The time is finally here guys, it’s the release of an open-world action-adventure game that involves you enhancing your superpowers, collecting orbs, playing both solo or in co-op, and generally causing havoc for the enemies and civilians alike! No, silly… I’m not talking about Crackdown, this week marks the release of Saints Row IV: Re-Elected on the Nintendo Switch, a game which is very similar to the Microsoft exclusive only with more adult humour and, in my case, a naked old chubby woman. After the mixed reception Saints Row: The Third received last year, you’ll be happy to hear that this game is better in every single way…
As this is the Re-Elected edition, every piece of DLC has been included, most via its own side missions, so the amount of content you’re getting is huge in comparison to previous titles in the series. However, Saints Row IV has always been my least-favourite game in the franchise, due to its strange design choices and over-reliance on the ‘superpowers’ aspect. So, has replaying the game for the first time in around five years changed my mind on the concept and gameplay mechanics? Let’s find out…
Although I have my issues with the game itself, which I’ll come to, I have to admit that Saints Row IV opens with one of the most badass and memorable prologues ever. The game itself follows on from Saints Row The Third, kind of – you’re no longer only the leader of the 3rd Street Saints, after the demise of Johnny Gat, you’re now the freaking President of the United States on a mission to save the world from a nuclear threat. After an emotional and over-dramatic escape, we get to design our
freak character and proceed to do Presidential things such as choose whether to cure cancer or not…
Your reign doesn’t last long though as the world is invaded by the evil Overlord Zinyak, an invasion which results in all of the Saints being kidnapped and placed upon the alien’s ship. You awaken in Steelport but something’s not right – you have deja vu and begin to see black cats more often… Basically, you’ve been placed within a ‘Matrix’-like simulation, a place where Zinyak and his goons run free and anything is possible (thanks to hacker Kinzie).
With the Earth gone, along with most of humanity, the Saints aren’t going down without a fight. Via their new virtual personas and impossible superpowers, they plan to take down Zinyak and all of his forces from the inside out, taking over the digital representation of Steelport and freeing all of the incubated Saints aboard his ship. Whilst within the simulation, physics don’t count, neither does realism as you’re presented with a whole host of strange and fantastical weaponry and support which will aid you in your quest. It’s time to take back Steelport, even if it’s not the real Steelport…
If you’ve never played a Saints Row game before, imagine GTA only much sillier – that’s basically been the concept since Saints Row 2 as the franchise started out as almost a GTA ‘clone’ but then it created its own identity by going down the outlandish and humorous route. You have full reign of Steelport, a massive open-world city filled with shops, events, missions, and sub-stories, only this time it’s not a real city, it’s a digital representation of one. As such, you’ll occasionally see people on the street glitching out (which is quite funny), buildings ‘ripple’, structures change in front of you and just like in the Matrix, civilians will sometimes transform into the aliens, like Agent Smith.
You can pretty much do whatever you want within Saints Row IV, either stick to the main storyline by following the missions presented to you, or go wild and work on the various ‘challenges’ by blowing everything up and collecting orbs to increase your powers. If you choose to stick to the main story, you’ll complete missions all around the city and aboard Zinyak’s ship, yet the side missions incorporate the DLC so you’ll have new places such as a Christmas-themed set of missions and an alternative storyline when playing the Enter the Dominatrix DLC…
If you’re simply cruisin’ for a bruisin’ then the multitude of events are sure to entertain you, scattered all throughout the city. We see the return of fan favourites such as ‘Insurance Fraud’, which is where you have to cause as much bodily harm by jumping in front of cars, and new events such as fighting off waves of glitched-out enemies and flying around in a spaceship as you try to cause as much mayhem as you can. I’m sad to see that the muck-spreading mission hasn’t returned from Saints Row II, but that sadness quickly changed when I realised you could play a secret ‘streaking’ mini-game just by taking your clothes off!
Additionally, just as we saw with the Metro Redux collection the other day, Saints Row IV has implemented motion controls on the Nintendo Switch! Unlike Metro, the controls aren’t always active, they only enable when you’re holding down ZL to aim your weapons, but the precision and full control you get over your aiming is brilliant. As I said in the Metro Redux review, the option to slightly move your console, or the controller, in order to accurately aim and get in some sweet headshots, is something all games with a gun should include – on both the PS4 and the Switch.
