Welcome back, true believers, to the second part of our bumper Saints Row IV preview. In the part one we took a look at the bonkers opening.
Today we’re going to be looking at the games super powers, which were showed off in a twenty minute demo, set around the midpoint of the main game once they had been powered up a little bit.
In this second demo I was dropped straight into Steel Port and left to my own devices, fully powered up and ready to cause havoc.
The first thing that struck me was how different the games two passive powers, super jump and super speed which replace basic sprinting and jumping, made the game feel very different to previous entries in the series.
No longer was there any point in getting in a car at all. It was much more rewarding and quicker to just bounce around the map like She Hulk and the Flash’s illegitimate love child.
The best game to compare it to is probably [Prototype], you could even run up buildings and glide in a very similar manner by tapping LB whist you were in the sky. The only thing that was missing was super strength. But the game’s four other offensive powers, activated by pressing RB, more than made up for this.
First up there’s Freeze Blast which allows you to hurl a ball of ice at your enemies and innocent bystanders Sub Zero style freezing them to the spot allowing you to then walk up to them and smash their still frozen bodies to pieces, simple and relatively effective on smaller enemies.
Next up we have the Fire Buff, which creates a ring of fire around you that immolates anyone that gets too close to you. It was a lot of fun using this to dash through crowds and watch everyone catch fire, but I didn’t find it that effective in a fight, as most of the stronger enemies and the Zin just seemed to shrug it off quite easily.
Then there’s Rock Stomp, which makes you smash the ground with a satisfying thump producing a huge shockwave that knocks anything caught in it flying. This was great for creating absolute mayhem as cars, Zin troopers and pedestrians all got knocked for six. It’s also a great power for getting the drop on enemies Hulk style as well as to help turn the tide of a fight if you end up overwhelmed.
Lastly there’s telekinesis which was hands down my favourite power, with Rock Stomp a close second. By hitting RB your character could pick up pretty much anything and with the power of their mind, and another tap of RB, chuck it anywhere they pleased. I had a lot of fun grabbing cars and launching them at Zin and the Police, or just grabbing bystanders and launching them into the stratosphere. Telekinesis is a hard power to pull off in a game and often times it feels very unwieldy but Volition have managed to make it work perfectly.
To further show off the new super powers, the build also featured several new activities which revolved around using your new powers to cause as much mayhem as possible.
The first one I tried was Mind over Murder, a new Professor Genki game complete with commentary from Zach and Bobby, in which you have to use telekinesis to pick up people, vehicles and giant Genki heads, which are dropped around the area, and toss them through the correct colour rings in the sky. Green is people, blue is vehicles and pink is for the Genki heads. It’s a simple set up but, as you would expect, a lot of fun, as gangs of brightly coloured mascots turn up by the buggy load in a futile attempt to stop your ESP powered rampage, are picked up and tossed through hoops for even more points.
It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense but it doesn’t have to. In a game where you play a former gang leader, now the super powered President of the United States trapped within a computer program by a nefarious alien overlord. Genki’s antics almost seem normal.
The other activity I tried was Blazin’, Saint’s Row IVs version of Trail Blazin’. However instead of driving a quad whilst on fire, this time you’re on foot using your super speed as you dash through checkpoints, with pickups in between that make you go even faster. When I say fast I mean it, once I’d got up to full speed it felt like I could barely keep up with the action on screen. The most impressive part was that although you were dashing through Steelport at an eye watering pace, smashing cars and people out of your way with reckless abandon, the game kept a steady frame rate and I didn’t notice any drop at all.
The only problem with the speed of the activity, coupled with a pretty stringent time limit, was that you had to hit every checkpoint and there was almost zero room for error, which wasn’t much of a problem until I had to make a huge jump across a river and climb up a factory’s chimney stack in the stage’s finale. I failed a couple times, landing straight in the river and then somewhat disorientated found that the game had placed me right back near the beginning of the run and then I would run out of time.
Despite being a little tricky in places it was still a great reworking of a classic Saints Row activity and showed off the speed power very well, so much so it made me wish that there was a game based on the Flash coming out, and that Volition were the studio developing it.
All in all, my time with Saints Row IV felt all too brief. I could have happily sat there all day creating chaos in Steelport. My inner cynic wonders whether this could start to feel a little bit repetitive once you’ve stretched it out over the course of what looks like a pretty lengthy game.
But the other part of my mind the slightly more rational part of me looks at the evidence and sees a game that is chock full of creativity, humour and, most importantly, fun.
Either way I’m feeling very optimistic, the controls are solid, the super powers work and do a fantastic job of making you feel incredibly powerful and the games storyline is both batshit crazy and genuinely funny. Like Animal House funny. Seriously it’s that funny.
Needless to say I’m looking forward to seeing all that Steelport has to offer when Saints Row IV launches on 23rd August on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.