When the original Saints Row launched in 2006 you would be hard-pressed to name something it excelled at. It wasn’t necessarily a bad game, but it seemed like a pale imitation of the Grand Theft Auto series that so heavily inspired it. It wasn’t until Saints Row II when The Third Street Saints became somewhat of a household name among gamers. It came into its own by turning up the ridiculous scale on pretty much everything. Rival gangs like the Katana-wielding Ronin and the tattoo-covered Brotherhood were memorable, not to mention the unique side activities which saw you spraying neighborhoods with fecal matter and breaking up fights between pirates and ninjas as one of Stillwater’s finest.
So with all that said Saints Row: The Third had some pretty big boots to fill. The main challenge lay in upping the ante, I mean what could be more over-the-top than mowing down pirates with a samurai sword while dressed as a Police Officer? Oh, and did I mention you’re doing it on a fluorescent-pink motorcycle? So did Saints Row: The Third live up to its predecessor? Yes and no. It presents a fun action romp with plenty of explosions right from the get-go, but in some senses, it feels like a watered-down version of Saints Row II. Despite this, it still had some of the most iconic moments in the series, and reliving these moments in Saints Row: The Third Remastered is just as fun as it ever was.
Saints In Steelport
Saints Row: The Third Remastered only improves on the original in small ways. The upscaled resolution, some improvements to character and weapon models, and some rather questionable changes to the lighting. I found driving around Steelport at night to be quite a chore because of just how dark it can be. Even with the brightness turned all the way up I still found myself getting into the odd fender bender when driving down the non-too-well-lit streets. Saints Row: The Third didn’t exactly have the most stellar lighting effects but I don’t remember anything this bad. Characters tend to have a slight glow to them at times too. Although, this can be chalked up to a stylization choice befitting of the cartoonish art-style and it was present in the 2011 release as well.
The most disappointing thing about Saints Row: The Third Remastered is the fact that it’s 30fps. I don’t like to be “that guy” but c’mon folks for a game that came out nearly a decade ago I think 60fps should be pretty much a given. Even at 30fps, there is still the odd dip now and then but it does seem to be holding up better than it did on last-gen. Weirdly, there’s an option to lock the frame rate, which I found odd considering 30fps is the upper echelon and the option doesn’t seem to make much difference.
Blowing Shit Up or Some Such
A great thing about Saints Row: The Third Remastered is just how much of a blast from the past it is. It reminds me of the time I spent surfing on jet planes and having skydiving competitions with my friends in co-op. It’s from a bygone era of a time when I could spend countless hours in the many open-worlds that the late naughties/ early twenty-tens offered. The open-world trend has somewhat dwindled over the past few years in favor of more dense, intricately woven environments. In this respect Saints Row: The Third Remastered’s very nature is both the best and worst thing about it. If you’re so inclined you’ll spend lots of time doing busy work – kill this group of gang members, buy up all these properties, throw yourself onto the highway for an insurance payout. At the time of its release, the structure of the side content was all too familiar and felt a little tedious, but having not played a game like it in so long I found myself enjoying taking over territories just for the heck of it.
All of this isn’t to say Saints Row: The Third Remastered doesn’t make an effort to set its side content apart. Instead of just “kill that guy over there” or “loot this”, this game’s asking you to “blow up as much as possible in this tank” and “compete in a deathmatch with a bunch of furries”. While fun, my main gripe is that the activities feel a little underwhelming once you reach the latter half of the game. After fighting hordes of rival gang members, infiltrating multiple bases, and jumping out of planes, slaughtering people in a tank feels a little like child’s play. The story itself is pretty short. This means you end up with a ton of ridiculously powerful weaponry and not much chance to use it since most side activities restrict what you can and can’t use.
Side activities are one thing but Saints Row: The Third Remastered relies largely on you making your own fun. There’s a plethora of different costumes, vehicles, and weapons to obtain. You can change the way your custom character looks at any time as well using the plastic surgeon Image as Designed. Or you can go to Rusty’s Needle to get yourself some menacing tats. One thing that was always great about these games is your fully voice-acted protagonist, who can take on a few different accents depending on what you choose at the start.
Another thing that contributes to the fun factor is the wacky physics engine. You’ll be sending enemies and cars skyrocketing with a variety of weapons like the explosive round filled pistols or a large scale military airstrike. It’s less about “can you kill that enemy? And more about “how should you kill that enemy?” A lot of the time my answer tended to be “with a purple tank that shoots lasers!”
Having a Blast
If you liked Saints Row: The Third you’re going to like its remaster. Aside from the graphics, (which weren’t great when it launched) the main thing that may have aged poorly for some is the humor. It’s very silly, but at the same time, it manages to obtain a kind of nuance in its self-awareness. Some of the jokes fail to land, mainly the ones that are tied to the early twenty-tens spout of “self-aware humor”. However, I’m sure if you’re a fan of the series you know what you’re in for, and it’ll be interesting to see how and if the writing evolves in the elusive next installment.
I had a blast playing Saints Row: The Third Remastered. It’s not a particularly long game nor is it the prettiest girl at prom, but it excels at having its own personality with mindless action that allows you to let loose. If you’re like me and you’ve been playing a lot of long-form JRPGs recently, this is the perfect palette cleanser.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game. A review copy was provided by the publisher.
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