The small travel the Thumb Sticks provide isn’t great for perfect aiming, so I highly recommend you turn on the motion controls and see how much easier the shooting becomes.
Superpowers or Super-lame?
My biggest annoyance with Saints Row IV is the core gameplay, although after replaying it I’ve actually come to like it more than I once did. Whereas Saints Row I, II and III (for the most part) were set within a real city with ‘realistic’ physics, Saints Row IV throws that out of the window and opts for unbelievable and superhuman physics because it’s now a digital city and not real. So, about an hour into the game, you’ll no longer have a need to drive any of the hundreds of cars that drive around as you’re able to run like the Flash, jump over buildings and run up walls like they’re the floor.
Don’t get me wrong, feeling like a badass is great, but only when it’s slowly worked into the core mechanics like it was with the original Crackdown. In that game, you started with a few powers but it took quite a while until you could scale buildings and launch cars in the air with a single punch or kick. But, with Saints Row IV, it’s like that within an hour – this is why, when it first released, I was initially put off the game. I felt like it had moved too fast and essentially made me a God before I’d had the chance to play and enjoy the game as a regular person.
However, replaying the game on the Switch actually changed my mind a little as I loved running around and slide-punching people in the nuts, kicking cars into peoples faces, running up buildings to find the remaining orbs, and gliding through the sky to get from one place to the next much faster. Sure, I still felt like the abilities were a bit too much and came too early, but I had a lot of fun levelling them up and simply smashing everything to pieces when I had a few moments spare.
Weapons and powers
Speaking of superpowers… Saints Row IV contains a host of abilities for you to unlock and use creatively against your foes. From the self-explanatory Super Sprint, Jump, Shield and ‘Death From Above’ to the Multi-Elemental Blast, Telekinesis, Stomp, and Buff. Each one can be upgraded through the use of the many orbs which you find all over the place, increasing the duration, damage, distance, and AoE. Once you’ve unlocked the majority of these powers and upgraded them a few times, you really do begin to feel invincible and like a God.
In terms of the weapons, there are six ‘types’ of weapon, each one housing a number of alternative weapons which you can swap out to your own preference. For example, the ‘shotgun’ category has your standard Pump-Action Shotgun yet it also has the Inflato-Ray, which inflates the enemies when you shoot them, and the Warped Weapon, which causes its unfortunate targets to warp and distort upon impact. However, the most iconic weapon has to be the Dildo Bat, a giant 3-4ft rubber dildo that wobbles around as you slap the aliens in the face and take them out.
There’s also a ‘Rectifier Probe’ – which was originally banned in Australia…
On a side note – even though you’ll stop using vehicles about an hour after starting the game, there are a number of brilliant ‘cars’ you can jump into which will help you cause tonnes of damage. A returning classic is the Genki Manapult, a vehicle that allows you to shoot pedestrians out of a massive cannon once you suck them in, and the Gat Mobile, a van with a giant Johnny Gat head upon it which shoots flames out of the mouth! If you’re just looking for a game in which you can go around and cause mindless mayhem, this game has you covered…
Much to my surprise, the cooperative aspect of Saints Row IV has remained within the Nintendo Switch edition. I was unable to try this out though as you MUST have the paid Nintendo online service to use the feature (I do not have this). However, just like the PC, current, and last-gen editions, you can play through the entire story with another Saint, sharing the collectables and having a blast with one of your homies. On top of this, there are actually two types of activities that are co-op ONLY within the game. This is good as it gives you something special to play when you have another human playing with you, but it also sucks if you’re playing on your own as it’s a bunch of activities that you can’t even touch.
Every single cheat from the previous versions of the game seems to work within this edition as well. However, whereas activating cheats on the previous versions would disable trophies, this version just disables saving. So, if you don’t care about saving and you just want to spawn in all the weapons, have infinite ammo, use new vehicles, or simply put everyone into ‘Big Head Mode’, then feel free to do so! It is worth mentioning though that if you’re playing in co-op and one of the players turns any of the cheats on, it disables saving for both players.
