Review: Saints Row IV: Re-Elected

When Saints Row: The Third was released in 2011, something clicked. Something over at Volition and Deep Silver sparked a fire and all obligations to coherence dissipated from the former Grand Theft Auto clone. That mentality fueled Saints Row IV’s development, expanding the already insane premise of The Third into something truly out-of-this-world. Saints Row IV was a rush, busting down every barrier that logic had set up in Steelport. With its standalone DLC — Gat Out of Hell launched, Saints Row IV is getting new life on the newest generation of consoles, with the PS4/Xbox One re-release Saints Row IV: Re-Elected sitting alongside its hellish cousin. Saints Row IV stands the test of time as one of the greatest open-world games ever made, but this new gen re-release misses too many marks to be the “definitive edition” that it should be.

Saints Row IV begins with the Third Street Saints infiltrating a terrorist base led by Cyrus Temple, whose defeat by the hands of the Saints drove him insane. The Boss, leader of the Saints, kills Cyrus, but not before a nuclear missile is triggered. After destroying the missile, The Boss becomes the President of the United States, with the Saints forming his cabinet.  Things take a turn when aliens begin attacking the White House and abduct the Saints, leading to the President’s defeat by the alien leader Zinyak. After escaping a bizarre 50’s-inspired purgatory, it’s revealed that the President and the Saints are trapped in a virtual simulation modeled after their town of Steelport. Fortunately, misanthropic brainiac Kinzie is able to hack through the simulation, breaking its laws and letting The President perform superhuman feats inside it. It’s up to the Saints to stop Zinyak and the Zin Empire.

Saints Row: The Third might have been Saints Row abandoning its seriousness, but Saints Row IV is where all subtlety dies. It’s a riotous, devil-may-care story with superb writing and incredible characters that you’ll grow to love over time. The pacing feels tight and secure, making Saints Row IV a hilarious joyride through a digital dreamworld.

With superpowers at your disposal, Saints Row IV’s gameplay isn’t your typical open-world game. The earliest powers, super sprint and super jump, are magnificent concepts that make navigating the world fast, easy, and fluid. While other open-world games tediously make you drive from mission to mission, Saints Row IV destroys that inconvenience and creates an exciting transportation method. The rush from running up a skyscraper and launching yourself into the air, only to glide miles away from your takeoff point is something out of science-fiction, but it’s a breath of fresh air from the dull, monotonous transportation of series like Grand Theft Auto.

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But the powers don’t stop there: Saints Row IV offers other superpowers to tinker with as well. You can blast enemies with energy shots, stomp on the ground to cause earthquakes, or even dive bomb to create a massive impact. These mechanics work in tandem with the typical third-person shooting the series has used for years, and the combos you can create are plenty fun. The superpowers can feel a bit overpowered (especially in the endgame) and can cause typical vehicles to seem outright obsolete, but the feeling of empowerment that you get from destroying a whole squad of aliens in a single blast is untouchable. Saints Row IV masters the gaming power fantasy, never once letting petty logic get in the way of pure fun.

Of course, the missions have to back up the superpowered antics, and rest assured they do. From the rocket-powered injury of Fraud (which is an enormous step up from the already incredible Insurance Fraud minigame) to the speed-of-sound dashing through town in Blazin’, Saints Row IV uses the superpowers in intelligent ways. It doesn’t hurt that there’s always something to do in Saints Row IV. Combat missions to take out alien bases, collecting clusters to upgrade your superpowers, hacking stores to purchase new clothes or change your body type, climbing surveillance towers, or finding the numerous collectibles scattered about the city, Saints Row IV delivers enough distracting side content for even the most diligent of gamer. There’s so much to do in Saints Row IV and it’s delivered in such digestible increments that you won’t be able to resist. One distant cluster will lead to another, which will lead to a new mission, another collectible, and so on. It’s pure open-world addiction.

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Saints Row IV: Re-Elected
is the PS4 and Xbox One re-release of Saints Row IV. Yes, I said “re-release”, because calling this “remastered” in any way would be incredibly dishonest. Saints Row IV on PS4 and Xbox One is only slightly better-looking than the PS3/360 version and doesn’t even touch the caliber of the PC version. Unless you side-by-side view them, the Re-Elected version has only a few noticeable graphical updates, most apparent is a more consistent frame rate. The game still has multiple glitches, and while that can lead to some funny moments, for a game on a next-gen system, this is really inexcusable. You do, however, get all the DLC you could need for Saints Row IV, including the Enter the Dominatrix storyline and an enormous amount of humorous, but ultimately cosmetic costumes. The only other changes are minute, like using the PS4 touch pad for quick-time events. It’s a real shame to see Saints Row IV get such a middling update on next-gen consoles, because it deserves much better. It’s convenient to see all the content packed in to a single disc (along with the Gat Out of Hell content), but the enhancements are so minimal that you’re probably better off just getting the last-gen console or PC versions at a discount.

But the game’s presentation has some good preserved. The voice acting remains an enormous high, with acclaimed voice actors like Terry Crews (as Ben King), Natalie Lander (as Kinzie), and Keith David (as himself). The writing’s sharpened edge makes every cutscene a joy to watch, delivering a stellar story with many memorable moments. The soundtrack complements the goofy tone with a healthy mix of popular and classic music ranging from alternative (Walk the Moon, AWOLnation), classic pop (Haddaway, Aerosmith), electronic (Flux Pavilion, Junkie XL), rap (El-P, Kendrick Lamar), and even classical orchestral (Beethoven, Chopin). Customizing your own mixtape means you’ll be able to listen to your favorite tracks while jettisoning through Steelport. It’s a great ride.

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Closing Comments:

Taking a bizarre concept and cranking it up to eleven, Saints Row IV is still one of the best open-world games ever made, a landmark in creative freedom unbound by the narrow halls of logic or coherence. Delivering a near-endless supply of side-content and addictive combat, Saints Row IV is ridiculously easy to recommend, but Re-Elected’s limited enhancements and unwelcome technical issues keep this version from being the definitive version that it should be. You’re better off picking up the last-gen console or PC versions. In a generation cluttered with remasters and re-releases, Saints Row IV: Re-Elected is a lackluster re-release of a phenomenal game. Saints Row IV: Re-Elected can be recommended to those only with a PS4 or Xbox One in a superpowered heartbeat, but those with any other system to play it on are better off saving funds on DLC and getting another version at a discount.