Saints Row IV: Re-Elected / 28th of January 2015
The Saints Row series is a curious case, the original was released in 2006 to positive critical success, and yet personally, it, along with its sequel, were not really games that grabbed my attention, coming across as little more than GTA clones. And yet, with the release of the third entry into the series, I was urged almost ceaselessly to play it, and I did-eventually-only to be utterly blown away by what the team at Volition had done, completely turning the series on its head with a brilliantly written, tongue-in-cheek sandbox extravaganza that made more pop culture references than probably every film made in the last ten years combined, and as if that wasn’t enough, there was also Burt Reynolds. How did they follow up this incredible artistic success? With a work of undeniable genius, that how.
The original version of Saints Row IV was mesmerising; an intoxicating mix of Crackdown 2, The Matrix and a sharply written screenplay performed by some excellent voice actors, including Vice President Keith David. The action starts of five years after the events of Saints Row: The Third, the leader of the gang, you, are now President of the United States, and following on from a tumultuous, Armageddon referencing opening, the stage is set to combat not simply a group of syndicate controlled gangs, but rather a full on alien invasion of planet Earth. With each successive game, Volition always manage to crank yet more out of the series and its characters, so the wait for the inevitable Saints Row V is going to be a long and arduous one indeed. However, for those who have already played through Saints Row IV, help is at hand in the form of the expansion, Gat Out of Hell, which, along with Saints Row IV: Re-Elected, can be picked up for both Xbox One and PS4 on just one disc for as little as £30. “Is this bundle worth the price?” you may ask yourself, well, you should delighted to hear that yes, it most certainly is!
The downside to the package is the general quality of the visuals, although upgraded from the original release to run in 1080p at 60fps, the frame rate is rather far from being steady, there are noticeable, and sometimes, rather substantial drops (I’ve seen it in single figures-well, once), yet on the whole, the game looks as sharp as can be. Additionally, the lighting looks to have been improved and likewise, character models appear slightly more detailed than they were previously. The Gat Out of Hell expansion, however, is somewhat more diabolical on the eye, both games have their share of ropey textures, but with Hell being a far more sparse locale to traverse, it really doesn’t hold up very well at all. Thankfully then, there is a lot more to the game than its visual allure.
For a start, Saints Row IV comes complete with both the Enter the Dominatrix and How the Saints Saved Christmas DLC packs which add life to an already ample, open world package. Coupled with Gat Out of Hell, players can find more than sixty hours of gameplay to be savoured here, making it a bit of a steal for the price. And with references to a whole host of films including Die Hard, It’s a Wonderful Life and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, not to mention the unforgettable sight of Santa Claus dropkicking a gingerbread man, this is one re-release that simply cannot be ignored. The expansions are all entertaining though relatively short lived, except, that is, for the utterly brilliant, Gat Out of Hell.
In this, Johnny Gat and Kinzie Kensington must go to Hell in order to save the President from being forced to marry Satan’s daughter, Jezebel. To do so, the pair must utilise the power of Satan’s halo, stolen by returning Saints Row 2 character, Dane Vogel. The pair utilise this to learn an array of powers similar to those found in the main game, yet the biggest and best addition to it, is the inclusion of wings which allow either character to engage in actual flight, the next logical step forward from Saints Row IV’s enhanced running and jumping. Initially, I found this quite awkward to get to grips with, yet after just a very short amount of time, I felt completely at home in the sky, which made returning to the use of Super Jump feel entirely restrictive as a result.
The move to Hell has also offered up some other interesting deviations from the norm, for instance, the actual structure of the expansion itself is quite unique, seeing it abandon story missions altogether, instead, players are tasked with completing quests for a group of Satan’s enemies, and periodically, cut scenes will pop up to advance the story. A similar level of invention has, of course, gone into the game’s weapon designs, which include an insect firing SMG, an armchair with mini-guns on either side of it, and the Ark of the Covenant, which actually utilises enemies as ammunition!
The bulk of the expansion can be completed fairly quickly in either single player or co-op, yet plenty of time can be lost, on what is a rather small map, with the vast array of collectibles that adorn the world, from audio logs to power enhancing soul clusters. As with Saints Row IV, there are a plethora of challenges that lay in wait to be completed, though these will likely only appeal to hard core fans of the series and the most masochistic of completionists.
Regardless of how one looks at it, for the paltry price that Deep Silver are asking, this is a pretty substantial package, full of many hours of ultra-sharp dialogue and super power enhanced gameplay, and for that, it is impossible not to recommend it to both returning players and newcomers alike. Saints Row IV is Volition’s crowning achievement, thus far at least, and I for one am delighted to see it given another opportunity to find the expansive audience that it truly deserves. Buy it!