Saints Row 4: Re-Elected Nintendo Switch Review — Signing Thrills into Law

In spite of some humor that hasn't aged well, Saints Row 4 on the Switch is still a sandbox well worth playing in.

It's hard to believe it's been seven years since Volition last released a new Saints Row game. Since then, the studio has put out a standalone expansion, some remasters, and one shared-universe offshoot in Agents of Mayhem, but for truly new installments, it's been a long time.

That gap is sometimes evident when playing Saints Row 4: Re-Elected on Nintendo Switch, where it recently landed on the eShop. Even in 2013, the series displayed the sense of humor of freshman boys, so it's fair to say those punchlines fall flatter today.

But in most other ways, Saints Row 4 holds up as an absurd sandbox loaded with toys.

Saints Row 4: Re-Elected Nintendo Switch Review — Signing Thrills into Law

During its inception, Saints Row existed as the latest in a long line of Grand Theft Auto clones trying to cut into Rockstar's market share on crime-laden open-world games. By the time the pitch-perfect Saints Row: The Third came around, Volition had stopped trying to emulate its big brother and grew comfortable in its own skin.

The identity it took on by then was one of irreverent humor, wacky weapons, and side missions that tended to be the best and funniest parts of the game. In Saints Row 4, those elements were all taken even further, though in 2013, it felt like the series had actually gotten too absurd. 

Seven years since I last touched a Saints Row game, it feels properly nostalgic now, removed from the shadow of its better predecessor  all of that despite the premise seeming so ridiculous.

In Saints Row 4, you are once again a member of the Third Street Saints gang, only now you're not fighting for turf with rival gangs, you're fending off humanity's enslavement from hostile aliens. And they've locked you in a simulation. And you have superpowers. Oh yeah, and you're the president of the United States. 

I've seen more ridiculous things happen in the political arena in recent years, but it's all still a bit silly.

To its credit, Saints Row uses your role as president in good fun, like the very first scene where you're signing bills into law and must choose to cure cancer or solve world hunger. That's before your next binary decision asks you to punch a rival politician in the face or the groin. These decisions have no impact on anything; they're merely there to (re)introduce you to the world of Saints Row, a place where violent aliens, intrusive mascots, and Republicans deserve equally high-impact nutshots.

Saints Row 4 loves being absurd like this, and though it's not my type of humor, it gives the game a certain style, even if it will seem so outdated for many players today.

It's a game where there are double-digit numbers of underwear options to choose from and your created character's "sex appeal" stat determines their breast size. Boyish and crude, it's like a modern-day Porky's now served to a modern-day audience that has likely already canceled Porky's. 

Should its writing survive scrutiny, the rest of the game is still tons of fun. The very first mission has you disabling a nuke by hand as it's zipping through the air to the tune of Aerosmith's I Don't Want to Miss a Thing, and neither in action nor in absurdity do they ever really relent from there.

Story missions have you working for your various allies taking down the Zin's simulated reality in a variety of one-off missions, and you'll even get to do loyalty missions for each of them to strengthen your alliance, but like in Saints Row: The Third, it's the side missions that are often the most fun. Stuff like UFO Mayhem, Mech Suit Mayhem, and different racing missions are repeatable side quests that help you chip away at your overlord's vice-grip on humanity.

Though Saints Row 4's suite of side missions is sometimes lacking compared to its predecessor's, what is here is still a lot of fun and defies the sandbox genre's pitfall of excessive, boring map-blip time-wasters. In Saints Row 4, everything is rigged to explode and dish out rewards of all sorts. It makes sight-seeing through its big city addictive.

I remember speaking with Volition before Saints Row 4 originally came out and they spoke about the game's design directive, asking: "is it fun?" That's never more clearly front and center than in the game's decision to bestow upon you many superpowers. It dishes the first few of these out very early in the game, so within minutes, you'll be scaling walls and sprinting like The Flash. A deep upgrade tree for everything you do only ensures your powers, guns, cars, and character get stronger and more fun from there too. 

While the humor has aged poorly because some players, and arguably the world, have grown up, its shooting mechanics similarly get left behind due to also feeling pretty dated. It's all a bit too floaty and imprecise to allow for stylish combat. More often than not, you'll run around spamming the necessary buttons until all the Zin have dropped, and on easy  and usually on normal  that's fine. It's not a strength of the game, despite the fun action and deep systems built around it. 

Luckily, with stuff like a Dubstep Gun, which forces anyone nearby to dance, and an Inflato-Ray, which quickly expands victims heads until they pop like balloons, the novelty and  I'll say it again  absurdity of its weapons cache makes up for Saints Row 4's otherwise troubled gunplay.

Driving can sometimes feel a bit too bouncy too, like when you crash into other cars and often send them flying like you flipped a pancake with a spatula. I think this effect is intentional given the overall intent of the game to never slow the player from going wild, but it ends up feeling like nothing in your way is ever really an obstacle. Then again, you so quickly earn super sprinting ability, cars are nearly obsolete in a hurry.

As this review focuses on the Switch version, it once seemed necessary to track any flaws this version had on Nintendo's relatively underpowered machine, but I'm happy to say it had no issues whatsoever, which is really how it should be for a game so old. I guess if the Switch can run The Witcher 3 like it doesSaints Row 4 shouldn't be an issue.

Saints Row 4: Re-Elected Nintendo Switch Review — The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Deep upgrade and skill trees, including superpowers, to chase
  • All mission varieties are enjoyable and worthwhile
  • Cohesively built around fun first

Cons

  • Its sense of humor only feels more juvenile seven years later
  • Driving and shooting, while serviceable, both have lingering issues

Saints Row 4 isn't the best game from the series, but it is the fastest, wackiest, and most willing to get out of the player's way to let them enjoy their time in Volition's playground.

Playing Saints Row 4 for the first time since launch, I realized how much I miss this goofy series, and even if I hardly laugh at its alternating bathroom and slapstick humor, Saints Row 4 remains a fun open world to explore  and explode.

[Note: A copy of Saints Row 4: Re-Elected for the Nintendo Switch was provided by Volition for the purpose of this review.]

Our Rating
7
In spite of some humor that hasn't aged well, Saints Row 4 on the Switch is still a sandbox well worth playing in.
Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch

Contributor

Mark is the former Editorial Manager at TrueAchievements, now freelancing his way across the internet to write about the games he loves. He especially enjoys the latest and greatest horror, co-op, and battle royale games when he's not biking throughout Portland or enjoying a day with his family.

Published Apr. 2nd 2020

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