need to know
Expect to pay: £40 / $50
Release: Out now
Publisher: Deep Silver
Multiplayer: 2 player co-op campaign
Link: Official site
This is the only game I've ever had to pause because I was laughing too much to play. I want to tell you about the exact section that caused me to crease up. I want to sit you down, do the voices, and perform a poor recreation of the whole thing. And I want you to know about the other hundred-odd moments that physically contorted my real-life face into real-life grins or my real-life mouth into real-life laughs.
I won't tell you about all of them because I'll spoil them. But I want you to know because they're so joyful, so playful, that they turn this third sequel to an average Grand Theft Auto clone into one of the most fun videogames I've ever played.
Like Saints Row the Third,
Saints Row IV
is set in the city of Steelport. Except it isn't. The game starts with an alien attack on Earth, with you as president of America. Except technically it doesn't do that, either – the game actually starts once you've infiltrated a terrorist base to find a nuclear missile, and clambered up the side of it mid-flight, yanking vital bits of wiring out, as Aerosmith's 'I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing' blares. The missile explodes, you fall to earth, and manage to crash through the ceiling of the oval office. Congratulations, you're president!
I'm including this precise description because it sets SRIV's tone early, and better than I could with words like 'madcap' or 'anarchic' or 'what?!' This tone continues throughout – throughout the subsequent alien invasion, throughout your incarceration in a Matrix-esque simulation of Steelport (see why it technically isn't the same place?) – and all the way through the ten-hour campaign and twenty-plus hours of side missions.
It's even present in the character creation screen. Long ago, PC Gamer developed the concept of 'maximum face': mutants produced by pushing every slider to full. The overweight, hollow-cheeked, elfeared weirdo you see in these screenshots is a product of that. For the first three hours, simply seeing his face kicked me into fits of giggles.
I played my hero for laughs, dressing him in a towel, then in Lara Croft hotpants, then as a giant foam hotdog. But you're also free to play him straight, a man in a suit amid the madness of an imperfect simulation of an already-mad city. Or you're free to play as a her. Or as a him with a her voice, or a her with a him voice, or a her with a her voice pitch-shifted to 100%, or even as a him with Nolan North's voice. Or, if you really fancy, you can play as a small white hovering toilet.