Joining the ever rising tally of next-gen remasters is the cavalier Saints Row IV, with the new expansion ‘Gat out of Hell’ nicely bundled in. From alien motherships and 50’s sitcoms to a whole bunch of freshly fitted Oval office stripper poles, Saints Row IV remains here in all its questionable glory, but is it really worth a next-gen splash out?
Game: Saints Row IV: Re-Elected & Gat Out of Hell
Publisher: Deep Silver
Anyone who hasn’t played anything ‘Saints Row’ in the past ten years might not be completely aware of its rise from light-hearted GTA clone to pure asinine bewilderment, so let me set the scene. After a victorious bout of gang warfare in the previous game, the player’s protagonist has risen to become the President of the United States, running the country from their crack-den, come stripclub, come armoury; aka the White House. When an alien invasion hits Earth in true sci-fi movie inspired fashion you’ll finally begin to appreciate Saint Row IV’s humour, at the very least for its relentless consistency of firing one bizarre situation at you after another. Unfortunately that’s only true initially as the barrage of insanity does start to feel more like laziness the more you progress.
For example, at the start you’ll be walking through the White House to a press conference and be tasked with deciding whether to cure cancer or world hunger. Whilst the fun-poking comedy is clear, the throw-away choice is a great representation of the entire series’ disposition of callousness towards its own narrative, that whilst attempting to be unconventional and carefree, becomes tiresome and ends up feeling a bit try-hard as the game endeavours to throw that humour at you in droves.
So what of the remastered experience? Well, it’s not greatly different from the last gen experience, in truth. Glancing at the key features for this next-gen version will tell you most things you need to know; HD graphics, bonus content, PlayStation 4 remote play, livestreaming and screenshot capabilities are all advertised bonuses, but the latter are all part of the system rather than any real software upgrade – that’s the bottom line sadly.
The game world’s simulated virtual backdrop full of intentional glitchy graphics only masked genuine glitches to a certain extent in the original version; they’re all still here such as cars bursting off screen when making contact or pedestrians sticking to any object that might get in the way, with merely an extra lick of HD paint to soften the pop-in and weak textures. Even with those HD upgrades in place, graphically the game was sub par last gen so it’s no surprise that visuals look noticeably dated on the new consoles. If you were expecting it look in line with the GTA and Last of Us remasters then you’ll inevitably be disappointed – it’s not horrible to look at, but it’s far from wondrous in that respect.
What Saints Row IV did have in the locker, though, was genuinely fun gameplay and the randomness that negated the narrative a little, helps the gameplay thrive. You’ll be flying spaceships, honing super-powers, conducting shoot-outs in nothing but your birthday suit, escaping a virtual prison masquerading as a 1950’s pleasantville – only briefly will you caught performing repetitive tasks and when it comes to actual mission flow and variety, it comfortably supersedes Grand Theft Auto’s plodding errands.
However, what really sells the remaster is the extra content which includes mission packs, vehicles and new powers, to name a few. Having all the additional content bundled in really is the difference that might help sway the purchase and does the bulk of work that differentiates it from the last-gen release. Then there’s the standalone package, Gat Out of Hell.
Whilst Gat Out of Hell can be purchased separately on PC and last-gen, it comes bundled with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One releases and does a great job to bolster the wealth of content. The story evolves around ‘The Boss’ (your character from IV) getting kidnapped by Satan in an effort to have him/her wed to his daughter, Jezebel. Series’ icons Johnny Gat and Kinzie hop into the underworld to save The Boss from this mismatch of buildings and hellish molten lava pits, that form what is a quite visually pleasing landscape, albeit quite sparse in comparison to the overworld.
Once in game you’ll quickly learn about your new angel wings that have you gliding around the city using dives and stunts through gaps and above buildings. The mechanic is actually quite liberating and much more forgiving than any other method of flight in previous games. Combined with firearms that include some based on the deadly sins (of course), and the slightly tweaked super-powers from SRIV including some monster summoning, navigation and combat is genuinely enjoyable and continues Saint Row’s decent gameplay ethos.
Your job throughout will be to take down Satan but to get to that point you’ll need to grab his attention by performing a manner of tasks to boost his ‘wrath meter’ – essentially a bunch of side quests that don’t really carry any narrative. They are fun, though. Torment Fraud is one objective that asks you to fast track a soul through hell and back into heaven’s good books, whilst certain events scattered around ask you to destroy and kill until Satan gets annoyed enough to show himself. There’s a good 4-5 hours to be had, but the nature of no real story amongst all the side quest grinding may hinder the experience for some.
As a package Saints Row IV: Re-Elected is a very tempting one. There’s a ton of content, an enjoyable remaster and a stand alone bonus game to boot. Unfortunately, the remaster itself offers little for those who have already played the game and does little to correct failings from the last gen release to make it a must own title. That’s why it’s hard to wax lyrical about it as I might have done, had I been reviewing the original.
Gat Out of Hell is a nice addition to the package but as a stand alone title suffers, like SRIV, from overly contrived humour, average visuals and a lack of any kind of evolving narrative. Saying that, when both games get the humour right they’re laugh-out-loud funny, and the greatest thing you can say about everything in this remaster is that you’ll never find it predictable – not many games can say that.