There are a lot of perks to being the President of the United States. A big fancy house in Washington, Secret Service protection, nuclear launch codes and such. Decent gig.
In the case of Saints Row IV, POTUS perks also include superpowers, sex and punching the living crap out of ugly, angry aliens. Just being the plain old leader of the free world doesn’t seem all that exciting anymore, does it?
In this newest instalment of the irreverent open-world action game series, players once again assume the role of the leader of the Saints street gang/commercial empire, a head honcho who, thanks to some world-saving exploits, has become the president of ’MURICA! With stripper poles and live tigers in the White House. Obviously.
When an alien overlord called Zinyak invades the earth, captures the president and imprisons him (or her – the player customization options are nearly limitless) in a Matrix-like simulation of the Saints’ hometown of Steelport, the only way to disrupt the system and loosen Zinyak’s iron grip is to dive into this virtual city and cause absolute chaos. Like we needed an excuse.
The original Saints Row was a sly riff on the Grand Theft Auto games, offering a similar style of open-world mayhem but taking itself less seriously. But each sequel has gone further and further over the top, and I actually cringed a bit when I first discovered how far out in left field Saints Row IV was headed. Aliens? Superpowers? Is there such a thing as too silly, even for Saints Row?
Turns out this was a stroke of genius. By setting most of the game inside a virtual Steelport, developer Volition had free rein to come up with new and ridiculous gameplay mechanics, and the addition of superpowers lends Saints Row IV a distinct Crackdown vibe. Who needs to jack a car when you can run faster than anything on wheels?
As players work their way through the often hilarious sci-fi-tinged storyline and round up former members of the Saints gang (most of which can be immediately sexed without all that Mass Effect-style wooing nonsense), the tools and toys at their disposal emphasize fun over logic, from a dubstep gun that causes enemies to dance themselves to death to powers that include telekinesis and the ability to leap tall buildings with a single bound.
The game’s only major failing is that it shows most of its cards early. While it takes a couple dozen hours of playing to unlock all of the various powers, weapon upgrades and other perks, mission variety starts to wear thin much earlier in the game. No matter how much fun it may be to wipe out alien strongholds or take part in a superpowered version of Fight Club, you can only do these things so many times before they get a bit stale.
Still, the game’s humour is sharp and relentless, the action is as entertaining as it’s ever been in the series and the superhero shenanigans are a nice little shake-up to the Saints Row formula. Hail to the chief.