Saints Row IV: Re-Elected is over the top. There’s no other way to put it. For most of the experience, this translates to the sort of delicious, insane, incredible action that only exists in the deepest, most unhinged corners of our imaginations. With crazy weapons and powers, insane destructive capabilities, and the ever-important quality of just not taking itself too seriously, Saints Row IV: Re-Elected strikes me as a fully realized version of the similarly silly Destroy All Humans! Too. However, the game takes things too far in its attempt to build on its predecessor’s penchant for unpredictable high jinks. Too much of a good thing is possible, and we see that here with chaotic gameplay that desensitizes until it’s underwhelming. While one of the better crime sims out there, the overpowered mayhem in Saints Row IV: Re-Elected falls just short of true greatness at the level of Saints Row: The Third or the best of Grand Theft Auto.
Politics, aliens, and superpowers, oh my
Right off the bat, Saints Row IV: Re-Elected lets you know that all normalcy has flown out the window. In the opening mission, you play as the leader of the Third Street Saints, who is also now the President of the United States. You jump headfirst into a counterterrorism mission that involves going rogue, taking down an entire terrorist base, and disarming a nuclear missile mid-flight. Nearly as soon as you finish the level, you’ll find yourself on a carefree stroll through the White House, signing bills to cure cancer and punching senators, when you’re interrupted by an alien invasion. This is in turn followed with your own adventures through a virtual reality Steelport.
With some hacking prowess, you give yourself superpowers usable within the simulation, and after beating the simulation a bit, you also venture into the real world to rescue your friends from the alien mothership. (Also, the developers decided to let you vigorously romance your crewmates in a spoof of romancing in Mass Effect.) Typing it all out — while leaving out several absurd aspects of the premise and game, mind you — is like trying to convey the first draft of a storyboard written by a five-year-old. The only thing missing is a fleet of dinosaurs. For Saints Row IV: Re-Elected, though, the absurdity isn’t a bad thing. The game makes it work because it just does not take itself seriously, and as a player, you’ll find yourself just going with the flow. I’m fighting an armed, sentient toilet? Getting attacked by random, superpowered mascots as I walk the virtual streets? Escaping an alien mothership Return of the Jedi-style while “What Is Love” blasts in the background? Sure, why not.
By adding superpowers, an alien invasion, and a massive, city-sized simulation, Saints Row IV: Re-Elected invokes the same formula of raunchy ludicrousness that drove Saints Row: The Third to success. You have ridiculous weaponry, endless customization, and zany characters and missions to play around with. Spiking cars and launching fireballs at alien swarms patrolling a desolate virtual world works very well for the most part. It’s largely the same Steelport as the last game, with a few alien superstructures added in, but your newfound speed and super jumps create a completely new perspective that turns the city into a playground. Collectible orbs that power you up a la Crackdown, sidequests, and loads of optional challenges pepper the entire in-game world, making exploration an alluring prospect. My playthrough was significantly elongated because I kept getting distracted by the shiny power-up orbs while speeding from mission to mission. Before I knew it, I’d have spent 20 minutes hopping around rooftops and sprinting up skyscrapers en route to a five-minute level. Saints Row IV: Re-Elected knows how to make superpowers fun.
Too close to the sun
Ultimately, though, the insanity is a bit too much, and the experience at large is dulled as a result. Don’t get me wrong — Saints Row IV: Re-Elected is incredibly fun, but in making your character an unimaginably godlike superhero, the game gets less challenging as you go. The toughest missions, in fact, come in the early game when you don’t have many superpowers to protect yourself from boss aliens who can ragdoll you without a second thought. As soon as you’re powered up, though, gunfights and alien attacks just aren’t that intimidating when you can sprint around for a few seconds, completely lose ’em, and then scorch them with a bajillion balls of fire.
Furthermore, once you’re overpowered, key gameplay elements like driving and gunplay are rendered obsolete, and going back to them is even less engaging than putzing around in literal God mode. Why would you drive or shoot when you can sprint way faster than cars (and leap over buildings, the ultimate shortcut) while pelting your enemies with literal trucks and barrages of fireballs? Outside of the occasional urge to screw around with absurd weapons like the Dubstep gun, firearms are quickly irrelevant in an arms race against superpowers. Saints Row IV: Re-Elected suffers from a paradoxical situation where eschewing powers for traditional weapons is immediately boring, but the powers themselves are less fun than their more grounded predecessor’s experience that focused on guns, vehicles, and weaponized sex toys.
The simulation is running smoothly
On day one, Saints Row IV: Re-Elected on Switch is a significantly better port than Saints Row: The Third – The Full Package, which ran adequately in handheld mode and sluggishly in docked mode. The game runs pretty well both on the go and docked, despite incorporating explosive superpowers and incredible speed that together must constitute a significantly more strenuous gameplay gauntlet than Saints Row: The Third. My handheld experience with the game was as smooth as I could have asked for, barring one incident of extreme slowdown, and while docked mode saw infrequent slowdowns when enemy aliens turned up the heat, its performance was mostly respectable. With smooth performance and helpful gyro aiming, the game plays quite naturally and is unhindered in its jump to Switch. The biggest impediment to on-the-go crime sprees on Switch has been its own technical limits, but those aren’t an issue for Saints Row IV: Re-Elected.
If you like Saints Row, or raunchy, off-the-wall action in general, Saints Row IV: Re-Elected is a fantastic package. While the game does go a little bit too crazy with handing earth-shattering power to the player, it’s still a wonderful title, and ultimately, the powers are stupid fun that create a unique crime sim. Don’t get me wrong — the game is totally off the deep end, but more importantly, it is brimming with quality dumb fun. The impressive port job alleviates the technical concerns that came with the less satisfying port job of Saints Row: The Third – The Full Package as well. Saints Row IV: Re-Elected is addictive, hectic, and engaging throughout. It’s gone too far overboard for it to match Saints Row: The Third, but it’s completely worth experiencing all the same.
A review code was provided by the publisher.