Getting back in the Saints Flow of things
Although the fourth installment of the Saints Row franchise has my heart, the general consensus amongst fans is that Saints Row: The Third is objectively the best of the bunch. And while I honestly prefer the delightfully deranged gameplay that is Saints Row IV, I’d have to agree with the masses — Saints Row: The Third is when the series blossomed into its own. However, 2011 was a different time, and a lot of the gameplay was raunchy, shocking, and unique for the PS3 era. Do the jokes and themes hold up nearly a decade later? Is a graphics overhaul enough to pull players, both old and new, into the fold? That’s what Saints Row: The Third Remastered sets out to do, and, in my opinion, these Third Street Saints absolutely came marching in, beating the doors down and proving they’ve got a timeless classic on their hands.
Our story begins in true Saints Row fashion, with an absolutely ridiculous opening sequence starting out with the Saints robbing a bank in Stilwater at the height of their power to being kidnapped by the Steelport Syndicate, escaping from a plane 30,000 feet in the air not once, but twice, and landing smack dab in the middle of Steelport without a penny to their name (literally). With their main muscle Johnny Gat presumed dead, the remaining Saints vow to take Steelport from the Syndicate, starting from the bottom and rising to the top, kicking ass all along the way. Missions run the gamut from taking over turf from the three different gangs that comprise the Syndicate to gimp-racing down the streets of Steelport (you read that right). Where the fourth installment was purely deranged, Saints Row: The Third Remastered has both feet planted in reality with its head in a carefully crafted chaotic cloud.
Like every good Saints Row game, Saints Row: The Third Remastered offers a generous character customization that still feels fairly limitless even in 2020. With 8 main race/gender combinations, a spectrum of body types, and 7 different voices/personalities, there’s something for everyone, whether that means recreating who you are in-game or choosing something more out there. My husband and I always tag-team on Saints Row titles, and we’ve fallen in love with “our girl,” aka a buxom, usually nude blonde with Laura Bailey’s phenomenal voice. I’ve written many a praising article on how refreshing it is to be able to command the respect of my crew while wearing literally nothing at all, the gang calling me “Boss” and looking me in the eye despite the fact I’m a seriously hot and seriously naked woman. In comparison to similar franchises who don’t take this seemingly obvious opportunity, the respect the female main character gets from her crew no matter what she looks like/is wearing is — excuse my French — fucking badass. I’ll play this franchise for the rest of my life because of how awesome this feels.
Gameplay in Saints Row: The Third Remastered is absolutely satisfying. With Steelport being a completely new town to take over, The Saints must re-evaluate what made them so great in the first place, and that’s teamwork. Riding out with Shaundi, Pierce, and the rest of the crew to complete missions and take over sections of the city really reinforce the notion that you’re the leader of a notorious street gang, with the opposition being fairly fierce. Where Saints Row IV felt a little isolating, Saints Row: The Third Remastered felt immersive as a gang sim because each of your teammates mattered and respected you as a boss instead of a gofer. And because you’re legitimately starting in a new town, being out of the comfort zone of Stilwater makes you feel like you need to lean on your teammates. Saints Row: The Third Remastered brought back what it did right the first time, and I was reminded yet again why this one’s considered the best of the series.
Of course, having played both Saints Row IV and Saints Row IV: Remastered more recently than Saints Row: The Third, there are some mechanics that I immediately missed, including gliding around Steelport for ease of travel. Although stealing cars and travelling on actual streets makes way more sense and feels a bit more grounded in reality, I admit I miss how quickly gliding had become. Luckily, Saints Row: The Third Remastered includes all the DLC, which features alien spaceships and a witch’s broomstick (just accept it). For those who played the DLC back in the day, this must have felt out of left field, but after playing Saints Row IV, it’s really impressive just how seamless the transition between the two titles felt with these vehicles. Players like me who want to quickly glide across the map can do so, while the ones who prefer a bit more realism can simply cruise around town. Pretty genius, really, and the foresight deserves a round of applause.
Speaking of DLC — if returning players hadn’t yet had a chance to play through the missions, you’re in for a treat. They’re not meant for the faint of heart and are all extremely challenging. My favorite has the Boss shooting a campy sci-fi/alien movie with an asshole director brown-nosing me all the way to the theaters despite my incredibly wooden acting. Shooting down aliens while saving an extra-terrestrial princess seemed insanely wacky back in the day, but considering Saints Row: IV’s premise it now feels ever so slightly like foreshadowing. Despite the secret-or-not intentions from the developers, the missions are fun yet difficult and had me throwing the controller a few times in frustration (in a good way).
Of course, the one thing everyone wants to know is how the graphics look in comparison to the original, and I have to say it’s all a lot smoother and crisper this time around. Saints Row: The Third Remastered is beautiful to look at with only a few minor exceptions. Even though I chose the recommended lighting, dark hair looked pretty washed out, with Johnny Gat and Josh Birk looking veritably gray. Additionally, the main character I customized had odd mouth movements in certain cutscenes where her teeth seemed too big for her mouth, although I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt that players won’t have this issue if they customize their character differently. Overall, these are extremely minor issues, with everything else running smoothly.
Deep Silver and Volition have something really special with the Saints Row franchise, and it honestly doesn’t get any better than Saints Row: The Third Remastered. There’s absolutely no reason for anyone to have been sleeping on this series, but if you have been, now’s the time to wake up and snag a copy for yourself. Although I love me a good PC game, I can’t imagine playing this on anything except a console — it just feels right at home on the PS4. Still, as long as you have a controller, I think it’s safe to say you’re in for an absolute treat. If you have a pulse, run — don’t walk — to the nearest place where you can grab Saints Row: The Third Remastered.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: XBox One, PC, Nintendo Switch, & PS4 (reviewed); Publisher: Deep Silver; Developer: Volition; Players: 1 – 2; Released: May 22, 2020; MSRP: $39.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a retail copy of Saints Row: The Third Remastered provided by the publisher.