Saints Row IV: Re-Elected
Developed By: Volition
Published By: Koch Media
Category: Action, Shooter
Release Date: 03.27.20
Maybe it’s not the greatest game series ever conceived, but I’ll take any excuse to go back and hang out with the Third Street Saints. My first exposure to their adventures came when Saints Row The Third hit Playstation Plus as one of that service’s free games. I had no particular interest in the game, but it was free and I didn’t have anything else I wanted to play, so I downloaded it and jumped right in. I had always thought of Saints Row as something of the poor man’s Grand Theft Auto, but it turns out it was the sarcastic man’s Grand Theft Auto, which is about a thousand times better. Today’s game, Saints Row IV: Re-Elected for the Nintendo Switch is a re-release of the fourth game in the series.
Long Road to Publication
Saint Row IV started life as an expansion for Saints Row The Third called Enter The Dominatrix. Volition was originally a subsidiary of THQ, and due to that company’s financial concerns, the studio’s original plans for Saints Row Part 4 and its brand new city were cancelled and ETD became a standalone sequel in its place. When Volition was sold off to Koch Media shortly thereafter, Saint Row IV went with it. If you played The Third it was a bit disappointing to have to explore the same city for a second game, but the new super-power mechanics made up for things a little. Luckily, the expansions are present in this edition and they have some new places to explore.
Steelport: City of Dreams
In the first two games, the Third Street Saints began life as a street gang in some city whose name I’m too lazy to look up. In the third game, they moved to a new city called Steelport and destroyed the criminal syndicate running that city and also the American government’s most overzealous military antiterrorist force. Saints Row IV opens with the leader of the Saints (I.E. the player’s character) stopping a nuclear attack and becoming President of the United States of America. Shortly thereafter, aliens show up, blow up the White House, and abduct the Saints – as well as any humans they deem exceptional. The alien emperor, Zinyak, places POTUS in a virtual simulation of Steelport to torture them for their defiance.
Obviously, those wacky Saints are just too darn rebellious not to break free of the simulation and start to fight back – just in time to watch Zinyak blow up the Earth. The Saints’ expert hacker Kinzie reveals that if the player re-enters the simulation and causes chaos, it will something something computer hacking and she’ll be able to take over the Zin Empire’s systems and something something mainframe and the Saints can kill Zinyak. The game is rife with ultra-violence, fourth-wall breaking one-liners, and a general disregard for anything that would prioritize thought over fun. It’s just wonderful.
It sends up all sorts of its contemporaries, including a great take on Mass Effect’s ship-based crew interactions where you can choose to talk to or “romance” any of the Saints – except, sadly, Keith David; he’s not that into you. Story missions where you rescue your crew sometimes include parodies of other gaming genres; from short text adventures to a particularly scornful critique of stealth games. My favorite, however, is a short side-scrolling brawler called Saints of Rage. I can’t figure out what it’s sending up, but it’s a lot of fun.
This Is How We Do It
As an open-world action game, Saints Row IV’s main claim to fame is the sheer amount of stuff you can do. From the very beginning of the game, you have one of the more robust character creation tools in recent memory, and you can find plastic surgery facilities in Steelport to change your character’s appearance or gender at any time. The basic third-person shooter action is carried over from The Third. It’s… solid. It’s not especially dynamic, but it works. Driving cars is… also solid? Again, it works; what else do you want? The previous game got by largely on personality, and the action was just not getting in the way. It relied on inventive weapon concepts more than the actual fluidity of the action, and Saints Row IV keeps that tradition alive with alien abduction guns, a rifle that shoots bouncy bullets, and the ominously-named dubstep gun, just to name a few.
Saints Row IV introduces some awesome new wrinkles to the formula, however. Since you’re in a simulation, you get super-powers! Yeah, that’s about all the explanation you get on that one. Like I said, no thinking, just have fun. You can run at super-speed, leap tall buildings in a single bound, blow shit up with your brain power, and stomp on the ground really super hard. Some are cooler than others, naturally. Anyway, these new additions make the gameplay a lot more original and way more fun than previous entries in the Saints Row series. As always, the controls aren’t especially tight, but they don’t need to be. The difficulty level is fairly low, but Saints Row IV never pretends to be anything other than a lighthearted mayhem sandbox, and that’s exactly what you get.
There are Additional Its To Do Also
In addition to the mostly combat-focused story missions, Saints Row IV has like a trillion side quests; like, too many to remember or explain them all here. Most of them will involve using a certain super-power, such as telekinetically throwing wrecking balls around the city or racing around the streets with your super-speed. Some are platforming adventures, some are carnage-laden combat chaos, and sometimes you’re just jacking cars. You can hack stores with a fun minigame that sees you connect two nodes across a grid field with different shapes of tubes. The good news is they add a ton of content to the game, and completing them grows your control over the simulation which the story says it needs you to do. More tangibly, they reward you with money, super-power power-ups, guns, vehicles, other guns, and costumes.
Palette Swaps Can Still Look Good
Like I said, this game started out as an expansion to the previous game in the series. As a result, the graphics look pretty much exactly the same as they did in Saints Row The Third with a small face lift. They changed the landscape up to make it look more virtual simulation-y, which is a good touch, but luckily the previous game was more-than-presentable to begin with. You also get some really cool small touches, like small ripples in the geography whenever you utilize a super-power and the occasional graphical “glitch” in your surroundings. You also get a lot of cool vehicle designs, weapon concepts, and awesome costumes that feature a mix of thinly-veiled homages and original designs. Sadly, there is a loss of resolution when you go from docked to undocked, so I do recommend keeping your Switch docked if you want the best experience.
First Rate Sounds of the Third Street Saints
Several musicians probably spent weeks, months, or perhaps years composing background music for the game’s many levels and areas of the city. Other sound designers probably spent a long time picking out a robust selection of tracks to feature on the game’s many radio stations. Writers and voiceover artists devoted part of their lives to writing and recording DJ dialogue for those same stations. And all I ever listened to was a custom one-song playlist blasting “The Touch” on infinite repeat. Incidentally, this game has possibly the best soundtrack of all time. You also get treated to dozens of stellar performances from the voice actors, who were brilliantly cast. From Keith David as Keith David to Rowdy Roddy Piper as Rowdy Roddy Piper, the actors seemed to find a way to fully inhabit and realize their characters.
The Saints Go Blasting In
Saints Row IV isn’t perfect; the shooting action is stiff, if functional, as is the driving. Thanks to the addition of super-powers, those elements of the game are pretty severely downplayed, however. Unfortunately, the super-powers can suffer from that same stiffness and can be kind of hard to aim; using telekinesis to catch things seems especially random and/or inaccurate. It’s not generally a problem you’ll notice outside of one specific side quest type, but still. Overall, though, the action is good enough to keep the game’s base level of fun above most of its competitors. Combined with the irreverent nature of the characters, dialogue, and setting, it’s good enough to make this a must-own Switch game.
Buy Saints Row IV: Re-Elected
Digital – $39.99
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*A game code was provided for review purposes.