The Saints are back in the fourth installment of the Saints Row franchise and they are ready to protect the world from the threat of an alien invasion. Can the Saints, along with the President of the United States, save it? Better yet, is it worth your time and money to help them?
A noticeable choice was to omit the “HD” moniker so many other remakes have used. When playing through the game you’ll see why since many of the visuals and textures remain the same from previous versions with only slight upgrades in resolution. At this point, the characters and environments look dated and are mostly imports from Saints Row: The Third, making this version feel like a cheap cash-in.
On other hand, a few interesting effects have been added, like giving the digital version of Steelport a computer simulation feel with shifting textures and random static-like effects. When you “load in” the world is constructed, allowing you to see the wireframes and polygons before the textures pop up and the sky loads.
Although it’s a novel idea and helps smooth the transition from the real world, the effects do become distracting after a while. Another noticeable issue occurs during boss fights where texture rendering becomes blurry. I kept waiting for the graphics to load in a cleaner texture like many games often do, but it never came. I only point this out because it happened during a critical boss fight where the camera was very focused on him the entire time.
Despite all of this, Saints Row IV: Re-Elected still gets the job done and because it doesn’t claim to be anything more than a re-release, these are all just graphical nitpicks.
There are plenty of moments that are equal parts fun and functional. The soundtrack is catchy and recognizable using many classic hits and plenty of dubstep wubbs to keep everyone happy. The action feels loose and responsive with controls refined enough where you don’t feel restricted. This comes into play when you are flying through the sky, shooting an area full of enemies with a fire blast (destroying everything within radius) and switching to ground stomp where you come crashing down with immense force. And if you do get bored with these staid powers, there are enough creative weapons to make even Ratchet and Clank feel jealous over weapons like the Abduction Ray, Dubstep Canon and the Singularity Gun.
In this new version, you can now leap and bound over buildings like superman, shoot elemental attacks like Megaman, and even attack genitalia so hard that enemies (or anyone for that matter) are sent flying in wrenching, debiliating pain.
Although all these expanded powers are fun and provide you significant advantages, some sections strip you of your powers and challenge you to navigate levels as a mere mortal. These areas are surprisingly refreshing as they add an element that counters the “god mode” feel in the game.
However, this sense of freedom and power comes at a cost. The addition of new superpowers removes any challenge during most of the game outside of special missions where vehicles weigh you down and normal guns are essentially rendered useless because they feel more like an inconvenience to use.
Other features of the gameplay are also lacking. For example, conversations often occur without facial movements and several cut-scenes interrupt the flow of the action, taking you out of the experience. In one particular scene with “Rowdy” Roddy Piper (voiced by Roddy Piper himself), an otherwise hilarious scene quickly loses its appeal due to cheesy dialogue and subpar audio work.
The narrative in Saints Row IV: Re-Elected
During the story, players get to relive crucial moments that occur between the main character and the people who were recruited along the way. These sections are memorable and filled with fan service in the form of nods to previous games. Long time fans will instantly recognize familiar character banter and background, solidifying the history the characters share while also giving new players a brief summary. The humor and sly jabs at the hero, like how he or she was silent at first or didn’t know how to swim back in the first game really give Saints Row IV a light-hearted touch among all the bravado and testosterone-filled conversations.
Most of Saints Row IV is an homage to the Matrix franchise, establishing many similar ideas that explain why you are in a computer simulation. I won’t spoil more than that, but it does explain so many unexpected moments, making the existence of certain superpowers easier to justify.
The story, albeit limited, is well written and is at its best when it is not trying to be serious. The narrative does slow down in the middle of the game given all the side activities you have to complete. Fortunately, it doesn’t take long to get back on track. For completionists, there are plenty of collectibles to find and challenges to complete. At times, however, it almost feels like a LEGO game. That said, all of these distractions do provide special upgrades and items that you would not get if you were to ignore these side quests.
With these new powers the character and identity of the different boroughs, which made the third title stand out so well, are now gone. Steelport used to be a vibrant city where you can see people in business suits in one area to gimps and hoes shooting luchadores with machine guns the next. Now, Steelport is a big grey mass of buildings and streets as most of your time is now spent flying and running through the city in a blur.
There is one over arching theme throughout Saints Row IV and it is filler, so much filler it could fill a factory worth of Twinkies and Cup Cakes. I mentioned the collectibles above which use the figurative carrot at the end of the stick (upgrades) to entice players. Much of the content outside of story missions consist of doing side activities with some dialogue thrown in to give the illusion of progress. The side missions mostly feel like a cheap way to artificially extend play time but thankfully these are mostly optional and don’t impact the story. They are, however, worth trudging through as they contain upgrades (notice a theme?) that you do not get via the standard story mode.
The developers have also jam packed Saints Row IV with enough pop culture references, one liners, and easter eggs to fill a new release of “Scene It?“.
All of these nods to previous versions and humor keep the game feeling light hearted and fun. This is especially evident during the DLC (included in this edition) titled “Enter the Dominatrix”, which is the failed expansion to SR III that evolved into this game. During this section the characters conduct interviews as if they were actors in a movie between gameplay sections. It’s a fantastic behind-the-scenes view that pulls the curtain back on the development and plays out like a documentary. It’s also entertaining to hear the characters explain why particular sections were cut or cancelled. As fun as this was, at the end of the day, it is still a somewhat flawed game that could have used some more time in development.
Thankfully, the over the top feeling fans love most about any Saints Row game is still evident and at $29.99 and a plethora of included DLC, the game is definitely worth purchasing.
Saints Row IV: Re-Elected is out now on Xbox One, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC
If you are a fan of the Saints, wear lots of purple and wish to play a better superhero game than Superman 64, then Saints Row IV: Re-Elected is the game for you. Filled with tons of over-the-top moments, an amazing soundtrack and enough one-liners to make Arnold proud, this flawed but fun game is worth your time during a rainy day.