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Saints Row 4: future tools of destruction

Saints Row 4 is the stupidest game you'll play this year. Phil Owen spent some of E3 punching haters in the dick and speaking to Volition's creative director. As you do.

It begins with the leader of the Third Street Saints in the White House doing POTUS-type things like punching a hater in the dick and curing cancer.

When I was talking last week with Steve Jaros, creative director at Volition, I compared the progression of the Saints Row franchise to that of The Fast and the Furious, and he said he'd made that exact observation the previous day.

“The Fast and the Furious, the first movie, they're stealing a truck full of DVD players, and then in Fast Five they're stealing $100 million from a Brazilian drug lord, and in Fast 6 they're fighting terrorists,” Jaros commented.

Saints Row, similarly, has escalated from a straight-up clone of the sixth-generation Grand Theft Auto games in 2006 to, in Saints Row IV, having the player character be the President of the United States and possess super powers. It's a departure from the series's roots aesthetically, but it feels as if with each new entry Volition is having more and more fun.

And in the 30 minutes I had to play the beginning of Saints Row IV, I had quite a bit of fun as well. It begins with the leader of the Third Street Saints in the White House doing POTUS-type things like punching a hater in the dick and curing cancer. And then, of course, aliens invade and suck all the Saints into The Matrix, or rather the Zin Empire version of the Matrix.

In this computer simulation, you have superpowers. You can leap tall buildings in a single bound or run up the side of them Prototype-style if you so wish. You can glide and set people on fire by touching them and so on and so forth. And all that stuff is really cool, certainly, but it's the weapons that steal the show. You've got the standard arsenal of machine guns and dual pistols and the like, But they can be more than just that if you so choose. You can modify the appearance of these weapons so you can have, to cite an example Jaros provided, a rocket launcher that looks like a guitar case, Desperado-style. On top of that, there's also a dubstep gun and a singularity gun, and these two weapons represent Volition going full-on Insomniac.

The dubstep gun I found particularly hypnotic. I you fire the thing, and everyone and everything in the vicinity starts dancing awkwardly to the loud dubstep that plays. If you happen to aim it at a person or Zin alien, he or she will collapse while still dancing/twitching all the way to the ground. It's going to take a while for the dubstep gun to wear out its welcome, I think.

But if it does, never fear, for help is on the way. The singularity gun creates a black hole that sucks everything – and I mean everything – in the vicinity into it. It's a wild thing to imagine, and even wilder to see; the singularity gun is pure spectacle.

It wouldn't be a preview build if we got to see all of the weird crap Volition is putting into the game, however, and Jaros promised me that there are plenty more creative weapon types that have not yet been revealed, including the one he likes the most.

“My personal favorite has not been revealed yet. I have a gun that I love more than the dubstep gun, and more than the black hole gun,” Jaros said. “In my heart of hearts there's one that makes me giggle like a schoolgirl.”

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But how does one come up with a concept like a dubstep gun? Well, if Jaros is to be believed, Volition had a true “Great Minds Think Alike” moment, as two separate groups of designers within the company had the idea.

“There were two camps [within Volition] that independently of each other were both developing the dubstep gun without the other one's knowledge,” Jaros said. I asked him to elaborate on that explanation, and he did.

“There are two things that came to mind as far as the two different camps. One, there was a weapon brainstorm meeting, and someone else just said, 'Dubstep gun. I don't know what it does, but we need to have it,' and then they figured it out from there,” he explained. “As far as the other group, the audio director on Saints Row 3 was listening to a dubstep track, and they had a thing at the beginning where the guy dropped the bass cannon or whatever. 'Bass cannon? Oh my god, that would be an amazing weapon.' And so then he started talking to a weapon artist to try to start conceptualizing the gun from that way.”

Eventually, Jaros said, the two worlds collided and the dubstep gun as we know it was created.

But where do you go from here? How do you one-up yourself moving forward from the pure insanity of what they've created for Saints Row IV? Jaros said the team had to ask themselves that very question after finishing work on Saints Row: The Third, which was pretty absurd in its own right.

“When Saints Row 3 came out, we didn't know how the hell we were going to be able to escalate from there – like, what do we do? It's through that crucible that we're able to develop all the stuff that we're doing now.”

Jaros said they have established a simple philosophy to help them make it through these crucibles.

“Our philosophy with the Saints Row games is embrace the crazy and fun trumps all. And so when those are your two touchstones, you have a lot of room to play and come up with some pretty wild stuff.”

You'll be able to experience this weirdness on August 20/23 on 360, PS3 and PC.

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