Review: Saints Row: The Third Remastered

The Saints Row franchise has been sorely missed. While more and more open-world games over the past decade have focused on delivering dark and serious stories, Saints Row was always the opposite. Embracing humor, silliness and over-the-top antics, the Saints Row franchise carved a unique niche in the market. The franchise‚Äôs comedic prowess came together in 2011’s Saints Row: The Third, the zaniest Saints Row title (at the time). Now, in 2020, fans and newcomers can experience what the third entry in the Saints Row franchise has to offer. Saints Row: The Third Remastered brings the wacky title to current-gen platforms with updated visuals and all DLC included. Does Saints Row: The Third Remastered offer up the quintessential Saints Row experience or is it past its prime?

Saints Row: The Third Remastered takes place five years after Saints Row 2. The 3rd Street Saints are pop culture icons living it up thanks to their vast media empire. That all comes crashing down following a botched bank robbery. Captured by the Syndicate criminal empire, the Saints are stripped of their money and transplanted to the city of Steelport. Penniless and friendless, the Boss and his crew must rebuild their reputation in the new city, take down the Syndicate and handle some government intervention. If you played Saints Row: The Third before, there’s nothing new for you in Remastered. The story is exactly the same with no new hidden additions or hints towards the upcoming Saints Row 5. It does include all three previously released story DLCs, but they don’t add much to the narrative. It’s familiar territory, but it’s still a wonderfully told story with plenty of humor and interesting characters.

Volition’s writing has always been on point, and Saints Row: The Third Remastered remains one of their crown jewels. It’s wacky, insane, sometimes juvenile, but always delivered nonchalantly. The voice actors perform each line perfectly and so sincerely that the game manages to create genuine humor. It also helps that the characters are fantastic, with each having their own quirks. It’s difficult to forget the whiney Pierce, auto-tuned pimp Zimos, or the Russian brute, Oleg. It’s the characters that elevate Saints Row: The Third’s story, and though there aren’t any new additions to it, the characters still make it a story worth revisiting.

As a Remastered package, Saints Row: The Third Remastered bundles in all previously-released content. This includes the three story expansions, and more importantly, all the insane DLC customization options. Saints Row: The Third launched with a lot of customization options, but added even more insanity through DLC. Want to play as a witch while flying a laser-blasting VTOL? You can do that. Want to hijack cars as a space princess? You bet that’s an option. Want to go streaking in nothing? Yes, even that’s available. Saints Row: The Third Remastered offers many options to tailor your character to your liking. It also lets players get their hands on some of the zanier weapons early on. This includes a shotgun that summons a shark and the now-iconic purple dildo bat. There’s a lot to play around with here and players still unlock a variety of standard and zany weapons as the game progresses.

Outside of all the DLC additions, not much has changed about the core design and gameplay. Saints Row: The Third Remastered remains an open-world third-person shooter. Players will explore the world, accept quests from NPCs, liberate distracts and rebuild the Saint’s reputation. This is done through the completion of story missions and optional side activities. The story missions are the highlight, often putting the Boss in ludicrous scenarios and asking players to cause maximum mayhem to complete them. As for the side activities, they’re fun for the most part and provide the sort of chaos you’d expect from a Saints Row franchise. There are, however, a few stinkers.

Saints Row: The Third Remastered is at its best when asking players to cause as much mayhem as possible. Hopping in a tank to cause maximum carnage or taking on Prof. Genki’s Super Ethical Reality Climax challenges fulfill that wish and are rewarding and comical in an insane way. It’s the activities that slow the pace down and ask players to drive around or escort NPCs that are no fun. Escort, Guardian Angel and Snatch all fall into this repetitive and boring category.

That repetitiveness extends to the gameplay. Saints Row: The Third Remastered isn’t the most demanding shooter on the planet, but its mechanics are good enough to keep players engaged for a while. Unfortunately, many of the gameplay encounters aren’t that engaging. Despite fighting four enemy factions (Morningstar, Deckers, Luchadores and STAG), enemy variety is nearly non-existent. No matter what faction you’re fighting, every enemy acts and behaves similarly. It also doesn’t help that the AI is awful with the same-looking enemy grunts lining up to get shot over and over again. Story-based missions end up providing variety thanks to different locations and unique objectives, but the rest of the game can get repetitive.

The game remains enjoyable to play. Though no improvements have been made to the shooting or driving mechanics, the solid 30 frames-per-second makes both experiences feel smoother and more precise. It would have been nice to see updates to NPC driver AI and removal of some of the input latency, particularly when trying to reload. Still, at least the stable framerate makes Saints Row: The Third Remastered the definitive version to play.

Take one look at Saints Row: The Third Remastered and it’s clear that developer Sperasoft’s effort went into overhauling the visuals. There’s practically nothing that hasn’t been touched up by the developers. Main character models and NPCs have gotten upgraded models and textures to be more in line with the CG models used during the 2011 marketing campaign. The same can be said for guns and cars, which have gotten significant upgrades. Then there’s Steelport itself. While the city hasn’t had any physical alterations, Sperasoft has done plenty to visually upgrade it, including adding in a new lighting system, visual effects and HDR support.

The only things that weren’t changed were the music, voice acting and frame rate. The same classic audio tracks are back for you to groove to while driving about. The voice actors did not return to re-record their lines, but their original performances still hold up nicely all these years later. The only downside is that there are lip-syncing issues. The real disappointment, however, is that the game only runs at 30 frames-per-second. There is an uncapped mode on the Pro consoles, but the game doesn’t feel optimized for it. It’s disappointing that a 2011 game can’t be pushed further, but at least it’s a stable frame rate. Saints Row: The Third Remastered is the best looking and stable version of the game you can play.

Closing Comments:

Nearly ten years later, Saints Row: The Third remains an anomaly in the open-world genre as so many continue to embrace seriousness and realism. Saints Row: The Third Remastered arrives at just the right time to inject a dose of silliness and zaniness into the genre. The fully overhauled visuals give it a nice new sheen that’s pleasant to look at on current-gen consoles. There may be no new additions to the plot, but the base story remains just as entertaining to play through today as it did in 2011. That story remains buoyed by clever writing and strong voice acting. Though the sense of mayhem keeps things interesting, the repetitive enemies and some mind-numbing activities drag down the experience. Tweaks to the gameplay and more advanced AI would have been nice. Still, it’s easy to get lost in Saints Row: The Third Remastered thanks to the story missions, characters, weaponry and customization. Saints Row: The Third Remastered is a solid remaster of the 2011 original, cracks and all. The 3rd Street Saints are back to take Steelport and they’ve never looked better.