Illinois based High Voltage Software has a decent pedigree in video games development with over 30 games to their credit. However their latest effort with remastering 2013’s over the top action, open world game, Saints Row IV is bit of a mixed bag. Ever since the inception of current generation of consoles we have seen a steady number of remasters hitting the PS4 and Xbox One, some bad and some really good. Last year we saw a trio of well made remasters including Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us Remastered, which was given a bump to the all important 60 frames per second which essentially made plenty of players re-experience GamingBolt’s Game of the Year 2013 all over again.
Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto V, which features one of the biggest worlds in video games in recent years, saw updated animations, new content and the first person mode that totally changes the way players can go about in the game. Earlier in 2014, Crystal Dynamics along with Nixxes Software and United Front Games launched Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition which was extremely well developed, featuring updated character model, effects and graphical overhaul.
Video comparing cutscenes from the PS4 and Xbox One versions.
In short, this trend of remasters is not a bad thing, unless developers get it right. Unfortunately, this is where High Voltage Software falters a bit. Saints Row 4: Re-Elected isn’t exactly a bad port but the problem is it does not seem to be taking advantage of the potential that the current gen consoles offer.
We recently got our hands on both the PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game and are pleased to report that both run at a native 1920 X 1080 resolution, which is a step above the sub-HD resolution found on the PlayStation 3 version. Both the versions share the same in-game assets such as character models and high resolution textures, but the real downer is the frame rate. Given that the game came out almost 18 months ago, it is not unfair to expect that the remaster will run at 60 frames per second on both consoles. Unfortunately, that is not the case here as the developers opted for an unlocked frame rate approach. Both versions frequently judder from 30-60 frames per second but it’s the PlayStation 4 version that stays close to sixty frames per second at most times which is down to its superior GPU.
Unlocked frame rate isn’t an unknown quantity at this point. Last year’s inFamous Second Son had an unlocked frame rate but given that it was a fast paced game, the judder was hardly noticeable. Later on Sucker Punch released a patch that allowed players to cap the frame rate at 30. Why exactly High Voltage Software did not opted for a similar approach is something that we are not aware of. Given that a fair share of the player’s time will be invested in slow paced activities such as exploring the world and navigating from point A to B, a locked 30 frames per second could at least helped in removing the judder effect. May be developers will fix this in a future patch but nothing is confirmed at the time of writing this analysis.
Video comparing gameplay from the PS4 and Xbox One versions.
Another disappointing feature is the lack of a decent anti-aliasing solution. As you can see from the PS4 images below, there does not seem to be any kind of post processing AA. In an era where developers are pushing their games with advanced and optimized AA techniques such as HRAA (Far Cry 4), the lack of a decent AA solution is baffling. Again we are clueless as to why the developers opted for this but we suspect that the PS4 and Xbox One versions are based off the PC version which had support for MSAA, so the developers might have avoided it all together due to resource issues. But this is merely an assumption on our part, regardless this game seriously needed a decent post processing AA.
Lack of decent AA solution is rather disappointing. For high quality images, please download from here.
Another feature that seems to be lacking are detailed shadows. As evident from the screenshot below, the remastered versions suffer from shadow dithering. It must also be noted that some alpha effects like smoke and fire seem to be better on PS4, especially in the cutscenes. As seen from the cutscene comparison video in this article, the PS4 version seems to be have more effects, whereas they are completely absent on the Xbox One version. However these instances are rare and far between.
The remastered version has shadow dithering. For high quality images, please download from here.
But as I said before, this isn’t exactly a bad port so other than the updated resolution and high resolution textures, the developers have added enhanced screen space reflections wherever they could. This kind of helps the city to come alive at times. Enhanced motion blur and depth of field also make a return to the remastered versions. The reason why I am using the term enhanced is because it seems that that certain graphical parameters have been given a lift compared to the PC version.
Enhanced screen space reflections, motion blur and depth of field in action. For high quality images, please download from here.
In the end, High Voltage Software’s effort with Saints Row 4: Re-Elected can be best described with two words: not optimized. There is no doubt that the remastered versions have few enhanced effects, 1080p resolution but the lack of a stable frame rate and post processing AA makes us feel that this is not a port that will stand up against the likes of The Last of Us Remastered or Grand Theft Auto V.
It’s hard to judge which version performs better since they both suffer from variable frame rates but if you are a fan of more effects and higher frame rates than the PS4 version is the one to opt for. But if you have a decent gaming PC, then you might very well buy the PC version which is better and may be even cheaper.
If anything, this remaster proves yet again that there is still a decent amount of difference between the two consoles. PS4 has a bit more in it to churn out better effects and higher frame rates than its counterpart, the Xbox One. Whether this gap will remain consistent throughout 2015 is something that remains to be seen.