Saints Row: The Third Remastered Review: An Irreverent Good Time Revisited

by David Sanchez May 21, 2020 @ 8:27 am

Shooting gameplay in Saints Row: The Third Remastered.

Reviewed on PS4

When Saints Row: The Third launched back in 2011, it managed to stand out amongst an incredible lineup of games that were released that same year. While the series had always been decent, it wasn’t until the third entry that the Saints Row franchise stepped out of the shadow of Grand Theft Auto. Saints Row: The Third was explosive, brash, and silly. Fast-forward nine years, and Saints Row: The Third Remastered is still all of those things. Some aspects of the game show their age, but there’s no denying just how entertaining this game still is nearly a decade later.

Rise of the Saints

Saints Row: The Third Remastered follows the titular gang after they become pop culture icons. Things don’t go as planned during a bank heist, and the Saints soon lose all of their power and capital to a larger criminal organization. The story sees the Saints attempting to reclaim their status as both idols and leaders in the criminal world.

Professor Genki in Saints Row: The Third Remastered.

The story of Saints Row: The Third Remastered is told through cutscenes between missions. These story bits don’t take themselves too seriously, and even when characters like Shaundi are being a bit much for what is an otherwise wacky adventure, there are standouts like Zimos that help keep things lighthearted. The writing — for both the highly stylized cinematic moments and the character dialogue — is entertaining and laugh-out-loud funny a lot of the time.

It’s worth mentioning that a lot has changed in terms of humor since 2011. At the time of its original release, Saints Row: The Third was lauded for not giving a damn and being hyper-irreverent. That irreverence hasn’t changed one bit, but societal humor, overall, has. As such, some of the jokes and commentary on things such as sex workers and nudity may not hold up for some folks. Thankfully, even despite a few dated jokes, the tone and wit offered here are still quite enjoyable.

An Urban Playground

A lot of open world games use the descriptor “sandbox.” Saints Row: The Third has always been the epitome of a sandbox game. No, you’re not molding the world around you like in Terraria or Minecraft. And while the open world antics offered here are on par with games likes Grand Theft Auto V and Sleeping Dogs, Saints Row: The Third Remastered feels more liberated than its open world counterparts. Like an actual sandbox, the game is about actually playing with your environment in big, dumb ways.

Tank gameplay in Saints Row: The Third Remastered.

Unlike other games of its ilk, Saints Row: The Third Remastered gives you the tools for success and mass destruction almost immediately. And because it’s loaded with all of the original game’s post-launch DLC, you now have instant access to the more outrageous guns like the Shark-O-Matic (which shoots fish guts at enemies and prompts a huge shark to pop out of the ground and chomp them up) or the mind-control Mollusk Launcher (which turns anyone you shoot into an ally… but only after they pull off a slick dance move).

It’s always tempting to run amok in big open world crime games, but thanks to the wild weapons at your disposal in Saints Row: The Third Remastered, it’s even more enticing — and arguably more entertaining — here.

In addition to the crazy guns and suggestively-shaped blunt objects, the physics of Saints Row: The Third Remastered help give the game its personality. If you hit pedestrians with your car or smack them with a baseball bat, they’ll just go flying. All of the characters, even your create-a-character protagonist, are really ragdoll-y. For any other game, this would look a bit too weird, but here it’s pretty freakin’ great.

Take Control of the City

Saints Row: The Third Remastered gameplay.

You could probably spend endless hours just driving around the streets of Steelport in a tank and blowing crap up or exploring the game’s world on foot while performing wrestling moves on innocent civilians. That’s what I did while playing the original game in 2011, and I even dabbled in a few hours of outdoor chicanery with this re-release.

That stuff aside, though, there is a game with actual missions here. The missions that go deeper and have you perform multiple objectives like rigging an enemy base with explosives, taking out dudes, and getting the hell out of Dodge really shine. Simpler gun fights are still a lot of fun, too. Unfortunately, a lot of the game’s missions are based around smaller side activities like making deliveries, escorting characters around town, and blowing stuff up with a tank. These activities pop up frequently around town and, with the exception of a few, quickly lose their luster.

As you complete missions and side jobs, you’ll earn money and respect. Money works like you’d expect it to. You can buy properties and businesses around town to gain more control over the city of Steelport. Buying a gun shop or clothing store means you can save a percentage when purchasing ammo or new threads. Respect is the game’s version of experience, and it allows you to level up your character and unlock new abilities such as longer sprinting time, dual-wielding, and faster health regen.

Saints Row: The Third Remastered flying gameplay.

The rate at which you unlock abilities is pretty fast, and you earn money at a fairly rapid rate. Saints Row: The Third was always meant to be a fast-paced power fantasy. You take down armies of thugs and cops with ease, and even when you get taken out, it’s always fun to jump back into the fray and raise hell once again.

While a lot of things work really well in Saints Row: The Third Remastered, some haven’t aged quite as well. The shooting mechanics, for example, are hit-or-miss. Before you start upgrading your guns, the shooting feels pretty bad: It’s sloppy, inaccurate, and slow. This is remedied somewhat after you obtain upgrades for your weapons, but even then it never feels up to modern standards.

A Different Breed of Open World Action-Adventure

The colorful neon town of Steelport looks just as good now as it did in 2011. Saints Row: The Third Remastered doesn’t exactly put a shiny new coat of paint on the original game’s graphical style, but it’s enhanced enough that it looks good. This was never a realistic action-adventure game anyway, and the almost-cartoon-y visuals have been updated just enough to give the game’s original look a sharper edge.

Tank gameplay in Saints Row: The Third Remastered.

The sound design is equally solid, with decent music playing across the game’s many radio stations and some sick original beats to chill to in the game’s menus. The voice acting is the audio design’s strongest aspect, though. All of the characters’ personalities shine through wonderfully. Yes, the Saints are murderous gang members, but they’re still lovable and straight-up hilarious.

Saints Row: The Third was one of the best games of 2011. That’s saying something considering it was going up against powerhouses like Skyrim, Batman: Arkham City, Dark Souls, and Rayman Origins. I played the game for hours upon hours on my PS3, completing every single task and doing both solo and co-op runs through the campaign. Revisiting the city of Steelport nine years later is a blast in its own right, and one can only hope that this leads to a Saints Row 5.

Some aspects of Saints Row: The Third Remastered definitely feel a bit old and unpolished, but even then, the game’s open world, assortment of dumb weapons, and cheeky tone all make for a fun rampage. If you’ve wondered whether you should revisit the Saints’ third outing, you absolutely should. And if you missed out on it the first time around, there’s a lot of fun and comedy to be found here to justify checking out Saints Row: The Third Remastered.

Score: 8.5 out of 10

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