Apparently you not only make the player the president of the United States, but also give them superpowers. Saint's Row IV is a bit of a departure, even from how wacky the last game got. The Earth is threatened by evil alien overlord Zinyak, and the player and the gang are abducted right out of the oval office. Being trapped in a simulation a la The Matrix leads to some interesting gameplay possibilities, as well as tons of awesome references.
It's not long before you start getting super powers to play around with, and once you do, things change. A lot. I was pleasantly reminded of other power fantasy freeroamers like Crackdown and Prototype as I super sprinted, jumped over buildings, ran up walls, and glided through the air. I don't believe I even used a car more than was necessary for the few missions that required them.
Superpowers Kick Ass (sorry about that one).
All of the great humor is still intact, and maybe even taken a bit further. Saint's Row IV is chock full of references to movies and other games. At some points it almost feels like a grand video game parody similar to the recent Deadpool (even including a few metaphysical references), but Saint's Row IV still manages to rein it in with it's own crazy plotline beyond just hilariously exploiting other games.
When choosing your character's voice during character creation, you are given the usual Male and Female 1, 2, and 3 voices, with the humorous addition of Nolan North listed by name as a seventh option. I really enjoyed Troy Baker's (Male 1) voice for the main character in Saint's Row: The Third, but the choice was obvious when presented with these options. There are even some funny moments where he breaks the fourth wall as a voice actor. When asked to continue causing mayhem, the player is asked to "Just be yourself!", to which a character with the Nolan voice will respond, "Be... Nolan? Ok." This breaking of the fourth wall again reminds me of his recent performance in Deadpool.
This is not a glitch, disturbingly enough.
Throughout the course of the game you are given plenty of new toys to play with. I will state outright that I loathe dubstep, but I couldn't help but find myself using the Dubstep Gun as my mainstay weapon early in the game, for how simply overpowered it was. It's a weapon that shoots out energy blasts in sync with the dubstep music it plays, and the track it plays can be changed by choosing a different skin for the weapon (all weapons now have skins that can change the entire look, skin, and sometimes firing effect and sound of the weapon). (Opinion) Hey dubstep's so bad you can kill people with it. Go figure. Later in the game you can get a weapon which launches out black holes to absorb and destroy all enemies in a certain radius, which when coupled with infinite ammo unlocked in the upgrades menu (as with the previous game), is a force to be reckoned with.
Death by wub wub. What a way to go.
The graphics are just as good as they were in Saint's Row: The Third. You play through a digital version of Steelport, complete with signs and billboards proclaiming things like "Obey authority", as if you are in the movie They Live!, while statues of your alien overlord oppressor watch on. I was a little let down that a large part of the clothing options seem to have been simply carried over from Saint's Row: The Third. The soundtrack includes many popular songs from various genres to hear on the radio as with the previous game and now an option to hear the radio while on foot, which is handy when you can run faster than any vehicle in the game. The soundtrack is once again often used to humorous effect to add drama and cheesiness to certain scenes.
The sidequests in the game consist almost entirely of the activities you find on the map, from racing through markers with your superpowers, to insurance fraud, tank mayhem, and everything in between. The structuring is such that you are rewarded for doing particular sets of these activities with things like new weapons and upgrades for your superpowers, so you are incentivized to seek out these activities. Later on you can even perform special side missions for some of your Homies to unlock superpowers for them, which they can use when you call them for back up.
Some activities are more entertaining than others. Speed Rift was one of my least favorites.
The controls for both keyboard/mouse and controller worked perfectly fine and were well mapped out (and reconfigurable), but I had a bit of an issue with the weapon selection radial wheel. When using a controller you hold the B or O button (I used a PS3 controller on my PC) to bring up the radial menu and select your weapon with the left analog stick. This menu disappears the moment you release the button. On the keyboard you can scroll through your weapons with the scroll wheel or select them with a hotkey, 1-8 (or in my case 1-4 and Z X C V since they all cluster around the left hand on the keyboard). The problem is that using a scroll wheel on a radial menu isn't very intuitive. It rotates around in the direction you scroll, and for some reason you can't seem to just hold a button and move the mouse in a certain direction to select your weapon. Worse, even if you memorize which hotkey is for which weapon, tapping the button will always bring up the menu on the screen where it will hang for a full second, obscuring what you are doing without freezing time. It doesn't disappear nearly as quickly as when using a controller.
One other thing that I wish was included, which hasn't been since Saint's Row 2, was the ability to replay specific missions. There are some fun ones that would be enjoyable to play again without having to manually keep a save before them or replay the whole game with a new character.
A lot of the clothing options are reused from The Third, but you can still be creative (or make a blatant cosplay)
Saint's Row IV was a blast to play. Some may say that it's hardly Saint's Row at all anymore (after all, I barely even used cars in the game), but it's gone in an interesting direction regardless. I'd almost say it's like a big parody of Saint's Row, in a good way, and somewhat a parody of games in general. The superpowers add a great amount of fun factor to the experience. Why spend 10 minutes driving across the city when you can hop over buildings and dash or glide over there in 2? The humor, the fun gameplay, and all of the awesome references make this truly an enjoyable gaming experience, and a great example of what can make a game fun without trying to be too serious (but don't worry, it still has its moments).