E3 2013 preview: Creating mayhem in the open world of Saints Row 4

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The Saints Row series pretty much separated itself from any Grand Theft Auto-ness in 2011 with the release of Saints Row: The Third. Instead of going for your basic open world action-adventure crime formula, the game threw all seriousness out the window. It then climbed out of the window itself, beat said seriousness into a bloody pulp, and began urinating on it. That's just the type of game that Saints Row: The Third is, and that's exactly why it made its way to the top of many individuals' “best of 2011” lists. Now Deep Silver and developer Volition are working on Saints Row 4, and it looks to continue the franchise's signature brand of craziness.

As previous trailers have established, Saints Row 4 puts you in the shoes of the Saints' leader, who just so happens to be the freakin' President of the United States. The initial parts of the game require you to walk down a long hall in the White House where you're greeted by several of your loyal underlings ... and one tool who's being obnoxious, prompting you to either clock him in the face or give him a nice, painful nut hit. I chose the latter, because that was clearly the more hilarious choice. You also get to solve one of the world's biggest problems: cancer or world hunger? I chose to cure cancer, selecting the emphatic “f*ck cancer” option. Sadly, I couldn't allow the starving kids to eat cake. Insert sad face here.

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Just as the President is about to give an important speech, aliens decide to crash the party and cause major (expensive) damage to the White House. Thankfully, the White House is full of weapons, so I quickly armed my character with a shotgun and started picking off alien jerks one by one. The weapons combat felt familiar, and despite the fact that it's been a while since I last played Saints Row: The Third, I was able to get the hang of things immediately.

Once I got through that initial area of the game, I set out into the open world of Saints Row 4. The environment seemed familiar, but because this is an alternate dimension, the whole thing felt fairly new. Just like in the previous game, citizens, mascots, and bad guys roam the streets at all times, so I made it a point to hijack a car and start running over random people. I even participated in one of my favorite makeshift activities: people bowling. Ah, there's nothing quite like running over lines of people on the sidewalk in a Saints Row game.

I decided I'd do more than just run over pedestrians, so I quickly checked my objectives list and found that a Genki mission was open. I followed it on my map, eager to see what the good professor had in store this time. As it turned out, it was an activity based around the use of telekinesis (dubbed Profressor Genki's Mind Over Murder), signaling that Volition is really trying to top itself with the insanity this time around.

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The actual mini-game tasked me with using mind control powers to lift objects (or mascots) of a certain color so that I could toss them at the appropriate targets. The multi-round side mission was fun, and it reminded me of just how awesome some of these Genki side quests can be. It wasn't all that difficult, but we can probably expect that to change later in the game. This particular side quest mainly served to properly introduce me to the wackiness of this alternate Steelport setting.

Following the Genki mission, I figured I'd get back to the mean streets and engage in some harassment of innocent citizens. I rushed toward people, using the super-fast sprint move and following it up with grapple attacks. There are a bunch of new animations for these running moves, all of which are hilarious to witness. I won't spoil these wild attacks, because part of the fun is in discovering them for yourself, but expect plenty of pro wrestling-influenced moves (stunner, anyone?) in Saints Row 4. Also, nut hits, because those are amazing.

Running at crazy fast speeds is almost cathartic, but so is jumping and reaching insane heights. Collectibles are strewn across the entire game world, and I found more than a handful as I sent my character jumping from the ground all the way up to the rooftops of massive skyscrapers. As much fun as it is to drive around, it's just as fun having these superpowers, and being able to dash right through traffic is something that fits naturally within the context of this series.

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A number of new weapons will be available in Saints Row 4. One of those is the Dubstep Gun, which we've heard a lot about and even saw in action previously. I was excited to try the weapon out for myself, and listening as the funny music got louder and faster the longer I held the trigger was comically pleasant. Then there was the Black Hole Launcher, which, you guessed it, creates black holes. I love the idea of these new guns, and it's going to be fun seeing the other weapons Volition has in store. Personally, I hope we see the return of the Shark-O-Matic gun!

I probably spent a bit too much time screwing around in Saints Row 4, but then again, that's what those games are about — getting sidetracked and just having a good time. When the full game launches, we'll all work on the main story missions, but it's going to be damn near impossible to refrain from spending hours upon hours just doing extracurricular activities. Saints Row 4 has a ton of potential to be a great follow-up to Volition's departure from the standard open world crime genre, and so far, it's on the right path toward delivering exactly that. Come August 20, it's going to be time to get naked and equip that loud-ass Dubstep Gun so you can blast aliens (and old people ... and mascots) all day long.

Want to talk about indie games, Kirby, or cheap pizza? Follow me on Twitter @dr_davidsanchez.

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David Sanchez David Sanchez is the most honest man on the internet. You can trust him because he speaks in the third person.
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