We here at TheGameJar have previously been very positive regarding 2013’s Saints Row 4, as well as previous Saints Row games. I personally however have never been in that bracket having never really experienced the franchise. I know, I’m a bad person but life, other games and just general laziness has kept me from the franchise before. If anything it puts me in a unique position as someone who can come to the newest gameas a new player and see if it’s really accessible to a new generation of console gamers.
But the questions you must be asking yourself, and presumably you ask for every next generation remaster, are these: Is it worth me buying the game again, has much changed or improved and is there any point to doing this anyway?
Firstly, there might be if you’re interested in the standalone “expansion” pack Gat Out Of Hell, which I shall come to later. Secondly, it is my firm belief that a lot of the final games of this past generation of consoles really stretched them to their limits and having this new tech is a good way to show what their game really could do. This isn’t the first open-world remaster I’ve played/reviewed and I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last.
So here is the thing… I can’t decide if it was worth doing. That’s not a negative yet, so hear me out. The game runs very smooth although its upper frame rate of 60fps is rarely held that high and the game, despite a massive overhaul in textures, still has a lot of jagged last-generation textures in it. Along with fairly flat and uninviting tall building with boring static lights-behind-a-drawn-curtain images that give it a very inorganic feel. It’s touches like this, which also appear in Sleeping Dogs, Watch_Dogs and even GTA V that make you realise that these games are last generation. That’s not a bad thing for the nostalgia kick or if you’re a fan. But this really isn’t too far off the PC version of the original release graphically. Work has obviously been done but it makes it more apparent where work hasn’t been done… If that makes sense. It is certainly an improved and smoother experience compared to what it was, but all that really does is make you realise what it should have been when it was released.
Which is why you really need to want to buy this game. I’ve enjoyed it, don’t get me wrong. But it is riddled with in-jokes and references to the series’ previous iterations. Failing that though, the game is still the exact same fusion of gaming and pop-culture references piled in to one big comedic world fiction. It is funny. Yes it can be puerile and filled with ridiculous machismo but it is still the right side of funny. Whilst for a new player, the characters are already established lampooned tropes of action movie characters in a Matrix-esque world and plot, the whole thing is still fun to play. Even though for the earlier part of the game I had absolutely no idea who anyone was or what was going on. I can see though, if you’ve played it all before, there’s very likely to be nothing new for you here.
In fact the greatest thing about this isn’t the remaster itself, but the package that comes with it. If you put it off the first time after Saints Row The Third then now is a good time to get back in to it. As the original release doesn’t differ massively in graphics from The Third, this version certainly does. Along with all the DLC and the expansion, it makes a very good cost effective package. And what isn’t great about shooting up aliens in a virtual city and capturing areas, only to be greeted with the ’90s infectious rhythm of Haddaway’s What Is Love when these sequences are over.
Gat Out Of Hell, Saints Row 4’s standalone expansion, sees us take control of Johnny Gat and Kinzie Kensington as you are flung in to hell to save the President (i.e. you) who has been unceremoniously sucked in to the underworld thanks to Matt Miller’s party game going the way of an early ’00s teen horror. Again this is definitely more for the fans of the series rather than a new guy like me, given the plot and people involved, but sadly this game doesn’t really do much more than Saints Row 4 did anyway. The superpowers are changed for arcane ones (flying with Satan’s wings for example), and the world is a new area with the same darkness and gloom as Saints Row 4’s perpetual early evening atmosphere. The plot, involving stopping the president from marrying Satan’s daughter with the help of former adversary Dane Vogul of Ultron, is typical of the franchise but stretches in to the realms of being too over the top. The strangest thing is that the streets and the general art look doesn’t remind me of Saints Row so much as Carmageddon.
Yes there are new weapons, new things to do, interesting pseudo religious entertainment tropes and Satan to kill. Including the much publicised Armchair with mini-guns. But the game offers exactly nothing that Saints Row 4 already does, except with a new skin. It feels like it’s interesting and cool for about ten minutes and then you realise it’s just what Saints Row 4 did with a lick of paint and maybe a bit more demonic inspiration and then you tire of it very quickly. That is where this pack does lose its value a bit because you are essentially getting exactly the same type of game, challenges and humour that you’ve probably already grown tired of by playing Saints Row 4 or the Re-Elected version again. I can’t help but think that if this release was closer to the game’s release date (i.e. not 18 months later) then it wouldn’t seem so repetitive. Thankfully both versions of these games are available separately on the digital stores for Xbox Live and PSN and Gat Out Of Hell is available on PS3 and Xbox 360 as a standalone release. So if you think you’d lose out on enjoyment by having the whole thing, there are options for you.
Essentially this game or collection of games is exactly what you’d think it would be. A sharper, smoother version of the over the top, well balanced open world shooter with crazy customisation, and full to the brim of gaming cliches and references that we all know and get. Does it deserve a second term? Maybe, but I’m sure fans would want to see something new instead and for the uninitiated like me, it does make me wonder what kind of game the next one would be. This is a last generation game with the veneer of the new generation loading and processing. It does the job, but in another way it’s a bit like a middle-management role that no one really asked for or knows why it is there, except to contrast against the seriousness that makes up most of our AAA gaming at the moment.
Whilst Re-Elected is a nice return to something you’ve probably already finished, there’s a certain replay value in the experience but not much more. Even for someone who hasn’t played it before, you can see where it can get repetitive and tiring. Which is why Gat Out Of Hell just feels like it missed the mark. Otherwise, if you’re a fan and you want to add to your collection, go for it. If you really want more of the singular experience of the expansion or the original game then these are all available separately and that might be better for you.
[tab title=”Good Points”]
– Smoother and more playable experience.
– Still the same Saints Row you know, with the same humour and disregard for propriety.
– As a package it’s pretty good value, especially if you’re new to the series.
[tab title=”Bad Points”]
– Very little has actually changed or improved apart from textures.
– Gat Out Of Hell is more of the same, quite literally.
– Can be very unaccessible to new players for early parts of the game.
[tab title=”Why a 7.5?”]
When the game came out, we originally gave it an 8. It was and is a good well balanced open-world third person shooter with challenges and things to do. But other than texturing and general smoothness, very little has actually changed. That also extends to Gat Out Of Hell, which feels more of a byproduct of the remaster rather than the game itself. Entertaining but nothing we’ve not seen before, quite literally.
This review is based on the PS4 version of the game.