Saints Row: The Third Remastered Review

This has been the generation of remasters, much to the chagrin of some. That said, it’s something I’ve enjoyed, because I’ve been able to play (mostly) improved versions of some of my favourite games from the last couple of console cycles on superior hardware. Others may see it as a lack of ideas, a dearth of creativity or something lazily done to earn extra money, but it’s nice to be able to play souped up versions of great games.

When I first heard that Saints Row IV: Re-Elected was coming out, I was excited and slightly disappointed at the same time. Reason being is that, while I absolutely adored Saints Row IV and completed it very thoroughly, Saints Row: The Third is my favourite game in the series. It was disappointing to see and hear that it was being overlooked in favour of its follow-up, which was still really good in its own right, but wasn’t the one I wanted remastered most. Of course, I don’t own Deep Silver and they don’t just cater to me. I also enjoyed the heck out of Re-Elected, and came close to ‘100%-ing it’ for a second time.

Fast forward several years and it was recently revealed that my favourite game in the series was, in fact, going to get updated and re-released, which was music to my ears. It may seem silly to be so excited about a remaster, but the Saints Row series holds a special place in my gamer’s heart, and the last two numbered games ended up becoming all-time personal favourites. In the almost thirty years that I’ve been gaming, I’ve rarely had as much fun as I did with those two. The third game was especially fun the first time through, and there was just something about it that really resonated with me. It’s funny, though, because I don’t normally enjoy zany and over-the-top things, especially when it comes to movies and TV shows. Friends tend to love ‘so bad they’re good’ types of movies and dumb comedies, but a lot of them do nothing for me.

I was able to get my hands on a review code for Saints Row: The Third Remastered, and have since spent a few days with it. Over that time, I’ve returned to Steelport, created a couple of creative characters and reenlisted as the head of the Third Street Saints gang. I’ve also parachuted into a penthouse’s pool while Kanye West’s ‘Power’ was playing, killed an incredible amount of colourful gang members, had a gunfight in the air as plane wreckage whizzed by, committed insurance fraud for respect and killed homeless people in costumes for sport. If this was real life I’d feel like a terrible person.

Saints Row: The Third picks up at a high time, as the Third Street Saints enjoy the money, fame and overall celebrity that they’ve ‘earned.’ Together with their partners they’ve taken over Stilwater, launched an energy drink and made boatloads of cash. It’s nice being at the top for once, but fame can sometimes be fleeting.

Enter the Syndicate, an alliance of a few different gangs which hopes to put the Saints out of business. They enter the fray shortly after our anti-heroes mess up a violent bank robbery and lose Johnny Gat to a bullet-filled death. With pain and destruction on the agenda, the Syndicate and their handsome leader aim to squash their purple clad enemies for good, as if they were a bug.

After some shit hits the fan and the Syndicate’s attempt at negotiating fails, the leader of the Saints finds him or herself skydiving towards an unfamiliar city. One that happens to go by the name of Steelport. Yes, for the first time in the series’ history, this campaign does not take place on the familiar streets of Stilwater.

After parachuting into their new home, the user-created leader and Shaundi attempt to set up shop and reach out to the rest of the gang. This leads to moving into Shaundi’s ex-boyfriend’s apartment and using it as a headquarters for the time being. It isn’t long, though, before Pierce joins the duo and starts helping out, offering missions and tips along the way. In fact, the first few hours of the game are more like a tutorial. At least that’s the case once the two opening missions end. At this point some of the activities, of which there are many, also begin to open up.

What follows is one of the most colourful, unique and downright crass campaigns in the history of gaming. To say that Saints Row: The Third is lowbrow and vulgar would be understating things, because it’s those and more. Yet, despite its depravity, it manages to be one hell of a fun time, and is easily one of the best sandbox games ever made. As I said before, I can’t remember many titles I’ve had more fun playing over the last thirty or so years.

When you’re not doing story missions that help the Saints fight back against the Syndicate, you’ll be exploring a large city and completing some really enjoyable, and sometimes downright evil, activities. There’s the old faithful escort one, where you drive a prostitute around as she picks up and has sex with clients, all while attempting to avoid the paparazzi. Things get more ‘colourful’ from there, though, what with: mayhem, insurance fraud, trafficking (drugs), tiger escorting, guardian angel, trail blazing, cyber blazing, snatching, tank mayhem and Professor Genki’s Super Ethical Reality Climax activities. If you’re new to the series you probably won’t know what any of those things are, so I’ll explain. The mayhem ones involve using whatever weapons you’re given (or a freaking tank) to cause as much destruction, and kill as many people, as you can. Meanwhile, the guardian angel activities involve protecting someone from above, using a rocket launcher and sometimes a sniper rifle. The others task you with driving quickly from one point to another while blowing cars up, saving hos from dangerous pimps, driving at a high rate of speed so as to satisfy a mean tiger who just so happens to be riding shotgun, and assisting with drug sales. It’s the insurance fraud and Professor Genki’s reality show missions that really stand out most, though.

