Republished on Wednesday, 13th July, 2022: We're bringing this review back from the archives following the announcement of July's PS Plus Extra, Premium lineup. The original text follows.
Saints Row IV is the definitive sandbox game for anyone who's a bit tired of the more serious attempts like Watch Dogs, Grand Theft Auto V, or even inFAMOUS: Second Son. It's constantly in danger of breaking the fourth wall, its storyline is absurd, and its gameplay is completely over-the-top. You're the president of the United States of America, you wield horribly overpowered superhero abilities, and you fight ugly aliens in a virtual simulation in order to get closer to their leader, who blew the Earth to pieces along with its human population of about seven billion. It's fair to say that you either think all of this sounds amazing, or you think that it just sounds far too stupid to be enjoyable.
If you're of the former persuasion, chances are that you've already played Saints Row IV on the PlayStation 3, but there's little doubt that Saints Row IV: Re-Elected is the best console version of the release – mostly because it doesn't run at about 15 frames-per-second half of the time. Indeed, the fourth title in Volition's wacky franchise really struggled on Sony's previous machine at times, and it's really the only factor that we marked the otherwise highly enjoyable release down for in our review.
Fortunately, as alluded, Re-Elected is far more stable performance-wise. You can fire off your superpowers like a madman, and the game will tend to keep up nicely. Unsurprisingly, it also looks more impressive, although probably not to the extent that you'd like. The draw distance is much better, and the lighting looks far smoother, but the title is still coated in disappointingly muddy textures. Still, the game is yet to fully crash on us, so we suppose that praise is owed where it's due.
Moving briskly onto the gameplay, we dare say that the re-release is some of the most fun that you can have on the PS4. The virtual rendition of the city of Steelport is ripe for sandbox mayhem, and the game delivers this in spades. It gives you everything that you could possibly want when it comes to making your own fun, and then it lets you loose on the populace and your alien oppressors. It can lack a bit of challenge, sure, but it's a title that's far more interested in seeing you bend the rules, rather than throwing difficult tasks at you.
Speaking of tasks, the map is peppered in optional objectives for you to tackle, from simple 'kill every alien' assignments to favourites like super powered insurance fraud and tank mayhem. All in all, there isn't a single mission type that outstays its welcome barring the still-dreadful store hacking minigame. In a release that prides itself on the ridiculous, this incredibly tame mix-and-match puzzle feels totally out of place, and frankly, we can't believe it made it into the original game, let alone its re-release.
It's the title's combat, however, that steals the show. As previously mentioned, you're practically submerged in a stream of new weaponry and superpowers, and the game's rewarding nature is what'll keep proceedings feeling fresh. Murderous melee attacks, elemental blasts, telekinetic throws, and devastating aerial bombardments are the order of the day, and combining all of these techniques with a whole host of guns proves to be a fluid and satisfying experience – especially when you come across a combination that really gels with your style of play.
If there's one negative to come out of this, though, it's that some players may think that they're actually given a few too many options. The sheer amount of powers and armaments on offer, along with all of their subsequent upgrades, can be overwhelming at times, but if you allow yourself to take things at a steady pace without blowing all of your digital money on every advancement in sight at every opportunity, you'll find that there's a nice, rewarding character progression system at work here.
Which brings us nicely to the matter of customisation. Not only can you chop and change your abilities as you see fit, but you can also build your perfect president with the help of hundreds of customisation options. Male, female, green-skinned, fat, thin, sexy, ugly – it really doesn't matter who or what you decide to create, again reinforcing the sense that the game just wants you to have fun no matter what your preferences are. It's worth pointing out, however, that we failed to find an option to upload our character from the PS3 version at the time of writing. Whether this is simply a case of Volition's character servers not being matched up yet, we're not sure, but if you were keen on importing your Boss into the next-gen edition, it might be worth snooping around for answers online.
Sadly, things can't always be about player freedom when it comes to being the last remnants of the human race. When you're making waves in virtual Steelport, it's liberating to leap over skyscrapers and glide across the map dressed like the most nightmarish Batman the world has ever seen, but when it's time to advance the plot, things aren't quite as madcap.
In a Matrix-style twist, your superpowers don't carry over to the real world, where you're aboard a spaceship stolen from your evil alien aggressors. This means that during many of the main quests, you'll need to rely purely upon your aim as you gun down your enemies rather than freeze them solid and shatter them with a baseball bat. As such, plot progression comes with a bit of a downer, but thankfully, the story is entertaining despite a few disappointingly brief cutscenes, the writing is often comedic gold, and the missions themselves are varied and generally very enjoyable to play through.
Of course, we can't finish this review without mentioning the soundtrack, which is still arguably one of the best selections of music to be found in a sandbox title. Stan Bush's 'The Touch' headlines a playlist that includes Robert Palmer's 'Simply Irresistible', Thin Lizzy's 'The Boys are Back in Town', and Haddaway's 'What is Love'. When you're busy bringing the pain to alien scum to the tune of Optimus Prime's proudest moment, there's no doubt that you're really starting to appreciate the finer side of gaming.
Love it or hate it, Saints Row IV: Re-Elected's obsession with the ridiculous is what sets it apart from the rest of the market, and the PS4 re-release is the best way to experience the madness. Coupled with extra expansions (including Gat Out of Hell if you buy the bundle), there's plenty of value to the package, even if it doesn't take the opportunity to build upon the PS3 original. A blast from start to finish, the president's tale of vengeance is the stupidest fun that you can have on Sony's newest console, and we mean that in the best possible way.