Fending off an alien invasion as the POTUS in Saints Row IV

saints row 4 gd early impressions

Saints Row: The Third was a game I expected to severely dislike, but really enjoyed and even found myself going back to long after completing it to wrap up all its challenges and Achievements, as well simply goof around in. That said, I felt like I had my fill and so I didn’t immediately jump on Saints Row IV when it fell from outer space back in August 2013. I held out, using my limited and sporadic superpower of seeing the future, knowing that Microsoft was going to put up a digital copy of it for free for Gold members in April 2016. Strangely, I started playing it and Sunset Overdrive almost simultaneously, but found a simulated Steelport much more fun and enjoyable to explore.

Shortly after the final events of Saints Row: The Third, The Boss and some of his pals–I played that game as a male character, in case you forgot–are called upon to assist MI-6 agent Asha Odekar in infiltrating a Middle Eastern compound. This is to assassinate former STAG leader Cyrus Temple and prevent a nuclear missile strike against Washington D.C. You know, action movie stuff. The Boss manages to kill Cyrus with ease, but is unable to stop the launch of a nuclear missile. Taking matters into his own hands, he climbs aboard the missile and disarms it in the sky, earning America’s unwavering adoration to the point of being elected the President of the United States. Many years later, aliens show up, abduct all his friends, vaporize the planet, and keep The Boss trapped inside a simulation of Steelport. How rude.

Here’s the truth: Saints Row IV is basically Saints Row: The Third, but with superpowers. I’m totally okay with that. You no longer need to drive cars because you can leap over buildings in a single jump and then glide across districts. Don’t worry; you can still listen to the radio because it is now simply in your head. Mission icons that are on the opposite side of the map take just a minute or so to reach, thanks to super sprinting and the ability to climb up walls. Glitches are par for the course, though there were a few times where the game froze on me and I was unsure it was deliberate or not. It usually wasn’t. But yeah, it’s Saints Row: The Third, but speedier, punchier, and even more zany thanks to there being very few rules inside a simulated environment.

The plot is basically about The Boss gathering up his or her friends, leveling them up to be the best and most bad-ass companions possible, and then taking on Zinyak. I won’t lie and say a part of it didn’t remind me of Suikoden‘s progression towards a grand castle and army. A lot of the missions carry over from Saints Row: The Third though there are a few new ones, like using a UFO to destroy people and the environment for points, as well as high-speed races on foot through the city. A majority of the game’s main missions are constructed in a way to limit the amount of superhero powers you can use, and there’s even throwbacks to things like Metal Gear Solid and side-scrolling brawlers like Streets of Rage. Alas, both of these sections are relatively short and exist only to be jokey.

I’ve beaten Saints Row IV and am now in “clean up” mode, going after a handful of Achievements and whatever challenges seem possible. Those gold medals for races? Nope, not going to happen. Taunting 50 aliens? Eh, unlikely. However, I totally can get X number of kills with specific guns as that’s merely a matter of rinsing and repeating. Plus, there’s an Achievement for spending 40 hours in digital Steelport, and I’m probably only like 10 hours away from that benchmark. So, works in progress. The only thing I’m not looking forward to is grinding out the Dubstep Gun challenge, as dubstep is more like dumbstep. Thank you, thank you. No, please, no autographs.

Just recently, Volition announced its newest game, which is called Agents of M.A.Y.H.E.M. It’s an open world action adventure title set in the city of Seoul, starring a bunch of unique Super Agents from all over the world. I can’t help but see some striking similarities between it and Saints Row IV, though I think having a superhero-powered game on a newer, more powerful console is a wiser option these days. Saints Row IV definitely chugged and dropped to a very low framerate on the Xbox 360 when trying to do some super super sprinting or when there was a bunch of chaos happening thanks to black holes and explosions. Hopefully I’ll be done with digital Steelport by the time Seoul needs saving.

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