We recently learned that there is a method to Volition’s madness when it came to designing Saints Row 4. Producer Jim Boone prefaced his presentation with the idea that Volition doesn’t go over-the-top for the sake of being over-the-top. It’s just that fun gameplay tends to come from extraordinary circumstances. From what we saw, it was clear that they’ve found a winning formula in Saints Row 3 and are going to be giving us more of it this summer.
The plot ramps up in craziness as the leader of the Saints has reached a new milestone in his/her quest for power when The Boss is elected President of the United States. At some point, there’s an alien invasion, and your consciousness is uploaded into some dark, twisted version of Steelport.
Rather than delivering a completely different new experience, Saints Row 4 seems to bring more of what made Saints Row 3 a success — a completely legitimate approach given the genre.
Weapons can still be customized but can now be equipped with certain skins. It’s now possible to customize your rocket launcher so that it looks like a Super Scope Six or a guitar case. Volition has also continued their tradition of packing in ridiculous weapons and have revealed the Inflatoran [we probably butchered that spelling], a weapon that inflates the heads of your enemies until they explode, and the Dubstep Gun, a gun that inflicts damage via Dubstep.
Getting around in Saints Row 4 can be quite different based on the type of transportation you choose. On the milder side of new additions, there’s a monster truck for the crash-prone. Going more radical is the mech, which come with their own activity “Mech Suit Mayhem.”
On the more exteme side of travel is going pedestrian. The Saints Flow superpowers that were introduced in Saints Row 3 DLC make their way back and have been upgraded to allow players to not only run incredibly fast but also glide and leap tall buildings in a single bound. Boone claimed that the superpowers alone have kept his crew occupied for hours, just exploring the city on foot. He also went on to ensure that although the movements and actions involved in being superhuman looked flashy, the controls were actually simple and intuitive.
The footage Volition had to show was more of a look at the “end game” stuff, as we were told that your superpowers had to be upgraded over the course of the game. Respect comes back and with the superhuman abilities, there’ll be more to unlock. Boone also adds the amount of collectibles in the game have skyrocketed and have been added in such a way that you unlock a new power that allows you to get to previously unreachable collectibles, which nets you more respect, which then allows you to unlock more powers.
Saints Row completionists will be happy to hear that activities have also been tweaked to reward players based on how well they’ve completed the activity. Players can now hit bronze, silver, and gold status for each activity and will be rewarded with respect and unlockables accordingly.
Perhaps the most interesting addition to the Saints Row recipe is the addition of the Zen, the alien race that seems to have it in for The Boss. Though the preview footage only showed police officers being turned into Zen (think Matrix/Agent Smith style), it ended with The Boss facing off against a large alien monster. Having to fight something that doesn’t necessarily shoot a gun at you seems like a nice way to mix things up. The preview could have used more footage of the Zen in action.
At the end of the day, I believe that what Saints Row does exceedingly well in is giving players the freedom to do fun things whenever they want. Boot up Saints Row 3, and you’ll find that a fun activity or interacting is at your fingertips at no cost to you. From what I’ve seen here at PAX East, they’re going at it the exact same way with Saints Row 4.
Saints Row 4 is about to go alpha in a few weeks and is expected to be released on August 20, 2013.