A fantastic-looking remaster of one of the best games in the series.
- Developer: Spearsoft/Volition
- Publisher: Deep Silver
- Release date: 22nd May 2020
- Genre: Open-world
- Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4
- Reviewed on: Xbox One X
- Game Supplied by: Publisher
When the Saints go marching in.
When the first Saints Row released way back in the noughties, it was entertaining, but tried too hard to emulate the success of GTA, and took itself a bit too seriously. In subsequent games, though, it really started finding its own identity. As the series progressed, the humour and satire increased, and for me, it hit its peak with the excellent Saints Row: The Third.
Playing on Xbox One X with a compatible screen, you can set the HDR levels as soon as you begin. It’s worth tweaking these settings again once you are in the game, as the image it gives you to tune your settings doesn’t give the best representation of how it will look. (Rest assured, once you’ve got it set right, it looks great.)
From the menu, you can launch into single-player campaign, start-up or join a co-op game, or play Whored Mode. We’re going to start with the Campaign.
After a short introductory mission to teach you the basics, you are presented with the character creator.
A hallmark of the series, the character customisation options are excellent in Saints Row The Third. Want to run around as a naked woman or man (with pixelation of the body parts that make nuns blush)? Knock yourself out. Do you want your character to be a voluptuous female in a Samurai outfit on the top, with a tiny G-string over her nether regions and an Essex bloke’s voice? We won’t judge. Perhaps you prefer your character to be a muscular, bright blue fellow, who communicates in the guttural growl of a zombie and has a penchant for ladies undergarments? Hey, who are we to argue?
Variety is everything in Saints Row The Third. Once you’ve chosen your beautiful person/hideous monstrosity, you are free to set off completing missions, finding collectables or tackling the mini-game activities. There are tonnes of different and varied activities and missions. One minute you may find yourself working through a classic text adventure, or hurling yourself in front of traffic in the fan-favourite Insurance Fraud, before finding yourself taking a tiger for a cruise around the city while avoiding animal control.
Everything you do in Saints Row The Third earns you respect points. Power sliding around corners, driving on two wheels, finding hidden crates of sex dolls, shooting opposing gang members. This constant stream of reward makes even a quick play-session feel productive. Most importantly, points mean prizes.
As you level up, you will earn cash that you can put towards levelling up your character. Upgrades such as boosting your max health or reducing the damage taken from gunfire or explosions help you stay alive, whilst combat upgrades allow you to dual-wield pistols and SMGs or carry more ammo. It’s a well-paced system of upgrades that slowly but surely turns you into the ultimate badass who barely flinches in the face of explosions, shrugs off fire and reigns down ungodly amounts of firepower with infinite ammo and bottomless clips.
Outside of the story missions, the action revolves around taking over the different districts of Steelwater. There are loads of little tasks that all contribute to taking over a percentage of each district; Stores and businesses can be purchased, earning an hourly income; gang operations can be broken up (basically kill a dozen or so people in a location) and the various activities can be completed, eventually turning the map a glorious Saints purple.
Activities have always been one of the best parts of Saints Row. After being spoilt with gargantuan amounts of content in modern games I couldn’t help but feel underwhelmed on my playthrough of the remaster, though. They are still as much fun as ever, and I thoroughly enjoyed blowing the crap out of everything in mayhem missions (easier now, as there is more destructible scenery dotting the landscape).
The issue is there is only a handful of each type of activity, with the easier levels offering little more than a passing distraction. It’s a remaster, not a remake, so they can be excused for not adding anything extra. It’s just surprising that what felt like massive amounts of content on my first playthrough seemed to be over and done with in a few hours. All in, including time spent messing around and going for some of the challenges, I was at around 20 hours and had finished the story, all of the activities and only had a few collectables and the more painstaking challenges left to finish.
Thankfully, Saints Row The Third: Remastered also includes all of the DLC. There’s a load of additional activities, some new missions, new vehicles, more customisation options… More everything! It helps add much-needed content to the game and should see you to an easy thirty hours of gameplay.
An important aspect of open-world games is always the radio stations. If you’re spending any amount of time driving around, you need good backing music for your antics. There’s the usual variety on offer, with a selection of ‘80s, heavy metal, hip-hop, Latino, classical and pop-rock radio stations to listen to. It has kept the original soundtrack, though, so some of these tracks have either been played to death or may not suit modern tastes. An excellent feature, that should be in every game in my opinion, is the option to remove songs from the various playlists or create a mix of just your favourites. Had enough of Kanye West’s “Power”? Remove it. Want a playlist that only plays “Holding out for a Hero” by Bonnie Tyler? Okay, weirdo, go for it.
Once you’ve seen everything the campaign has to offer, or if you just fancy mindlessly killing a few things, Whored Mode is far more fun than you would expect. Each level of the thirty you have to complete brings something new to the table. Armies of microscopic zombies attack you on one level, and without health regeneration, it becomes very tense, very fast. Other levels pit you against huge enemies, mixtures of small and giant enemies or armies of gimps. It’s constantly changing.
Each level starts you with a different weapon, with additional weapons scattered around the map, too. It isn’t anywhere near as in-depth as something like Gears 5’s Horde mode, but it’s more than enough fun to make it worthwhile playing through, either solo or in co-op.
What’s been remastered?
Many of you have likely already played the game, and are impatiently waiting for me to get to the point about what’s been changed or improved since it first hit our screens in 2011. Short answer? Everything.
If you’re like me, you load up a game that you used to love years ago and it never matches up visually to how you remember it through your rose-tinted glasses. With the remaster, you don’t have to taint those wonderful memories with the harshness of reality.
Saints Row The Third Remastered looks, quite simply, stunning. The initial and most noticeable improvement is the addition of HDR. The colours simply pop during the day, whilst at night the bright neon lights of the city glare in sharp relief to the darkened background. This is accentuated further by the new lighting system, chromatic aberration and ambient occlusion effects. Street lights cast a realistic glare over in-game objects, reflecting against rain-soaked streets, and the shadows cast by the sun during daytime are equally impressive. It gives everything a solidity and permanence that was missing from the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions.
Draw distances have been increased significantly, too. There is occasionally a little bit of pop-in, but for the most part, the smooth 60fps rendering is uninterrupted. Traffic and pedestrian density is now much higher, with cars no longer popping into view as you drive along. It gives the impression of a much more vibrant city, and it makes driving or walking through the city much more enjoyable.
Roadside and interior props have been reworked for the remaster, with new textures and geometry being added to the previously very simplistic decor. As mentioned earlier, they are more numerous as well. It has had the knock-on effect that the mayhem activities are far easier now, as there is just so much more stuff to blow up.
The developers really have gone to town with the remaster, and it looks fantastic. Everything; vehicles, NPC’s, the Saints, scenery, the sky, foliage and more, have been reworked and improved and the end result is simply outstanding. If you wanted to replay Saints Row The Third but were worried about the sub-par visuals tainting your memories (Goldeneye, anyone?) then this is definitely for you.
If you’ve never played Saints Row The Third, the remaster still holds up as an excellent game. The core gameplay remains true to the original, which for fans is exactly what you want. It may not be as deep or refined as modern games, but that’s ok. What Saints Row The Third: Remastered does deliver is a healthy dose of humour, and engaging, entertaining gameplay. It’s a testament to how much fun it is when a thirty-hour playthrough feels short.