"Saints Row IV" review: A genuinely funny game

"Saints Row IV"

"Saints Row" arguably started life as that game that was a parody of "Grand Theft Auto." It was developer Volition's response to the overly serious tone and character-realism of the "GTA" series. But the action-adventure game has come into its own.

"Saints Row IV" looks to differentiate itself from that other open-world, genre-defining franchise by taking the series in a more liberal direction.

"Saints Row IV" grants the player all the same old freedoms in Steelport City, but with a few new twists, starting with the Matrix-like setting of the game. Here, you find yourself running and leaping through a virtual representation of Steelport City thanks to a full-on alien invasion.

This backdrop is the excuse for the game-changing elements which grant the player super-human powers. These powers range from frost and fire abilities to telekinesis, super-speed and the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

These powers make the game an absolute blast -- for about 20 minutes. After that the game reveals itself to have cheated the player out of any challenge present in previous series entries. Fighting off waves of mean-old aliens becomes dull real quick -- and stealing cars becomes irrelevant the moment you gained super-speed.

Beyond these attempts at change and great innovation, Volition has greatly succeeded at creating a game that exceeds its predecessors at both great humor and entertainment. "Saints Row IV" manages to parody a number of games -- such as the "Mass Effect" series, with the help of the voice of series regular Keith David -- and features substantial humor and clever writing.

"Saints Row IV" is a genuinely funny game, and as fun as its predecessors. It's worthy of the series' name, despite leaning in a direction more in tune with the game "Crackdown." Series fans will find plenty to like about this entry, with hours of fun to be had.

"Saints Row IV" is rated "M" for Mature by the ESRB, and is available now as early access for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3.