What would an open-world game be without things to collect? On top of the many orbs which enhance your skills, there are also a few other things such as audio logs, Text-based adventures and destroying Zinyak statues, as well as a bunch of random activities like car surfing, stunts, and combat tricks. There’s a lot of things to do and find as you explore the virtual city, you’ll rarely ever find yourself with nothing to do.
I never had the chance to play Saints Row the Third on the Nintendo Switch, but I heard that it was quite ‘iffy’ at launch. The framerate was all over the place, the slowdown was noticeable, it was hard to play at times, and it was basically in need of a lot of polish. So, going into Saints Row IV I was expecting a possible repeat of this, with the game performing ‘okay’ but needed a few patches to iron out the creases – I was wrong! Saints Row IV, to me, runs brilliantly.
Within the menu you have a toggle, you can either keep a fixed resolution or have it dynamic to increase the performance. I only play my Switch in handheld mode so my comments are all based on this – It appears the ‘resolution’ mode sticks to 720p (as the image looked nice and sharp), but the dynamic resolution option dropped to around 540p (based on how it looked in comparison to my Darksiders gameplay). I’ve put an image above (you may have to click or touch it if it doesn’t appear) which lets you slide between the same image in both modes – you can clearly see the difference both visually and in terms of the performance when playing.
Running in a fixed resolution mode, I personally had no issues with the game – it’s a 30fps game and I felt a few framerate dips but nothing major – it honestly held up really well unless the screen was full of explosions, in which case you would feel the odd dip. With the game set to dynamic resolution, the dips are much less noticeable at the expense of the quality. I’ve simply left the game on the higher resolution yet I have lower it from time to time just to see if there’s a massive difference – most of the time there wasn’t.
What’s the one thing that usually gets stripped out of re-releases like this? Specifically, think about the GTA 4 re-release which happened on Steam a few months back. That’s right, the music used within the game or the radio is often stripped out and replaced due to licensing issues. I’m happy to say that I couldn’t find any track which had been removed within this new release, all radio stations appeared to have the same rock, rap, classical, and electronic music tracks as before.
There is one downside though, they sound a little distorted. I’m not sure if it’s just me, as I had no headphones to hand, but the music sounded like it had been compressed, making it appear a little flat. It didn’t impact my enjoyment and I’m glad all the tracks are still here – including Papa Roach – but this was probably one of the compromises for porting it to the Switch. The actual in-game voices between the characters (which there’s a lot of) all sounded great though.
Visually the game looks as good as I remember it when I played on PC and the PS4, although the game is far too dark. This isn’t a performance or technical issue as such, just an observation that the simulated Steelport is always night time, making everything dark other than the neon lights. This is one of the reasons I favour the other games in the series over this one, they all played out during the day, with nice bright streets that let you appreciate the detailed world you live in.
Saints Row IV: Re-Elected may not be the best Saints Row game but it’s still tonnes of fun! Whether playing on your own or with your homie in co-op mode, there’s a multitude of activities, side missions, story missions, and challenges to complete, not to mention the hundreds of orbs to find and collectables to… collect. With the addition of all the DLC, the massive open-world adventure just got even bigger, providing many, many hours of entertainment and mindless destruction. If you like Crackdown, you’ll thoroughly enjoy this new direction for the Saints Row series.
My only complaint, in terms of the port itself, has to be the price. I understand this version is ‘new’ and the PS4 version has been out for a number of years now, but there’s a very big difference. This Switch edition is just Saints Row IV, for £34.99, yet the PS4 edition, which is around £15, contains this game as well as the spin-off title Gat out of Hell. Do I feel this game is worthy of the £34.99 pricetag? Sure, but it’s a lot less if you own any other platform…
Saints Row IV: Re:Elected£34.99
- - Really good port of the game which performs almost perfectly with either a locked or dynamic resolution
- - Lots of content included, offering hours and hours of mindless fun
- - Contains everything available on other platforms, including online co-op, plus new features such as Motion Controls
- - Interesting story which parodies a lot of other properties, such as the Matrix
- - Although having superpowers can initially dumb-down the gameplay, it also turns you into a God and makes it a lot more enjoyable
- - The price of this game is quite high in comparison to other systems
- - The music sounded a bit 'too compressed'