Friday, April 17, 2020

Saints Row IV: Re-Elected (NSW) Review

We're deep in the month of April, and there was no sign of the month's first review. Until NOW, that is! Saints Row IV: Re-Elected launched on the Nintendo Switch at the end of March, and now I have my full review right here on SuperPhillip Central.

The infamous Saints crack down on an otherworldly threat

In 2013, Saints Row IV took the Grand Theft Auto-inspired series and changed things up considerably, taking the wackiness dial, turning it up past 11, and essentially ripping that dial off in the process. Now, Saints Row: The Third already was off the wall as it was, but Saints Row IV somehow went even further down the rabbit hole. I mean, what else you can say about a game that starts with the Saints leader as the President of the United States, an alien invasion, and being abducted by said aliens and placed into a horrific simulation of the city of Steelport?

Make no mistake--this is certainly the Saints Row series at its most insane. (Until perhaps Saints Row V!)
In this simulation of Steelport (yes, the same map from Saints Row: The Third is used in this sequel, though with some obvious and not-so-obvious alterations), you are not bound by the laws of the real world. After all, it's virtual, so as you gain new powers and abilities through story progression, you're able to kick alien ass and anyone else who gets in your way with style and just all-around flat-out awesomeness. I'm talking about powers like the ability to sprint with insane speed, fly in the sky, as well as unleash bursts of ice to freeze foes and fire to conjure up some explosive results. Then, there's my personal favorite of the bunch: telekinesis, offering the ability to pick up enemies and objects and launch them into the air with reckless abandon.

The various superpowers the Boss acquires make traveling around Steelport quite entertaining.
At the beginning of Saints Row IV, you'll be utilizing vehicular modes of transportation to get around and weak weapons with limited ammo. However, as you progress the story and clear side mission, you'll unlock those previously mentioned super-powered mobility options, and a sizable amount of money that can be spent on new guns and upgrades for those guns--great for gearing them up increased firepower, ammo size, and reload speed, for example. Cars become irrelevant rather quickly and a bit of a nuisance when you're forced to drive them in certain missions since running around at super speeds and leaping high up into the air to descend across the skies of Steelport is a much more enjoyable way to get around the simulation. This is especially so when you get the ability to spend money on upgrades for your character and their powers.

When you're able to soar across great expanses, somehow a car doesn't have the same level of fun to it.
Like previous Saints Row games, you get the ability to spend money to unlock upgrades. These come in the form of increased stamina, higher health, faster health recovery, invulnerability to fire and explosions, and on, and when it comes to superpowers, greater range of abilities and faster cooldown times so you can unleash your attack-oriented superpowers with greater speed or with mobility-oriented superpowers, jump higher and run faster. Thus, you can naturally see why riding around in a car isn't as exciting as perhaps picking up that car with telekinesis and plowing it directly into one of alien leader Zinyak's extraterrestrial goons.

The perpetually dark tones of the Steelport simulation grow tiring after a couple dozen hours of playing.
Similar to upgrading your fully customizable character, Saints Row IV's menu also offers the means to select missions. Most of the story-related missions revolve around reassembling the Saints crew from simulations based on their own personal nightmares. While Pierce's has you fending off killer Saints-branded soda can mascots, including a Godzilla-sized one, newcomer Asha's nightmarish simulation plays out like a mission of Metal Gear Solid, complete with hiding in cardboard boxes to slip past dim-witted soldiers. When you're not completing missions centered on the story, you're tasked with completing side missions, but unfortunately, most of these simply task you with completing side activities like Mayhem-style demolition fests, timed checkpoint races using your super sprint and other mobility-concentrated superpowers, and assassination-based missions.

It's a parade of mass-murdering Genki mascots. Just your typical evening inside the simulation.
To be fair, though, from the many (and I do mean MANY) side activities available to you from the ones mentioned and others like finding and destroying Zinyak's statues of his narcissistic self, hacking stores in a "Pipe Dream" video game-like fashion, and retrieving vehicles and getting them back to a chop shop in one piece, they do give fun rewards. From killer mechs (excuse me--"power suits") that you can add to your arsenal to guns that bounce bullets from one target to the next as well as guns that spawn black holes, sucking up anything and everything in their paths (including you), the unlockables on display in Saints Row IV are just as wacky as the premise and concept of the game itself.

Yes, there's still some Grand Theft Auto-like aspects to the simulation of Steelport, but overall, Saints Row IV plays more like Sony's Infamous series or Microsoft's Crackdown series than a typical GTA clone, which could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how much of a fan you are of either style. What I can say is that Saints Row IV is definitely a drastic departure compared to the more classic, grounded era seen in Saints Row and Saints Row 2. Though, that's not to see it's a total departure story-wise, as Saints Row IV makes myriad references and allusions to past games, including story missions that take some classic missions from past games and puts a unique twist on them.

In the immortal words of Steve Urkel... "Did I do that?"
I can't say that Saints Row IV isn't dated as a game, but I don't mean in the most obvious of departments--its gameplay. Yes, of course, shooting still feels sloppy--which isn't helped by the Switch controller's smaller analog sticks (though gyro support does assist a little)--and lots of other elements of the game's design come off as relics of a bygone era in 2020. For me, though, it's all the movies references and a fair portion of the humor that I couldn't help but give a cold shoulder. At its worst, the crude humor and blatant immaturity were greeted with nothing but an eye roll from me instead of what the writers wanted from me, a laugh or even a smile. However, that's not to say there aren't elements of Saints Row IV's humor that kept me straight faced. When the game lets loose and gets at its most self-deprecating, it's legitimately a funny game. There's just all that other nonsense you have to sit through to get to it.

This alien should have thought twice before going to the Boss for his spine realignment.
You might be wondering why throughout this review of Saints Row IV: Re-Elected that I've just now called the game out by its full name instead of just "Saints Row IV". Well, there's a very good reason for that. The "Re-Elected" part of Saints Row IV is meant to feature DLC. However, thanks to a bug/glitch/error/whatever, the Switch version currently cannot access all of the DLC owners of Nintendo's hybrid system and this game were promised. Oopsy-daisy! Thus, really, all the Nintendo Switch has is the vanilla version of Saints Row IV with modest improvements and the occasional software crash. Not optimal.

Still, there's no denying that while some aspects of Saints Row IV are indeed dated, it remains a blast to speed through Steelport's streets, running up walls, leaping over tall buildings in a single bound like Superman, soaring through the sky, and unleashing your superpowers all over Zinyak's intergalactic army. It's some of the most fun I've had moving around an open-world setting. Though the currently MIA DLC is a drag and a downer, the devs are currently looking into a fix. Saints Row IV: Re-Elected was a pleasing power fantasy, but it won't be earning a second term on my Nintendo Switch any time soon.

[SPC Says: C+]

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