So, having spent the last few days trying out the Saints Row IV Preview build I have to admit to just having my mind completely blown. I’m not going to spoil any surprises for you at this stage, but expect the deeply tongue in cheek, series defining sense of humor that fans have grown to love to make a constant re-appearance, often at the most surprising of times. Not to mention the absolutely incredible prologue that awaits players and sends them crashing into the main plot with both style and substance. The overall premise is both well chosen and carefully navigated. It’s also deeply engaging, and the gameplay feels like a combination of the best gameplay elements of several other successful titles; blending third person shooter elements, free roam and driving physics and of course adding the series’ signature slapstick skin to polish things off. In a nutshell, this game looks seriously promising and is in complete honesty, a true joy to play.
Character creation features once again here and it’s got a similar level of depth as say Mass Effect in terms of options and variability. Looking at it (and I have done with nothing but unbridled awe for several straight hours now) broadly, this looks like a very special, deservedly anticipated and rewarding title indeed. The story as usual features a focus on extravagance and action-hero-esque excess. The plot is as high concept as the rest of the game and all in all you can’t help but feel like you’ve stumbled into what would happen if the whole games industry was based out of Hollywood. Expect a whole world of eye candy here as well ranging from the city itself to the vehicle and weapon design and character skins. Everything has a particularly satisfying, comic art meets hyper-realism feel, and somehow Deep Silver have pulled it off to a tee. It’s vibrant, atmospheric, and most crucially smooth.
Players will certainly not be disappointed with the writing and overall narrative either, as it’s as highly engaging, expertly written, well voice acted, empowering and of course totally hilarious as you’d expect from Saints Row. It really is. After the first thirty minutes of play you’ll all see exactly what I’m getting at. They’ve really outdone themselves here. It’s a genuine surprise and a joy to experience. There’s everything you could possibly want in a game present here (I’m still reeling from some of the several hilarious choices characters have presented me with along my character creation journey) and the satisfying and visually surprising gameplay doesn’t give players much time to get lost or bored. The objectives system is streamlined and the HUD efficient and clear. But you can still pretty much go anywhere on the way and enjoy the sights. It’s that spontaneous freedom that is the hard part to get right with a title like this, and Deep Silver made it happen with perfect execution. Of course, its still set against the more traditional ‘as you please’ backdrop of destruction and whimsy that set this more in the camp of Mercenaries than GTA in the series’ early days.
Although only a preview build, graphically I’m quite sure that this is going to simply blow people’s minds. It trashed mine. My rig assumed maximum settings and didn’t struggle or lose any frames when things got busy. This becomes most apparent in traffic collisions as the impact physics greatly surpass anything we’ve seen in the GTA series, Sleeping Dogs or even games like Just Cause. In terms of the overall visual feel, it’s slick and highly polished and all in all, the whole game just screams “Yeah. I look good, and I know it, and so should you.” and you can’t help but feel like buying a hat just so you can return to take it off in respect. In short, it’s been a long time indeed since a game made me expel a genuine “Whoa…” and I thought those days were gone – well done Deep Silver. Well done.