Insurance fraud fuses over-the-top physics with attempts at earning as much money as possible and doing so in a nefarious way. You’ll be tasked with driving to a certain location (or three, depending on how much time you’re given), then jumping into oncoming traffic. Doing so will earn you thousands upon thousands of dollars, provided that you ragdoll well. Then, once a meter is full, you’ll enter focus mode and will receive even more money. Focus mode also enhances the ragdoll physics, meaning that almost every time you’re hit by a car you’ll end up flying into the air, at which point you can use the joystick to aim your flailing body towards other cars for added bonuses.

Needless to say, it’s both fun and unique.

The most evil, and probably the most ‘colourful’ facet of Saints Row: The Third Remastered, is Professor Genki. He’s a pink cat with a massive head, who looks like he happens to be a baseball team’s deranged mascot. He also happens to be addicted to murder. As such, you’ll find yourself entering into arenas where announcers comment as you murder people dressed in monkey, Saints Flow (energy drink) and other such mascot costumes. Some will have guns, while others may carry a big, floppy dildo as a weapon, which is something that the player can equip and use for melee purposes. All the while, you’ll be attempting to earn points and avoid traps, such as flames and electrical fields. This is added to by one of the three included downloadable content packs, as it incorporates other traps and forms of craziness, including a man eating shark.

Those activities make up a large part of the game, and as I said previously, also factor into its campaign. You’ll play many of their introductions as story missions, which are handed out by old friends and new allies. Don’t worry, though, as there are still quite a few more ‘traditional’ sandbox missions, although they’ve all been ‘enhanced’ (or made more crazy, if you will) in typical Saints Row fashion. After all, this series is like a parody of Grand Theft Auto, and is one that has become more and more zany as the years went by. The first game was much more tame than the second, third and fourth, but I enjoyed them all. Gat Outta Hell is something we’ll just agree to forget about.

That said, I feel like I’m one of the few who isn’t crazy about Saints Row 2. Maybe it’s because I opened my brand new copy and played through it about a year after I finished and fell in love with Saints Row: The Third, but for whatever reason it didn’t click with me as much as the other three. It had been out for a while, but was still quite buggy and felt dated when I played it. That said, it seems to be the most popular series entry, so go figure.

To each their own, right?

While Saints Row IV: Re-Elected wasn’t the world’s best remaster, it was fine and fun. I would’ve been happy if Saints Row: The Third Remastered was similar, simply because I love the base game so much. However, what we’ve received here is shockingly impressive. At least, outside of the first few hours, which is something I’ll get to momentarily.

Although some remasters tend to feel like they were rushed out the door for monetary gain, Sperasoft obviously put a ton of work into Saints Row: The Third Remastered. It’s evident from the start, and becomes more and more obvious as the hours fly by. The characters have been greatly enhanced, thanks to higher resolution models, skin shaders and realistic eyes that even feature human-looking blood vessels. Meanwhile, the lighting system has been redone, environmental items have been updated to create a sharper, more realistic and light reflecting look, and the whole city feels more alive. Truth be told almost everything is sharper, more vibrant and more realistic looking. This includes the city, itself, and the cars that roam its streets. It’s impressive how much effort was put into making this almost ten year old game look modern, which it almost does.

Hell, there are times (during sunny days) where it almost looks like a remake.

There are some caveats, though. For starters, the rain doesn’t look particularly great. The game can also be a bit too dark and slightly muddy during nighttime sequences. I did, however, find that increasing the visual sharpness and upping the brightness made this a bit better. Hell, you can even lock or unlock the frame rate, and I tested both settings. The frame rate was almost always fine, apart from moments during my first three hours with the game,  but things seemed to get better once I toyed with unlocking it and then locked it again later on.

Why do I keep bringing up the first three hours? Well, Saints Row: The Third Remastered was surprisingly buggy at the start, but most of those bugs went away after I’d spent a few hours in its updated world. I was worried I’d have to delete it and reinstall it, or wait for a new patch to be able to play, and was surprised by the glitches because I’d seen tons of praise online. It almost seemed like I was playing a different game. Thankfully, though, the issues have almost entirely disappeared, save for the odd minor glitch here and there.

