There are loads of reasons not to like Saints Row IV. It's fugly, the controls can be quite rough, the humour's frequently pitched at over-excited 17-year-old boys and the gameplay's a little lacking in depth. But Grodd-damn, it's fun.
If you've so much as smelled a screenshot of this game, you know it's a pretty radical departure from previous games in the series. At least as far as gameplay and setting go. Tonally, it fits just fine.
As The Boss you've taken your career about as far as it can go at the start of the game. You're president of the United States, de-facto leader of the free world. Fortunately, an alien invasion fleet turns up pretty early on to keep you out of policy meetings and dalliances with visiting interns. You fight the ETs, they kick your ass, you get chucked into a simulation of Steelport for reasons so forgettable I forgot them and then the game really gets going.
My first instinct was, 'a simulation, what a moral cop-out!' Volition is making you the alien-repelling goody here, but sticking you in a 'simulation' so you can remorselessly mangle innocent bystanders without feeling that you're not really being a goody. Cop-out!
But, actually, it's just a smart development move. Lots of gamers (me included) are basically goody-two-shoes who, given the choice, will tend to take the moral high-ground in a game. Volition doesn't want you to play that way. It wants you to go nuts and wreak havoc. By giving us a meta game-within-a-game scenario Volition takes the anxiety out of using pedestrians as tire tread for players like me. It's smart. High-five, Volition.
So, yes. Mayhem and carnage. The central tenet of just setting you loose in an open world to go nuts is most definitely still here. It's just that now you have a few extra tools in your box with which to make a mess.
Primarily, of course, that means superpowers. These are all provided by dint of the fact you're in a simulation that you can manipulate to your own ends. We've all seen The Matrix
. Many of these can be 'bought' or upgraded with 'glitches' that you collect throughout the game. In fact, changes in your power-set come hand over fist. One of Saints Row IV
's greatest strengths is the fact that you constantly have new toys to play with – be they super-speed, absurdly huge leaps, bursts of fire, telekinesis, or just some cool new weapon.
You have plenty of options for customising everything from your abilities to your vehicles to your weapons to your appearance. For my part, I was running round as a hulking, gold-skinned president with a mohawk and a cockney accent. You could disappear down the customisation rabbit hole for hours, should you so desire. I didn't have time.
I was too busy running around, shooting people and blowing things up. There's a huge glut of mission types to go at and I won't try to list them all here. But they're basically the usual sandbox game material. Some are based around combat, some focus on speed and platforming, occasionally you even need to get in a vehicle.