Back in the mid-2000s, if you wanted to immerse yourself in a madcap open world full of violence and nutters you had two choices; to embark on a journey with Rockstar and their GTA series, or allow yourself to become a fully fledged Third Street Saint. I chose the latter. And I don’t regret that choice one little bit.
Don’t get me wrong, the might of GTA is there for all to see, and trying to pick holes in what Rockstar creates is just not worth the time or effort, but on a personal level I’ve always found the Saints Row franchise a more enjoyable place to be. Less serious yet less graphically intense, from the get-go the over-the-top atmosphere that is purveyed becomes hugely appealing.
It wasn’t all perfect though, and with the original game coming with many faults, it wasn’t until the launch of Saints Row 2 in 2008 did the series really come to life, with THQ Nordic and Deep Silver going up against the might of Rockstar again – this time with GTA IV. With no opportunity to be pestered to go bowling with the Saints, the entire experience was a winner; hugely fun to play and extremely deep in content. It was the push the Saints really needed.
It was also the precursor to what is thought of by many as the best of the Saints Row titles to date, with Saints Row The Third upping the ante, increasing the humour, and allowing players to do what they wanted, when they wanted, pretty much with whatever they wanted to do it with. Without a word of a lie, Saints Row The Third was an immense piece of work. But that was back in 2011, at the height of the Saints’ power, before a very slight comedown with Saints Row IV and total fall from grace with Gat out of Hell.
So is there a place for that same game here and now in 2020, with Saints Row The Third Remastered; a collection that brings together the original base game with all three of the previously available expansion mission packs and more than 30 pieces of DLC for good measure? Well if you’re after an immensely fun, totally unserious open world romp, the Saints most definitely still deliver the goods. But similarly the revamping, remodelling, redesigning and remastering hasn’t totally worked, with an overriding feeling of clunkiness holding this gang back from total world domination.
Saints Row The Third sees you thrust into the middle of Steelport, a city of sin which is controlled by the Syndicate; a city that is fast becoming the ultimate playground for the Saints.
And what you get up to in Steelport is totally up to you. With an ultimate goal of taking down all, controlling city hotspots, and pushing back the Syndicate until they relinquish control, how you go about hitting that objective is open for your own personal style. A variety of standard (well, as standard as the stupidness that Saints Row allows) missions will see you heading on the fastest path to success, but a whole range of weird and wonderful side missions, objectives, diversions and activities will consistently attempt to navigate you down other channels. This may mean that, whilst you are intent on taking down a specific gang hidden away in the city and really do want to follow given orders, the draw of that call for help from a fellow Saint, or the spotting of a new shop to either purchase with your ill-gotten gains or hold up for extra cash, could see you tempted away for five minutes. Five minutes which normally fast turn into 50.
And further to this, the opportunity to embark on a whole host of different fun side activites sees even more chance to become a true Saint. Partaking in some tank-based mayhem is pretty much par for the course, as is becoming a Guardian Angel, taking down bad guys from afar. Further still, utilising ragdoll physics and trying to defraud insurance companies is possible, whilst embarking on a new gig escorting and driving comrades from place to place never gets old. There are a whole range of fantastical activities to enjoy in Saints Row The Third, but the best of the best, and the most manic of the lot, is good old Professor Genki’s Super Ethical Reality Climax – an intense shooting experience in which fast reflexes and faster decisions see you rewarded handsomely. Honestly, until you’ve spent time in this game show, you won’t know what you are missing.
If you didn’t know by now, everything in Saints Row The Third has been turned up to 11, and even though the fun plays out by partaking in the side missions, just spending time with the huge variety of wacky guns and vehicles, or visiting the local cosmetic surgeon in the hope you can totally change your appearance, never fails to draw smiles. And with the inclusion of so much additional content over the base game, opportunities galore come thick and fast. So thick and so fast in fact that you’ll constantly be left wondering where to go, and what to do, next.
We’re mostly here for the reworkings that SperaSoft have been tasked with actioning in Saints Row The Third though and, whilst the remastered gimmicks look pretty decent, you’d struggle to stand up and proclaim the art style as something that is pushing current hardware to the limits. Yes, it has transformed some aspects, and things are obviously shinier and gleaming much more than they ever did in the original 2011 release, but it’s a shame that the full rehash treatment hasn’t been put in place; the graphical limits that are present just about allow you to still enjoy the Saints experience for what it is. At no point though will you find yourself wowed by what is on offer in terms of the visuals, and this could possibly be an issue for some – probably those who slated the game back in the day. On a personal level though, I’m just glad to be able to bear witness to the additional prowess it brings, whilst still allowing the actual gameplay to be the star of the show.
You see, this is where Saints Row The Third Remastered really shines, because no matter what you think of the series, there is still no debating that as an overall gaming experience this is right up there with some of the best that have ever been created by THQ Nordic and Deep Silver. It’s engrossing, immersive, and just good old fun to play through. No questions asked.
Should you ever find yourself tiring of what Steelport and the Saints gang allow though, then The Third also lets you play through things with a friend, with online cooperative opportunities in place. This just amplifies the fun of the city, particularly when friendly fire is switched on and all hell breaks loose. Running just as well as the solo experience with little in the way of any noticeable lag or glitching, it is possibly here where things come to life even more – after all, two heads are always better than one, and they certainly bring about even more mayhem. And mayhem is something which Saints Row absolutely revels in.
That’s not all though, and the inclusion of Whored Mode does as it says on the tin – quite literally. Working as a horde experience, again alone or with a friend, this will see you battling your way through waves of weird and wonderful enemies, knocking them back and taking them down with even weirder and more wonderful weapons. If you thought that the standard Saints Row experience was full of hilarity as you traversed the streets of Steelport, you ain’t seen nothing until you fire up the Whored Mode. Just be warned, it’s not a place for kids – but when was Saints Row ever?!
As you can probably feel from the vibe of this piece, the Remastered edition of Saints Row The Third is good, and delivers great fun. But it isn’t perfect, and design choices that filter down from the original game hold it back massively. For instance, near on everything you do in Steelport is dictated by your mobile phone, but opening this and navigating through various menus and options just feels slow and cumbersome in the modern day – when you need a car quick, want to drag a homie into action, or just need to drop a new navigation waypoint in place, it all takes a little too long to action. This, alongside numerous loading screens, breaks up the speed and pace of the action terribly, and I’d go as far to say that those new to the gaming scene will fast become annoyed by the clunky nature of the entire experience. And similarly, the combat isn’t the best either, with AI foes often found running around like headless chickens, all too easy to dispatch as you see fit, with little in the way of a proper test of your combat skills.
That said though, Saints Row The Third Remastered on Xbox One is big, brash and bloody brutal. And it’s just as much fun as it was upon the original release. But it’s also a bit clunky, provides unsatisfying combat opportunities, and the new visual style, whilst appreciated, doesn’t really bring it up to modern day standards. If you’re a Saints fan then you’ll have no trouble playing through this again, but those who have previously steered clear of the franchise probably won’t find much need for this remaster – no matter how much content it brings.
There has never been a better way to be more Saints than in Saints Row The Third Remastered – yet even they could do with a bigger modern day spruce up.