Saints Row IV: Re-Elected (Switch) Review
I never knew I wanted Crackdown in my Saints Row, but the moment I received superpowers allowing me to run super fast and leap super high, while collecting hundreds of glowing upgrade tokens, everything felt oh so right. The Saints Row series has grown from a GTA parody to something of its own creation, a free-for-all sandbox without consequences. It, therefore, feels fitting that this fourth outing ditches all pretensions of reality, offering a campaign that takes place almost entirely within an alien simulation.
No longer do you need to worry about storing vehicles in garages and getting back to it to access them – just have them instantly spawn at your location. This open acknowledgment of the dissonance most games inhabit is perhaps the series’ most original and effective statement. Normal character building is thrown to the wind as you are handed the best powers from the get-go, super speed and super jump (which includes jumping up the sides of buildings). You can then collect orbs, sorry data clusters, to buy upgrades for these powers, such as a mid-air dash, higher super jump and sprinting up the side of buildings. Clusters are peppered everywhere and will offer hours of diversionary fun if you want to collect them all.
Elsewhere, you have your usual run of Saints Row side activities. I must admit I’ve never been much into them, but there is something about this game’s embracing of the absurd that kept me entertained far beyond any of the previous Saints titles. I particularly enjoyed the new red towers that you can climb/jump up. These offer some thrilling heights and help hone your mastery of the super jump. I also appreciated the optional spawn points you can activate on your way up these, to avoid frustration should you misjudge a floating platform and fall all the way back down.
In terms of the port itself, this isn’t Metro or The Witcher, so we aren’t seeing anything too amazing on the conversion. Things run on par with the recent Saints Row 3 port, with some pop-in elements and a general downgrade to lighting and textures when compared to the original console releases. However, given that 95% of Saint Row IV takes place during night inside the Stillwater simulation, it’s quite easy to ignore graphical issues and just enjoy the game.
As you level up your powers (with clusters) and character skills (with money), you become a true superhero within the simulation. The only downside to this is that much of the regular Saints Row “stuff” becomes redundant. Vehicles are unnecessary when you can speed run and leap across the city to destinations much faster. Calling in gang members is not needed because you are a god, and ammo, well, who needs it when you can freeze enemies and punch them into a million ice shards? There is, therefore, something of an identity crisis in this release. Is it Saints Row or Crackdown-Prototype? Still, it could be argued that the fourth game in a series be allowed room to experiment, and for the most part I’d say it’s a successful attempt.
Saints Row IV drew me in with its Matrix-like whimsy and dedication to player fun. The Switch port is serviceable, with blemishes easily ignored against the shenanigans on offer.
+ Superpowers bring a lot of fun to Stillwater
+ Collecting clusters is great fun
+ Embracing the simulation brings new freedom to the series
- Blending other games into Saints Row does muddy the series a little
- Not the strongest port, but still playable
- Daytime would have been nice