I’m so glad Saints Row: The Third Remastered has arrived.
Even though I rarely turn it on anymore, I’ve kept my PS3 in my living room, HDMI in, ready to go. As brilliant as the Xbox One and PS4 are, there’s still a number of excellent games that are languishing on the previous generation without backwards compatibility support or a remaster. As time has gone on, many of the games I’d been keeping my old console’s around for had been made available on modern consoles but there were a few stalwarts that I’d been holding out for. Saints Row: The Third was one of them.
If you’ve never played Saints Row: The Third before it’s an open world crime-’em-up starring a gang of charismatic anti-heroes. Set 5 years after Saints Row 2, the Saints have become household names and their purple French lilly logo has become a global brand. That is until they cross paths with a group of Steelport crime bosses called The Syndicate. These anti-anti-hero’s bring the Saint’s low and deal a huge blow to their organisation. The game tells the story of the Saints leader – your custom character made in an extensive create-a-character suite – getting their explosive, violent and often humorous revenge as they recruit new members to their cause.
As much as I enjoyed Saints Row 4, for me it is the 3rd Street Saints’ third outing that is the pinnacle of the series. It was here, among the streets of Steelport, that the series appeared to stop competing against Grand Theft Auto and found its own niche that balanced gamified absurdity, cheeky humour and bombastic action without pushing it too far. Saints Row: The Third Remastered brings The Boss, Shaundi and the rest of the gang to PS4, Xbox One (the version reviewed here) and PC and they look better than ever.
A whole lot of work has gone into creating Saints Row: The Third Remastered. A new lighting engine. A new ambient occlusion method, combining 3 different techniques. HRD Sky Support and Rendering. Enhanced depth of field and motion blur. 395 VFX improvements including smoke, explosions and sparks. Totally remade weapons, main character models, NPC’s, enemy factions, and foliage. Large Scale Texture Variations added to large buildings to remove the repetitive tile look. Better rain and puddles. Better reflections from windows. Tweaked art styles across a number of elements including the STAG Troopers, Police, Swat and gang models. Increased vehicles and pedestrian population. All of this translates into a game that looks as though it was originally developed recently rather than a decade ago. Screenshots don’t really do it justice as it looks better in motion. While it’s not challenging Assassin’s Creed Odyssey or Red Dead Redemption 2 for it’s open world visuals, it’s much better looking in the remaster than it did originally. On Xbox One, the game is still locked to 30 frames per second and it runs very steadily and fluidly at this rate.
Not everything has been updated though. The better motion blur, higher resolution and reworked character models reveal some awkward looking facial animations while characters are talking. Having looked at the PS3 and Xbox One version side by side, it doesn’t look like these cutscene facial animations have been changed at all. Far from a deal breaker, it’s still worth mentioning.
As for the content of the game, the entire of Saints Row: The Third is present and correct in the remaster, including the three expansion packs and more than 30 add-on packs featuring cosmetic items, weapons, and vehicles. The explosive opening. That airplane segment. The massive naked Russian punching his way through a skyscraper. The fetish club with a giant purple dildo you can use as a baseball bat. Professor Genki’s Super Ethical Reality Climax. Rampages in tanks. Sniping while parasailing down a building. Skydiving with a grenade launcher ready to bring it to the Syndicate. Firing RPG’s out of a helicopter while your companion rides in a car below. It’s easy to forget how much of a thrill thrill ride the campaign golden thread is from start to finish. Saints Row: The Third Remastered is an excellent reminder.
It’s surprising how forward thinking the original Saints Row: The Third was in terms of design. Once you’ve completed a few missions to get you introduced to everything, the game opens up and you can do a lot of missions, separated by gang members you’ll be doing them with, in whatever order you want. It certainly makes the game feel less linear than its peers. There’s certain junctions you’ll always be working towards but getting there is your own journey.
It’s also impressive how much of Saints Row: The Third Remastered feels like a set piece. Every other mission feels unique in either the scope or design. While so many other open world games are asking you to drive from A to B to C while a character talks your ear off, this game asks you to lob grenades out of the passenger window while you’re driven around or cover your pal from the air, hanging out of a helicopter with an assault rifle. There’s not many dud mission here.
The open world activities, a staple in the genre, are also first introduced as a main mission the first time you try them. Once you’ve completed the introduction to them – delivery jobs that always seem to go wrong, rampages, turf wars, insurance fraud where you try to hurt yourself, escort missions (yes, these are frustrating) and more – more instances unlock in the open world for you to play.
While these activities are purely optional, they can be useful to tackle as you find them. Each mission, main or side, rewards you with reputation. This reputation builds and eventually triggers a level up. With each new level up, you can purchase new upgrades for your gang, vehicles, weapons and player character Boss with any cash you’ve accumulated. Doing so makes the game easier and, because the game gets harder as you progress, keeps the game balanced.
There are some things that I wish Deep Silver would have worked on with Saints Row: The Third Remastered. Chief among them is the AI and pathing systems. It’s truly awful at times. Your companions will walk off ang get into the wrong car. They’ll walk right in front of you when you’re firing. They’ll just drive into other cars when they’re at the wheel. It can be deeply frustrating at times. The enemy AI isn’t much better either. They run each other over when fighting in the street. They walk out of cover and have no tactical nous. Combat often devolves into simply aiming just above a crate or short wall and waiting until your foe pops their head out before popping them in the melon because of this. Thankfully there’s a large enough variety of enemy types and weaponry to experiment with to keep the brawling from being totally mundane.
It’s the measured absurdity of Saints Row: The Third Remastered that still gives it a place at the table in 2020’s open world buffet. A character that talks entirely through auto-tune that you first meet in a sex dungeon wearing a saddle. A game show series of missions that riffs on those crazy Japanese game shows and has you killing football mascots dressed as animals. Being unable to afford weapons so the Plan B is to… attack the National Guard armory? It’s a game that constantly aims to raise an eyebrow or trigger a smile and that’s quite refreshing. Sure, not all of this has aged all that well and feels like a product of 2011 but as a time capsule into a series that was on the top of its game 9 years ago, it’s great.
There’s one aspect that is a tad disappointing and it’s the removal of local co-op. This was a feature of the original that I used often but has been removed here. Online co-op remains, thankfully, but that does mean your gang members will need to be playing on their console instead of next to you with a pizza and a beverage.
Saints Row: The Third Remastered takes a 9 year old game that needed a spruce up, shines it up real nice and blasts it in your face on modern day consoles. The visual improvements here work really well even at 30 frames per second, bringing the game close to todays high standards, but there’s still some aspects of the game that betray its age, namely the NPC AI. The removal of local co-op is offset by the inclusion of the online mode and all of the DLC for the game (including some previous pre-order bonuses).
There’s no debating it though – this remaster is the best way to play Saints Row 3. Those who haven’t experienced the insanity of beating a pedestrian up with a 3 foot dildo can do so on an Xbox One or PS4 for the first time. Whether a visual upgrade will be enough to warrant a double dip for returning players however will be up to your individual taste.
Saints Row: The Third Remastered is launching on the PS4, Xbox One (review version) and PC via the EGS on the 22nd of May 2020.
Publisher: Deep Silver
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional code from the publisher. For our full review policy, please go here.
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