for something so close to release. And you can’t get around the fact that Volition has simply tacked on a ton of additional, and crazy, stuff onto the map from Saints Row: The Third. As I played, I could never escape the feeling that this game was never intended to be anything more than an expansion, and I worry that all the new stuff will end up feeling like filler.
However, for now I’m excited. I love Saints Row: The Third, and even if I would prefer the series return to something resembling the bleakly comic tone of Saints Row 2, I’ll gladly take more of that in its place. At minimum it’s going to make for a fun month before Grand Theft Auto V comes out. Just, however good or bad SR4 ends up being, here’s hoping this gets all the wackadoodle out of Volition’s brain. I’d like them to try their hand at something a bit more serious next time out.