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Saints Row 4 fends off space invaders with supersonic speed, black hole guns

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It was just after the leader of the Saints and President of the United States chose to cure cancer forever that the aliens invaded, blew up the White House (rechristened the White Crib) and sucked up all his friends in their alien teleports.

This is how we were introduced to Saints Row 4 at a hands-on demo at E3 2013. It is every bit as over-the-top as its predecessor.

Saints Row 3 was obsessed with giving players new things to do. Based on the early game mission we played, Saints Row 4 suffers the same obsession and is all the better for it.

After the alien invasion, where a cast of characters from previous Saints Row games made cameos, we ran to the Oval Office where there was an arsenal at waiting for us to equip. For the next 10 minutes or so, aliens appeared and died at the point of a machine gun, rocket launcher, SMG and a shotgun. Combat felt just as fluid as it had in Saints Row 3, and the president was full of quips to deliver as we laid waste to the baddies.

We fought our way to the lawn, where we hopped into a gigantic turret and took aim at the UFOs swarming the skies. This kind of abrupt change in gameplay is what Saints Row does best.

After competing "The Saints Wing" story mission, we played a late game level in which the protagonist has gained superpowers. Players can still hijack cars, but that seemed like a moot point given our ability to run at nearly supersonic speed throughout the open-world environment. Cars, firetrucks and pedestrians bounced off of us as we tore through the city. And we ran through the city a lot.

The real treat in that later stage was the bizarre array of weapons we had at our disposal. A burst fire rifle fired familiarly, but was a blast to carry because it looked like a Super Soaker squirt gun. We also had a trump card of sorts — a weapon that creates black holes that sucks everything in its general vicinity into ... well it doesn't matter because they're gone and not worth thinking about anymore. We could also have kept them in this dimension with the dubstep weapon, which blasts wub wub wub music and renders those caught in its beam entranced.

The President's other superpower is a crazy vertical jump. Paired with the super speed and the ability to glide during your jump, it makes traversal simple, intuitive and a lot of fun.

Saints Row 4 will be released Aug. 20 in North America for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Windows PC. For more on the game, and the studio behind it, be sure to check out our extensive interview from PAX East 2013.