Saints Row IV Re-Elected is effectively an upscaled GOTY edition of 2013’s last franchise instalment. Coming with the Gat Out Of Hell expansion, and at a budget price, is it worth revisiting Steelport if you’ve been there already? Or if you’re new to the saga of the Third Street Saints and their open-world crime spree adventures, should you just dive right in? One thing’s for sure – if you’re familiar or not, there’s a tonne of content to sink your teeth into.
A quick catch up here if you can’t be bothered clicking the link and reading the old review: Saints Row IV stars you as “The Boss”, head of the gang, and co-incidentally President of the United States of America, when the Earth is invaded by the Zin who want to enslave humanity. You and most of your cohorts are kidnapped and installed in a Matrix-style simulation to keep you docile and compliant whilst they do whatever they’re doing with your body. Cue breaking out of the system, altering the code to give you super powers, fighting back against Zinyak (the main bad dude), and being as far away from a GTA clone as it’s possible to be whilst remaining in the open world ballpark. Got it? Good.
I reviewed Saints Row IV on its original release on the PS3 and liked a lot of things, but disliked others and found it to be decent even if it was ultimately only just above average. I played it finding most of the fun stuff to be fun; and the grinding, repetitive nature of side mission structure to be a bit boring. It wasn’t that the activity on screen was dull or poorly put together, it’s just that it was uninspired. Saints Row IV was an extension to Saints Row The Third that should have been DLC, but ended up being padded out to a full game. It occupies your time well, but is never truly satisfying. Saints Row IV Re-Elected is obviously the same with some extra things to do, and should make me feel the same about it… yet doesn’t.
I don’t really know why I’ve enjoyed Saints Row IV Re-Elected more than the original release, I can’t put my finger on it. I suspect it’s something to do with the fact that it’s not at all serious – something we’ve not been getting a lot of since the new generation of consoles has launched. Gritty, realistic, emotional, challenging – all keywords in the gaming lexicon, and ones we want to hear as the medium evolves, but non of those really emphasise what we play games mostly for: fun. It’s possible that whilst it is only a re-hashed game that I’ve played before, Re-Elected simply reminded me that when that little black box under my TV is switched on, I want to completely escape from reality for a couple of hours and have a good time doing it.
Having said that, don’t think that Re-Elected has come on superhuman leaps and bounds. It runs smoother than it did before because of the increased processing power available. The fancy new controllers and system cameras come into play with touchpad functions and comprehensive voice control that works, as well as a neat Saints purple glow emanating from the front of the DualShock 4. However the textures suffer at times on the characters making them look more cartoony than they should, and the same lip-syncing issues that appear in the cutscenes of Gat Out Of Hell happen in this too. I didn’t come across any gameplay glitches though, and it hasn’t been patched yet (that I remember at least), so that’s a couple of points up on nearly every new game in the last 18 months… It’s also got all the DLC available which is an insane amount of stuff to play with, and things I didn’t get round to having a go at when they came out first time.
The focus on player customisation means loads of costumes to pick from, unique vehicles to drive and fly, and crazy weapons galore that nearly all can be upgraded to be devastating. There are no new powers added, though elements (different effects) are, and I’d have loved to see the addition of the wings from Gat Out Of Hell because whilst the locomotion is good, flying around was just so much better and it felt limiting to go backwards after playing that. The standout content pieces though are the two additional story missions – Enter the Dominatrix and How the Saints Saved Christmas. The first is what the game was originally supposed to be, an expansion to Saints Row The Third, so it’s good to see some of the assets and ideas being reused; and the method of presenting this as deleted scenes is absolutely spot on. The second pack is homage to the mythic Kiss Saves Christmas with some Terminator squeezed in. Suitably bizarre and distracting. Both are available fairly early on to play, though you might be best getting to the end of the main story first if you don’t want some minor spoilers.
It’s an interesting one to sum up because with it all put together Saints Row IV Re-Elected is an attractive package if you’ve not had a go before. Factor in the Gat Out Of Hell expansion and you can’t ignore that it’s worth the money being asked for it (currently around £35 in the UK). However, if you’ve played before and bought all the DLC then just grab the expansion on its own. Given the post New Year drought of retail releases it’s the perfect time to launch a remaster, much like Tomb Raider did last year, and that should serve it well. I put my hands up here to say that I was probably too harsh in October 2013, and that playing again with more weapons and stupid outfits available has made me reconsider my opinion of the balance between the free-flowing action and the grind – the main reason for it getting marked down. The repetition doesn’t disappear, it just gets easier to bear, and whether there’s some metaphysical/existential comment to be made about that coupled with a simulation containing a simulation, I would only answer as “The Boss” would: Can I shoot it in the face?
A review copy of Saints Row IV Re-Elected for PS4 was provided by the Deep Silver PR team. The game is available physically and digitally now on PS4 and Xbox One.