CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- After thoroughly enjoying the gloriously ridiculous antics of the Third Street Saints in 2011's "Saints Row: The Third," I was convinced the development team at Volition couldn't possibly make the open-world action series any more over-the-top.
Having fended off an alien invasion with a super-powered President of the United States in "Saints Row IV," I stand corrected.
"Saints Row IV" is unquestionably the most outrageous entry in a franchise that was once viewed as a "Grand Theft Auto" clone. But while Rockstar's series has maintained an air of realism, "Saints Row" has eschewed any sense of reality in favor of a providing a riotously fun -- and funny -- gaming experience.
After an introductory sequence that sees your character, as leader of the Saints, disarm an airborne nuclear missile and land -- both figuratively and literally -- in the White House, the real fun begins. When aliens arrive looking to conquer Earth, you and your fellow Saints are among those abducted and dropped into an alien-controlled virtual reality world. After making your escape and commandeering an alien ship of your own, you must continually re-enter the virtual Steelport to rescue your friends and thwart the alien menace.
If you think this sounds a little like the plot of "The Matrix," you'd be right. Then again, Neo couldn't freeze people into giant blocks of ice or set them ablaze with the wave of his arm.
Indeed, gaining super-powers in "Saints Row IV" transforms the virtual Steelport into an outlandish playground where you can sprint faster than any vehicle, jump higher than only the tallest skyscrapers and lay the smack down on enemies and unsuspecting civilians like nobody's business. It all adds up to some of the most fun I've had in a open-world game like this since, well, "Saints Row: The Third."
Super-powers add a new twist to "SRIV" but much of the game remains true to the series' roots, with extensive character and weapon customization, plenty of mini-games (such as my personal favorite, insurance fraud) and a sophomoric sense of humor. Of course, the downside to being a souped-up Saint is that much of the game's combat becomes altogether too easy after a while. In fact, there were times I didn't even bother with traditional weapons because I could simply take down enemies by running up to them and pulling off outrageous WWE-esque takedowns.
The traditional assortment of pistols, machine guns and rifles also pale in comparison to the crazy alien arsenal you gain access to, including a gun that fires a miniature black hole and the much ballyhooed Dubstep Gun.