Saints Row 4 is crazy. Utterly, unapologetically crazy. How else could you explain a game that drops you into the role of the president of the United States during an alien invasion, challenges you to wreak havoc upon a sizeable open-world and lets you fire a dubstep gun? Oh yes, the dubstep gun. What we're sure will become one of gaming's all-time famous weapons, the dubstep gun lets out a burst of music which causes anyone caught in its line of sight to stop what they're doing and just dance. And that's not even scratching the surface of the madness.
We start our hands-on with a tutorial style opening that shows us the usual shooting mechanics and introduces us to some of the characters. As far as openings go it feels pretty bland and the mayhem that we're expecting from this game is nowhere to be seen. That is until we reach the end of the opening stage and the player has to ascend a giant missile in mid-air, disarm it and dive towards the ground as it explodes. Welcome to Saints Row.
We then move onto the next stage, and now we're playing as the president of America. The White House has been renamed the White Crib and it now houses tigers, pole dancers and pot smoking government officials. This is more like it. It's not long before we're greeted with the option of either curing cancer or abolishing world hunger - if only it were that simple. We're not sure if this decision will play any role in the rest of the game or if there will be other decisions to make like this, but it's definitely an interesting concept.
It then all goes wrong pretty quickly. An alien invasion occurs from nowhere, the White Crib is attacked from all angles and there's seemingly only one person who can stop the madness, the president himself. Shooting our way to the oval office we come across a range of different weapons, some regular (shotgun, rifle) and some not so regular (rocket launcher, anyone?), that can be used to take down the aliens. This basically leads to a shoot out in the gardens of the White Crib where you're firing a large cannon at incoming alien spaceships, at one point replicating a modern version of Space Invaders. Told you Saints Row 4 was pretty crazy, right?
We're then treated to a cut scene where the leader of the alien race basically tells us that we have no hope for survival and there's nothing we can do about it. Charming. Although obviously, this being a videogame and not real life, there is plenty we can do about it, and it involves a colossal amount of destruction and carnage.
A bit further along we're allowed to sample the offerings of the open-world. It's dark and some areas might seem a little bit mundane compared to the open-worlds in other games, but it's still an enjoyable one to explore. Mainly because you get to steal cars and blow things up rather than the design of the map, but we'll settle for that. You can choose to do the main story missions or a heap of side quests, which include taking over outposts from aliens. There seems to be so much content here that players could spend hours just messing around and exploring.
Players will be able to gain power-ups for their character over time that will turn them into seemingly indestructible superheroes. Not to mention over-powered weapons that can wipe out crowds of enemies within seconds. There are also customisation options so you can change the clothes, facial features and even voice of your character. We got to experience what it would be like to control a character with all the superpowers enabled and my, was it something. We activated the super speed boost that saw us overtaking moving vehicles and then jumped hundreds of feet into the air, sailing over buildings as if they were nothing. Then we flew.
Not many games allow us to fly, and those that do earn a special place in our hearts. Then we try out the other superpowers. There's one which lets us pick up people and objects using some kind of force control before throwing them away (or into other objects). There's another that can set things on fire, another that freezes things and another that sees your punches become even stronger, if that was possible.
It's clear that Saints Row 4 is going to be the most insane release of the year, but what matters more is that the ridiculousness doesn't get in the way of what has the potential to be a great game. We've come away very encouraged from our play through, and with a little more polish the gameplay, humour and craziness could all come together to make something special. Did we mention it was crazy?