Saints Row IV
The team at Volition are clearly quite, quite mad. And every time they release a Saints Row it pushes the limits of what just how insane a game can get.
They're clearly passionate about their insanity and, from the look of Saints Row IV they're quite partial to their sci-fi too. Saints Row IV is where madness and sci-fi intersect blending carefully into one of the most outlandishly entertaining games of this generation.
Here's where Saints Row IV begins. The leader of the Third Street Saints has managed to get elected as the President of the United States of America and in the middle of a busy day in the West Wing the planet gets invaded by a crazed intergalactic warlord called Zinyak.
Earth's best and brightest are kidnapped and thrust into virtual worlds constructed from their own psyches and are essentially held prisoners of their own minds.
This includes the Commander in Chief who is trapped in a dastardly virtual version of Steelport. It's just like Steelport but heavily influenced by The Matrix and Tron and a touch of the Star Trek holodeck for good measure.
Naturally the first responsibility of a prisoner is to escape and to do so the Chief must cause as much mayhem as possible in order to de-stabilise the simulation to find a way out.
And there are so many ways to do it. There's a variety of Mayhem missions, enemy strongpoints to capture and towers to climb, races, fraud missions and a whole city to explore for collectibles and other weirdness.
The Saints are entirely capable of huge amounts of destruction in the real world without any special abilities but, in the virtual world, they have the potential to become superhuman.
Superpowers aren't the be-all and end-all of course. There's an interesting arsenal of weaponry as well from the rhythmically destructive Wub Wub of the Dubstep Gun to the bizarre proposal that is the Abduction Gun which calls down a shaft of light to suck your enemies off into space.
Completing main and side missions and completing the numerous tasks dotted around Steelport level the Chief up. In turn this unlocks the various opportunities for upgrades and these can be unlocked by collecting Data Clusters which are dotted around the city like Crackdown's Orbs.
Once escape is possible players can jump in and out of the simulation to a Zin ship populated by advisor and comrades that have also been rescued from the simulation including the White House Chief of Staff Keith David whose dulcet tones voice Mass Effect's Admiral Anderson.
Advisors offer advice, missions that will unlock new gear and abilities and can even be called in to assist during battles with the Zin.
As the stability weakens the simulation gets more and more crazy with enemies appearing distorted and even turning up as random objects.
Steelport has so much to do it is every bit the playground that Crackdown was. There's co-op multiplayer meaning that players can jump in and out of each their friends' games creating mayhem as they go.
It's easy to understate just how much there is to do in Zinyak's virtual Steelport. So much so that It is ludicrously easy to ignore the main story missions in favour of creating as much explosive chaos as possible.
This is really the only major criticism that can be levelled at Saints Row IV. Volition has created a playground tailor-made for over-the-top mature daftness and destruction and despite providing an entertaining story campaign the game actually manages to seem like a distraction from, well, the game.
Chaos, mayhem, destruction, craziness – Saints Row IV has them in thermonuclear quantities and in all seriousness (because there isn't any of that in Saints Row IV) this is everything you could want from a Saints Row game and more.
Saints Row IV is quite an achievement. It walks that fine line between insanely entertaining and just plain mental offering a real sandbox experience of utter insanity that is pure fun.
Volition has managed to turn 'taking it too far' into and artform and Saints Row IV is their Mona Lisa.
Saints Row IV was reviewed on Xbox 360 but is also available on PS3 and PC.
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