Saints Row IV Re-Elected & Gat Out of Hell review: taking 'wacky' too far

£39.99; Deep Silver; PS4 & Xbox One

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The Independent Tech

If nothing else, Saints Row IV is the logical conclusion of the videogame sandbox: a crass and chaotic take on the concept of unrestricted freedom within a virtual space. Whether it’s the ‘wub-wub’ powered dubstep gun, the rainbow palette of skin tones in the character creator or the simple fact that you play a gangster turned President of the United States turned superhero, there is no single element of the Saints’ fourth outing that isn’t absolutely nuts.

Rereleased and remastered for the Xbox One and PS4, Saints Row IV: Re-Elected bundles the original game with its numerous DLC packs as well as the all new standalone expansion Gat Out of Hell that sees the tiresomely deified Johnny Gat character plunged into a satanic re-skin of the Saints’ home of Steelport. Upon its original release on the last-gen consoles, Saints Row IV seemed to groaned under the weight of its kitchen sink design with wildly volatile frame rates and texture pop-in. While the introduction of basic voice-recognition (and touchpad integration in the PS4 edition) does little to enhance the game in any meaningful capacity, the graphical consistency enabled by the latest generation of hardware makes this the essential version of a relatively unessential game.

That’s not to say that Saints Row IV: Re-Elected isn’t fun, after all, any game that has you flying out of an exploding spaceship to Haddaway’s ‘What Is Love’ while your character quotes Star Wars can’t fail to raise a smile when its anarchic darts of humour hit the bullseye. The cache systems allows for a freakishly vast amount of character, vehicle and weapon customization and the Crackdown-esque collectables decorating Steelport’s rooftops eschew the recent trend of adding redundant filler and instead are used to upgrade the game’s comic book-esque super-moves.

In the end though the game suffers from redundant mimicry of other games that misses the point of parody and a nagging feeling that running amok in a world without any context of rules and restrictions to break is nowhere near as satisfying after you’ve leapt effortlessly over a building for the hundredth time.

Gat Out of Hell, on the other hand, falls foul of placing too much emphasis on the new flight ability enabled by a set of angel wings. While this mechanic adds a refreshing new dimension to the overpowered gameplay, the expansions’ bland visual take on the aesthetic of the underworld provides little incentive to soar around its indistinguishable sandbox districts.

The sum of Saints Row IV: Re-Elected’s parts is a bit of a mess: a game that seems to exist for the sake of being a wacky alternative to the norm, pieced together without the vision to exorcise the obnoxiously stupid ideas from the enjoyable silly ones. There’s fun to be had in its bizarre playpen where stamping on sandcastles is infinitely more important than building them, but don’t be surprised if you find that the series’ ill-drawn, violet-clad protagonists are guffawing at proceedings more often than you are.