Saints Row: The Third was one of 2011’s shining jewels. Blinged out in a mess of gaudy purple necklaces and chains, the third Saints title marked the series’ full transition into its true destiny of being a ridiculous parody of the open-world crime genre. SAINTS ROW: THE THIRD REMASTERED sees the Saints gearing back up with the same getup from 2011. And while the chains are more shiny, it’s just not at the apex of style that it used to be.
Saints Row: The Third Remastered Review | A fresh paint job
The shine is immediately apparent in a literal sense as the lighting is significantly improved from the base release. Steelport’s night sky glistens with the amount of neon lights that emanate from the downtown district. Dusk is particularly impressive as the setting sun’s rays bathe the entire game in an orange hue.
And while the lighting is quite good, the shadows are far too dark and hide most of the game in a black void. Cranking up the brightness hardly fixes it and balances out the other instances of objectively better lighting. Some activities become nearly unplayable at night since most of the streets are engulfed in shadow that can make you easily miss a turn or have trouble nailing a headshot.
Character models have also been beefed up. Each is filled with more detail in a way that keeps their stylized base but updates each with more realistic enhancements like more defined pores, wrinkles, and hair. Vehicles are also more reflective, which works in tandem with the new lighting systems. Combining everything together makes the remastered version a better looking title that doesn’t quite match today’s standards yet does bring it a little into the modern times. It’s less 2020 and more 2014, which is slightly disappointing but an acceptable middle ground considering its 2011 roots.
Saints Row: The Third Remastered Review | Punchlines with slightly less punch
Humor, like visuals, is something that can also age poorly. Jokes today can grow tacky as the years go on and that could be a huge problem for a game like Saints Row: The Third that leans so heavily on its comedy. Some of the writing still has some wit and is worth a chuckle, even if just for its absurdity.
Other goofs remain silly if not exactly as funny as they were almost a decade ago. Getting turned into a toilet isn’t exactly unfunny, but it still fits with the game’s overall style enough to narrowly avoid being a dry gag. Remembering the punchlines can also deflate some of the bits, but that can also be more of a testament to how memorable they were the first time around.
A handful of its antics have lost their luster for multiple reasons. Saints Row 4 recycled many similar jokes from its predecessor (the dildo bat, Genki, and more) so seeing it again here is like the third time hearing the same sort of wisecrack. A few other bits are just from the time and are dated like the auto-tuned pimp Zimos who was a rife parody of T-Pain then but not as pointed now. While it still has some remnants of charm that carry the experience, it does put the pressure on the next new Saints Row to push this style forward.
Saints Row: The Third Remastered Review | Ragdollin’
Its gameplay probably needs even more attention. Shooting is solid and is remarkably more responsive than every other Grand Theft Auto. Shootouts are fast-paced and it’s not a hassle to land a shot like it can be in other open-world crime games. There’s no need for auto-aim or heavy aim assist; a compliment in and of itself.
But plenty of systems around the gunplay tries to cripple its commendable core at every turn. Firefights are often fittingly chaotic but that chaos is often weaponized against you as everything is constantly juggling you around like one of many the inflatable sex dolls littered around Steelport.
Stray street lamps can hurdle into you at rocket-like velocities. Fire causes you to run around without the ability to attack. Grenades make you stumble. Brutes can easily catch up to you and punt you into next week. Legally safe Escalade knock-offs can side swipe you. All of these annoyances can link together and repeatedly rob control from you, turning combat into a tedious and frustrating experience as you watch your body helplessly fling around.
Unwanted madness tampers with the experience in other ways as well since enemies, friendly AI, and vehicles can crowd the screen and turn the simplest tasks into the most arduous of chores. Dumb allies can have the hardest time following instructions in the calmest of times let alone when there are 11 vans and 29 thugs concentrated in such a small radius. And all of those piled up vehicles can make getting into your vehicle a pain since it often demands too much precision from the controls.
Saints Row: The Third Remastered Review | Day to day grinding
Saints Row: The Third is overflowing with mission types that exacerbate its issues, too, especially since it has a misguided fascination with terrible escort and ally defense objectives. Snatch, Escort, and Trafficking leave you at the mercy of braindead AI. Heli Assault is insufferably boring as you defend your fellow Saints from the slowest waves imaginable. Escort doesn’t make any logical sense and the tiger variants have such a stupid “hook.” Genki’s Super Ethical Reality Climax usually devolves into infuriating bouts of stunlocking. Insurance Fraud can be a ride but it’s mainly up to chance since it requires heavy traffic.
The game is often remembered for its iconic mainline setpieces that still work well enough today, but the adhesive side missions gluing those moments together are weak and irritating. There are so many of them littered throughout the map and they act as filler that is just there instead of meaty content worth checking out. Such checklist-like design is very much of that era and sticks out more now as it is unnecessary bloat that drags down the entire experience.
Grinding is somewhat required and can be mindlessly rewarding as you churn through the game’s upgrade systems. While the methods you use to gain experience can be tiresome, the actual act of acquiring control, buying property, and earning upgrades is addictive as it always ensures there is something to work toward. It powers the game’s well-paced upgrade loop that pushes your power well into broken territory as you become almost literally invincible.
Sperasoft (the team behind this remaster) could have fixed the roadblocks that wreck the pacing, but this remaster is more of a straight port that can feel quite dated at times. Such a limited scope is disappointing as many of these same issues (including occasional crashes and glitches) persisted in its original release as well. Failing to remedy old problems has made them even more noticeable now as time is never kind to such glaring shortcomings that can age like milk. It does include all of its original mediocre DLC, but there’s not any new content or much-needed streamlining here to completely bring it into the modern era — another missed opportunity since it’s solely leaning on nostalgia and its visual upgrades for its unusually high launch price tag.
Saints Row: The Third Remastered can coast on some its nostalgic value. Its multitude of upgrade systems provide the necessary carrots to fulfill a true Saints-like power fantasy and its visuals do look better than ever. And while its humor just barely gets out alive, the other parts of the game — like the incessant, anger-inducing ragdolling, banal side mission design, and lack of new content — aren’t as funny. It’s a dildo bat that still has some heft behind its swing, but it’s gone pretty flaccid in the ensuing nine years.
GameRevolution reviewed Saints Row: The Third Remastered on PS4 with a copy provided by the publisher.