It's taken me ages to write this article. Not because of writer's block, but because Saints Row IV has left me in a quandary. I'm in two minds about it. Part of me acknowledges that I had a hell of a lot of fun playing it, from the soundtrack to the over the top visuals to the countless nods to various games and films littered throughout the game. I have a fundamental problem with the game, and the way it's been marketed. Part of me finds it extremely offensive. If I'd just found the game offensive, this article would have been easy to write. I should be offended by this game, but the part of me that enjoyed playing it is weighing far too heavily on my mind to just write it off. Plus, the two feelings are mutually exclusive, right? RIGHT?!

 photo saints-row-03_zps046831ed.jpgEvery time somebody makes a breakthrough game, like Bioshock Infinite or The Last Of Us, that fundamentally shifts the public's perception of gamers and game culture, proving that we're not all overgrown man children, sitting in our pants in our parents bedrooms, getting titilated by pixelated boobs and mass murder, it's not long until another game comes out that completely undoes it all. Saints Row IV might be that game. The problem is that it plays too well just to be written off as another crappy offensive title, like Leisure Suit Larry or (if we dig back into the past) Custer's Last Stand. For all intents and purposes, it's a great game and deserves it's place as one of Grand Theft Auto's contemporaries.

Alarm bells started ringing (metaphorically, of course) as I walked into the press event, only to be greeted by models dressed in skin tight, all in one, sexy policewoman uniforms. As I, and the other writers, sat down to play the game, one of the dancers began to do a pole dance routine. It was uncomfortable, and never have I stared so intently at a computer screen. It was also ten o'clock in the morning so it felt weirdly out of place. Saints Row has always revelled in its bad boy image. It's aiming to be over the top, so why should I expect anything LESS than pole dancers at their press event? Well, maybe because I don't like to see women being degraded for the sake of some cheap publicity.

I really wish I could tell you that the game sucks. But it doesn't. It's genuinely amusing and fun to play, and from the moment I started playing the insanely Bay-esque introduction that sees you and your fellow Saint's attempting to take down a rogue President of The United States (he's gone a bit red-button crazy), I knew I'd have a hard time writing this article. There are so many laugh out loud moments, particularly during the action set pieces: at one point you'll find yourself climbing a nuclear rocket mid-flight while Aerosmith's "I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing" blares in the background. Even the low-key moments provide some classic laughs, as you find yourself in a White House straight out of Middle America's worst nightmare, blinged up to the max, stripper poles in every office and a gun cabinet that would put Charlton Heston to shame.

 photo saints-row-aliens_zps931fe341.jpgThe action properly kicks in as Alien Invaders descend upon Washington, Independence Day style, and abduct most of the White House staff. Unluckily for the aliens, said staff are all members of the infamous Saints gang, so they're going to get a load more than they bargained for.

It turns out the game exists as a simulation, created by the Alien overlords, which means there's a lot more scope for experimentation within the game's world. The player has access to a number of superhero power ups which will see them leaping over buildings, running faster than a speeding car, and generally blowing up or freezing their enemies and innocent bystanders with a wave of their hand. The controls for the super powers aren't quite as tight as Infamous (which despite its flaws, is an exceptionally accomplished superhero game), and feel kind of gimmicky. It's fun having some new ways to explore the environment, but when it comes down to it, travelling by car and killing people with guns feels much more satisfying (which is a sentence that felt weird to type). There's also a dubstep gun. It goes wub.

 photo saints-row-freeze_zpscc471dd1.jpgAs I left the two hour session, I couldn't help feeling that, despite the comedy and the endless nods, winks and flashes to popular culture, and the new direction the devs have taken with the implementation of super-powers, will it all be enough to keep people interested for the duration of a 20 hour plus game? If you're already a Saints Row fan, then yeah - this is something to look forward to. If you're not, then this instalment probably won't win you over.

Saints Row IV is released on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 on 23rd August 2013.