Before The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild kind of revolutionized what we can expect from open-world games, sandbox titles had a pretty standard formula.
Basically, there were dozens of franchises within the same old structure: an extensive map (often a big city), filled with quests, side-activities, and collectables galore. Yet, between all these samey GTA-like titles, the Saints Row franchise stood out. Not because it did anything much different to the usual format, but due to how well it delivered the genre. Saints Row IV is the epitome of what the franchise has offered.
Until its third instalment, Saints Row could be described as an over-the-top GTA franchise. In other words, it was a sandbox title with a crazy story, adult sense of humour, and insane action sequences. Saints Row IV, though, goes one level beyond what the series had delivered before and turns the whole experience into an open-world playground where you have the options (and powers) to bend all the expected rules. From the narrative to the mechanics, it is a crazy ride from start to finish.
It all starts with the premise itself. After the events of Saints Row: The Third, you, the leader of The Saints, have become the president of the United States. While you presided over the nation, though, aliens invaded the earth and captured the most brilliant minds. Now, you’re stuck inside a virtual representation of the Steelport City, where you must become a kind of super anti-hero in order to save what was left of the world.
Thanks to this Matrix-like simulation, Saints Row IV can ramp up the odds quickly. At the very beginning, it does feel akin to a traditional GTA-like game. After all, it is still largely a third-person shooter in which you can steal cars and proceed to wreak havoc all around you. Quickly, though, you start to ‘break’ the simulation with an ever-increasing number of unlockable super-powers. It doesn’t take much time for you to become able to run faster than any car or jump higher than most buildings – or throw fireballs, fly through the skies, and more. With this, Saints Row IV becomes a similar experience to super-hero/villain games like Infamous and Prototype. The main different is this game’s crazy sense of humour.
While Saints Row IV isn’t afraid of going bonkers on the gameplay front, there’s still a lot of different things to do. Its map is filled with hundreds of mission icons and thousands of collectables that you can choose to engage with at your own leisure. As a consequence, this is a title that offers dozens of hours of play time with its sheer weight of missions, but one that can get repetitive should you choose to deal with every single mission available in the game.
Still, thanks to how Saints Row IV constantly rewards the player for every single activity completed, the thrill of the pay-offs can prove pretty addictive. The game hardly puts any barrier in front of your enjoyment – and that includes the performance department too. While the original version of Saints Row IV had some problems when it was first released on the PS3 and 360, the Switch version runs surprisingly smoothly. Even when you’re flashing through the city, the game manages to keep up a steady performance. There’s a bit of pop-in and blurriness here and there, but, still, this is a perfectly sound handheld/console hybrid version of one of the funniest (and craziest) open-world titles ever made.
Saints Row IV: Re-Elected £34.99
Saints Row IV: Re-Elected is a surprisingly good port of one of the craziest open-world games ever made. Even with a somewhat dated structure, it presents an amazing playground where fun is put in front of anything else.