Gun toting Presidents, aliens with English accents and 1950s sit-coms. All in a day’s work for Saints Row IV, writes John Walshe.

An open world adventure in the style of Grand Theft Auto, the Saints Row series is not for simulation fans, nor for the faint of heart. If, however, cartoon violence and OTT game-play are your poisons of choice, it is pretty good fun.

The Third Street Saints have risen from lowly street gang to world leaders, having saved the world from nuclear annihilation. Thus, you find yourself playing the first gang leader to become President of the USA and generally acknowledged leader of the free world. Indeed, the first chapter plays like Pimp My White House, with the President’s quarters rechristened the White Crib, having become home to pole dancers, gang bangers and all manner of exotic wildlife.

Before you finish shaking your head at the absurdity of it all, however, things take a turn for the absolute ridiculous, as the earth is suddenly over-run by bloodthirsty aliens with British accents. Think Downton Abbey meets Predator and you’re on the right track. Thankfully, our gun-totin’, fist-pumping President has his own personal arsenal stashed in the Oval Office, and he’s soon filling said extraterrestrial nasties full of lead. So far, so weird, right?

It gets even stranger when our fast-shooting leader finds himself trapped in a 1950s-style sit-com, created by the alien leader Zinyak to keep him busy while his legions go about their nefarious business. In truth, this portion of the game is incredibly well created, complete with canned laughter and irritating theme tune, playing out like one of The Twilight Zone’s better episodes.

It’s here, in this simulation, that Saints Row IV excels, as you make your way around the vast playing area, completing missions, collecting data clusters, killing bad guys, absorbing their powers, taking over stores, and generally making a nuisance of yourself, in a bid to destabilise the simulation created by the evil Zinyak. As you progress, you gain super-powers, like the ability to freeze enemies and a very handy super-jump that lets you scale skyscrapers with ease, as well as being able to upgrade your health, damage reduction and combat abilities.

Saints Row IV has probably the most bizarre, nonsensical plot ever committed to video game, but if you can get past that, there lies the heart of a fun sci-fi action adventure, with a truly zany sense of humour – including a spontaneous sing-along to Haddaway’s ‘What Is Love?’ Wacky but fun.

Platform: PS3, X360
Publisher: Deep Silver/Volition
Cert: 18
Score: 3/5

John Walshe