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Hands on with Saints Row 4 PC


Saints Row 4 is out now; here’s our Saints Row 4 review.

Saints Row 4 is a funny game. There’s a bit, right near the start, where you’re playing as the president of the United States of America. Walking towards the press room, you’re told you’ve got just enough political clout to either cure cancer or end world hunger. It’s a send up of moral choices in games! “Cancer’s had a good run,” my character announced after I opted to eradicate the disease forever, “it’s time we put it to bed”. 

That’s a funny joke! Good job, game. Not even being sarcastic. Thumbs up.

Shortly after that, The White House (renamed The White Crib, which is less funny) is invaded by aliens with laser guns. The invasion prompts the president to press a secret switch in the Oval Office, hidden inside a bust of his own head, revealing a range of high-powered weapons. Using these guns you set about shooting at the aliens as they rampage around the presidential conference rooms and corridors, the president cracking wise about the second amendment as he goes.

Once on the White House’s lawn you hop into a giant anti-aircraft gun adorned in stars and stripes to take on the alien mothership, which sends wave after wave of small fighters in your direction. “This one’s for Uncle Sam!” is an example of the kind of thing the president is shouting at this point, the game’s satire reticule now aimed squarely at American mega-patriotism. Saints Row 4 never really hits the high comedy note of the “cancer or world hunger” decision again, but that’s okay. You’re eventually beaten in a button-mashing quick time event with the alien king, at which point this section of the game ends.


The build I played was missing a chunk of exposition, because after a loading screen I was now playing what appeared to be Crackdown 2, the Xbox 360 game from 2010. Except it wasn’t Crackdown 2, it was a game that looks and feels very much like Crackdown 2, with collectible orbs and everything. By this point in the narrative, the alien invasion has been successful and the human race has been absolutely enslaved, their minds trapped within a 3D digital computer simulation of the real world (the real world, in this case, being the city map from Saints Row 3).

Because it’s essentially The Matrix meets Grand Theft Auto, you’ve got lots of superpowers. You can hold the jump button to bound over buildings or to launch powerful ground-shattering punches from above. You can sprint faster than the cars in the game, bashing them off the road with your big superhero shoulders. You can glide, you can pick up objects with your mind, you can freeze enemies with ice vision. You can still kick pedestrians in their penises and vaginas, just as you could in the last game, except now they fly upwards hundreds of metres, such is the explosive force of your foot meeting their groin. It’s really stupid and gratuitous and silly and fun.


Also like the last game, which famously featured a big floppy, metre-long dildo bat (the baseball kind, not the flying kind, though that really wouldn’t have been out of place either), Saints Row 4 includes a Dubstep Gun. The Dubstep Gun causes nearby enemies and pedestrians to dance uncontrollably as it charges, before the weapon emits deadly laserbeams on “the drop”. As a wonderful extra touch, it also makes nearby cars bounce up and down on hydraulics they didn’t have just moments ago. Volition missed the zeitgeist by a country mile of course, Borderlands 2 was all about the dubstep gags and that game came out approximately fifty years ago. There’s probably a joke about Crazy Frog in there too if you look hard enough.

If the entire premise feels a tad throwaway, that’s because Saints Row 4 was first conceived as a DLC pack for Saints Row 3 (titled Enter The Dominatrix, hayoooo), before it was extended into a full, numbered release around the time publisher THQ began to circle the drain. There’s a real and inherent worry that the ideas fuelling this game are perhaps stretched too thinly to warrant a complete sequel, that this standalone add-on is just too small for its boots. The near-enough identical city map has been visually overhauled and pocked with alien strongholds and towering neon-fringed polygonal structures, but the limited demo offered at preview stage didn’t offer much in the way of interesting missions.


One was a footrace utilising your new sprinting ability in which you must bound over flaming barriers and clamber across rooftops. The other was a telekinesis mini-game in which you’re tasked with throwing cars, people and Genki heads through hovering targets. The latter was presented in the form of a gameshow with sharply funny commentary, but the action itself and the tasks you’re carrying out feel resolutely DLC-grade.

It’s still a Saints Row game though, a defiantly ridiculous two-finger tangent to the po-faced Grand Theft Auto series that revels in its own immaturity, rolling around on the floor and slapping its naked belly and drawing dicks in the margins. Not nearly as stupid as it sounds, Saints Row 4 won’t suffer for lack of intelligently-pitched laughs, but whether it will feel anaemic when being presented as a full-fat sequel is another matter.