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Eyes-On With Saints Row IV: Aye, There’s The Wub

I guess I’m not surprised. Saints Row: The Third was a popular game and media passes are becoming increasingly easier to come across, but come on. Why is there a cosplayer in the room? Why is there someone here who is clapping and Jerry Springer whooping at everything producer Jim Boone says? And why am I repressing the joyful glee within me that makes me want to join them?

Because yes.

Saints Row IV, in a word, is appropriate. It’s logical. It is, from what I can surmise after a seven-minute hands-off gameplay demo video, totally what you would expect from a followup to a game that features exploding pedicabs powered by BDSM gimps. In it, we are shown what Boone calls “the virtual world,” which is explained by the fact that this all takes places in the mind of the head Saint.

Which might also explain why there are aliens and you are the President of the United States and Steelport has become a weird, topsy-turvy, DmC Devil May Cry Limbo-esque version of the one you know and love from SR3. Boone explained that while yes, some of that is taken from the canceled and reappropriated SR3 DLC Enter the Dominatrix (namely the aliens, which are now called the Zen), but he also says that Saints Row IV is still very much a new game. The DLC only helped to facilitate ideas and not necessarily content or mechanics.

That may or may not be true, but I can say with absolute certainty that I like what I saw. Coming back are several smaller bits and pieces from past Saints Row games such as deftly executed melee takedowns (like sliding crotch punches), XP bonuses for driving recklessly (which still manifest in that purple circle that fills up and flares up), and, from what I remember, chunks of Steelport. But that’s all old. You’re here for the new.

And boy howdy is there some new stuff. We are shown two new weapons right off the bat, showcased with the same irreverence with a side of appreciation as Insomniac would show off new Ratchet & Clank guns. The first is something called the Inflate-o-ray which, well, you know how when you over-inflate a balloon, it pops? Yeah, that. Then there was the dubstep gun which fired off these beautiful arcing light beams that of course caused the entire world to stutter, the game to play the wubs, and cars to bounce up and down to the broken electro beat. It is pretty fantastic.

There are some actual changes to what the player can do, too, seeing as how it’s all in his head. Volition thought it would be appropriate to give your character super powers, and I would have to agree. You get super speed, super jumps, super strength, telekinesis, and the ability to glide à la Cole from Infamous. In fact, as I watched several minutes of super powered wreckage being produced, my first thought was this was what I wanted Infamous, Prototype, and Crackdown to play like.

The world has similarly changed to accommodate your powers, too. Boone said that Steelport had been redesigned to allow for the increased verticality in gameplay (just as the video showed him dashing through a street, jumping six stories in the air, and landing on a rooftop) and is comparatively “massively larger.” This includes the landscape (which has been torn asunder and is shown, um, floating in parts), architecture, collectibles, and the enemies. The Zen will be your primary foe in Saints Row IV, replacing the gangs from SR3. Boone points out, though, that the total variety of Zen definitely outnumbers that of previous games, so don’t worry about having to fight the same thing over and over again.

Of course, new throwaway things are also packed in there like a rocket launcher mod called the Soopa Six that looks an awful lot like the Super Scope 6 and a guitar case called the El Fugitivo as a shoutout to Robert Rodriguez’s El Mariachi. And new perfunctory missions have been added like mech suit mayhem in which the celebration screen shows you doing the robot in said mech suit. Those side bits will also earn you different rewards based on bronze, silver, or gold rankings.

Some inconsistencies with SR3 have also been addressed. Now that the Zen is there, Saints Row IV will have a much more consistent antagonist and less of a meandering narrative as with the multitude of gangs of old. However, if you think that you still won’t get to do a bunch of weird side stuff, then you’re wrong because Saints Row IV gets a little Psychonauts-y in that you will get to explore the psyches of other Saints and see what it’s like in their minds.

Going into the presentation, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew from other press people that it was still Saints Row, but little else came out of their mouths except maniacal laughter and Skrillex sounds. And after half an hour of videos and Qs being A’d, I still don’t know what to expect except maybe more Saints Row.

Expected release date is August 20, 2013.

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