After Saints Row: The Third landed mixed reviews on the Switch thanks to a buggy launch state, a rogue Amazon listing leaking a Saints Row IV: Re-Elected Switch port took many fans by surprise. Last year developer Volition did confirm a Saints Row 5 was in the pipeline for next-gen hardware, so this may be their attempt at keeping the series fresh in people’s minds for the time being. The release could also be seen as an olive branch from developers to those burned by the series’ previous Switch outing, as this port comes with brand new co-op features and even motion controls! Now that the game is in people’s hands, we can see for ourselves if the story of the Third Street Saints is really worth revisiting…again.
The game picks up where Saints Row: The Third left off, with the defeat of antagonist Cyrus Temple skyrocketing the Saints to even grander heights of popularity. So much so that the once humble street gang is now running the entire U.S. government, and not actually doing that bad of a job at it. Things go south however, when an alien armada, known as the Zin Empire, invades the White House. Their leader, Zinyak (a Shakespeare quoting beast of an alien) disposes of the human armed forces, separates all of the individual Saints members, and places them in nightmarish virtual realities to presumably suffer for all eternity for the entertainment of Zinyak himself.
The stakes are noticeably higher this time around and everything’s being turned up to 11 because of it. Your created protagonist wakes up in the what looks like the same city you got comfy with from the last game, except now it’s plunged into eternal night, crawling with deadly aliens, and all traces of your crew have vanished. To survive you find small ways to break the simulation from the inside out, and these exploits become the foundation of your plot against Zinyak. The more your virtual prison is manipulated, the more powerful you become, eventually gaining superhuman abilities like telekinesis, super speed, and much more.
Needless to say, this isn’t exactly the GTA clone Saints Row started out as back in 2006. While the franchise established its identity in lampooning the Grand Theft Auto series, this particular entry widens the scope of the Saints universe, and applies its now signature edge to everything from science fiction to video games themselves.
While the single player campaign is more linear than that of previous entries, the story and writing is absolutely at its strongest. Fan-favorite crewmembers from previous entries return and are given the proper characterization they deserved, while preserving the chaotic energy the franchise is known for. Leftover plotlines are picked back up and given proper resolution, while the various sci-fi parodies on display are often genuinely hilarious thanks in part to amazing support performances from JB Blanc, Keith David, and the late Rowdy Roddy Piper.
The title originally launched back in 2013 and through its post-DLC “Re-Elected edition” has since been ported to every system known to man. Understandably so, because critics at the time praised the game for not only its humor, but for successfully bringing the GTA sandbox style into science fiction when games like Crackdown fumbled with this concept in the past. The raunchy comedy and over the top violence is still alive and well, but it has aged a bit better than that of previous entries thanks to its cosmic setting and stronger focus on character.
But in the shadow of Saints Row: The Third’s less than stellar Switch port last year, is Saints Row IV doomed to repeat history? Thankfully that does not appear to be the case. Exploring the city, whether by vehicle or your own super speed, still feels smooth and rewarding, and while I never though a game like Saints Row could really benefit from motion controls, once I tried out the gyro aiming, I never turned it off. The audio and cinematics run a lot smoother this go around, and the soundtrack has some great 2013 bangers that absolutely hold up.
Compared to the PlayStation 4 version of Saints Row IV you will see some differences in performance. The textures have a lot less shine to them and overall everything has a lot less lighting, a common trick with Switch ports to hide imperfections. Once you get off the ground with your superpowers and are soaring over the open-world, the frame rate starts to get inconsistent and may stutter a bit when you enter and exit different parts of the map. I suppose in a game about flying through virtual simulations, an argument could be made that these glitches actually add to the immersion of the game. Jokes aside, even without the extra 4K shine, I’d say this version of the game does right by the acclaim of the original release. Not only is this a serviceable port of the 2013 original, but also the tighter controls and inclusion of motion controls really show that Volition were out to get this one right.
Saints Row IV: Re-Elected Review
- Graphics - 7/107/10
- Sound - 8/108/10
- Gameplay - 9/109/10
- Lasting Appeal - 9/109/10
Final Thoughts: EXCELLENT
Saints Row IV was Volition intentionally jumping the shark with their own franchise and somehow taking it to new heights in the process. Fanfare for the Saints brand faded a bit thanks to both time and some poorly received spin-offs, but even still I’d say this is a game absolutely worth owning on the Switch. This was a dark horse game of the year contender back in 2013 and a cult following for the title continues to this day. It’s a non-stop sci-fi romp with as much heart as senseless explosions.
Evan Roode is a full time journalism student and amateur game historian. His favorite song from Guitar Hero III was “Even Flow”.