What bugs did I experience? Well, during the opening cutscene certain sound effects were missing, such as the noises that should have resulted from the bank tellers firing at the Saints. After that, music would cut out while I was driving, and phone conversations with allies would have oddly long pauses in-between bits of dialogue. The biggest issue I had, though, occurred while driving. I’d be speeding across a bridge when, all of a sudden, my car would stop, freeze and disappear, leaving my avatar sitting in mid-air as if he or she was driving an invisible vehicle. This occurred three or four times, but has thankfully not happened in quite some time. Once I reached the (roughly) three hour mark, it stopped happening and I don’t know why.

The only glitch that has persisted also has to do with vehicles. For whatever reason, exiting them can be somewhat dangerous, although only on rare occasions. What I mean by this is that, after I park and jump out of a car, it will sometimes rocket backwards as if someone is aggressively backing up. In the process, it will hit and knock my character down. However, nobody will have been driving the car. If it was the AI, I could make a joke about their driving, but that isn’t the case. The AI are terrible drivers, but it’s part of the game’s charm. During missions, allies will drive the player around, and won’t pay much care or attention to what’s around them, opting to plow through enemy vehicles instead of driving around them. That isn’t the case with this glitch, though.

Here’s hoping that an upcoming patch will completely iron these things out. I also seem to be in the minority, as far as experiencing them in the first place, which is good.

As mentioned above, Saints Row: The Third Remastered is a full package release, which means that it includes every bit of downloadable content that was released for the original, 2011 game. As such, you can expect bonus weapons and outfits to be unlocked from the start, and can also tackle the title’s three post-launch expansions in any order you see fit. Those are Genkibowl VII, Gangstas in Space (which involves filming a sci-fi movie starring the leader of the Third Street Saints) and The Trouble With Clones. All three offer some enjoyment and added hilarity, but none of the three happens to be very long or incredible. The Genkibowl one is perhaps the best of the bunch, because it adds more enhanced activities, including shark infested game show maps. That and Sad Panda Skyblazing, which is a heck of a lot of fun.

Before I conclude this review, I also need to mention another one of the great things about Saints Row: The Third, and that’s its approach to music. It’s the first game I remember playing that had a mixtape option, which allowed the player to pick and choose their favourite songs. Although there are various radio stations representing different genres, from rap to metal, I appreciated being able to pick my favourite five or ten songs and listen to them on repeat. This usually involved selecting Deftones’ ‘Diamond Eyes,’ Marilyn Manson’s ‘Arma-goddamn-motherfucking-geddon,’ a few 80s ‘classics’ and a couple of Motley Crue songs, along with the included Drowning Pool tune. I’d also always add Kanye West’s ‘Power’ because, while I’m not much of a rap person, it’s a good song that really fits this zany game. It also seems to be its theme song, since it’s played over top one of the most influential missions in the campaign.

I thought that I remembered listening to music while walking around on foot and completing missions, but I haven’t unlocked that option or figured out how to do it yet. Perhaps I just misremembered. Then again, maybe it’s one of the unlockable upgrades, of which there are many. This game has tons of things to purchase and unlock, be it additional ammo, dual wielded pistols, special weapons, gang member assists, upgraded health, faster health replenishment, increased stamina for sprinting, lessened damage or something else. It also features tons of challenges. Completing missions, driving erratically, buying businesses (which helps to take over the city and reduce other gangs’ influence), and completing activities earns you money and respect, both of which contribute to unlocking such things.

When I first played this game, it quickly became one of my all-time favourites. Now, almost ten years later, it is still right up there on that list and proverbial pedestal. While Saints Row: The Third Remastered has some issues, it’s too good not to power through them. This was a fantastic and incredibly fun game back in 2011, and it remains that way today. There’s so much fun to be had that, if you’ve ever been a fan of this type of game, you should definitely check this updated version out. That’s especially true if you’ve never played Saints Row: The Third, because it’s one of the best its genre has to offer, and is something you won’t soon forget.

Please note: As of publication I have not yet completed the full, remastered campaign. I have, however, spent quite a few hours with it, and am at about 50% overall completion. I’m taking my time with it and plan to complete almost everything it has to offer. Back in 2011, I only missed one trophy and that was because I didn’t complete one of the many challenges.

This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided with. It was reviewed on an Xbox One X.

Saints Row: The Third Remastered marks the welcomed return of one of the sandbox genre's best. It's a bit rough at times, but tons of work has been done to make it feel modern.
Reader Rating0 Votes
The Good Stuff
Heavily reworked and upgraded
Tons of content, including all 3 DLC packs
One of the most unique and enjoyable games out there
The Not-So-Good Stuff
Somewhat buggy, at least early on
Doesn't always perform at its best
Will be too crass and vulgar for some