Saints Row: The Third Remastered (PS4) - ReviewPaul Broussard , posted on 30 May 2020 / 665 Views
Remastered season continues with 2011 sandbox hit Saints Row: The Third getting the update treatment. After the somewhat disappointing definitive edition for Saints Row 4, Volition looks to improve on its remastering efforts with the third game in the Saints Row series. As it turns out, second time may be the charm, because this is a noticeable graphic upgrade on what came before, and a release worthy of wearing the remastered label.
Saints Row: The Third kicks off with the Saints gang, fresh from having taken full control of the city of Stillwater previously, finding their influence wrested away when a new faction, the Syndicate, comes in and buys off everyone that the Saints were paying money to control. The Saints aren’t about to let that stand, however, and you, the boss (who in my case was Hulk Hogan with a zombie voice), have to take charge of your team and conduct a series of increasingly bizarre missions in order to take the fight to the Syndicate on their home turf of Steelport and rest influence back.
If it wasn’t apparently obvious by this point, The Third’s story doesn't take itself particularly seriously. The game starts with a helicopter aided bank robbery and has the player skydiving while firing machine guns by the end of the introductory act, and things only get crazier from there. Despite this, The Third still manages to somewhat ground itself. Widely considered to be the “sweetspot” of Saints Row tone, The Third is the Saints Row game where the series really started to shift from Grand Theft Auto lookalike to full blown Grand Theft Auto parody, before Saints Row 4 went completely off the deep end. So most of the story and gameplay elements are at least partially founded in reality, in contrast with 4’s alien weaponry and superhuman abilities courtesy of spending the whole game in a computer simulation.
And being a parody of GTA, that probably is the best comparison for The Third’s gameplay. The player’s presented with a big, open sandbox that they’re free to roam around in, with story missions that put the player in a more linear structure. Moment to moment gameplay mostly switches between third person shooting and driving, both of which are perfectly functional. Players can acquire upgrades throughout the game to make their character stronger, faster, tankier, etc., which provides some room for creativity.
The most notable gameplay distinction is in the mission structure of The Third, which still holds up quite well today. The winning ingredient is that The Third remembers that it’s still a crazy, over the top action spectacle above all else. Saints Row isn’t particularly concerned with having its players be stealthy or demonstrating they can escape angry gunmen, and as a result the story missions are far more organic and aren’t as easy to suddenly fail as, say, some of GTA V’s heists, and are actually still fun to play, unlike a lot of GTA IV’s awful shopping/dating missions. The missions fit in much more naturally with the tone of the game, and it’s surprisingly easy to get absorbed into again all these years later.
That said, not everything about The Third has aged particularly well. No notable gameplay changes have been made from the original title to now, which means that movement is still more than a little clunky at times and many guns still lack the “oomph” necessary to make them satisfying. Perhaps most annoying of all is the return of the far too limiting sprint meter (at least until you get the upgrade to remove it), whose inclusion in a game about ridiculous over the top spectacle made no sense in 2011 and makes even less sense now.
The technical aspects of The Third: Remastered are where this updated version really shines through, however. Far too many games recently have simply slapped the term “remastered” on their title with little effort to actually update anything, but The Third Remastered genuinely earns the name by looking exceptionally good for an updated version of a 7th gen title. This is far more than a simple resolution buff; plenty of textures have been polished or outright replaced for better ones, lighting has been changed and looks substantially better, character models are all redone and vastly improved, and there’s an extra level of detail included that’s exceptionally rare to see in a remaster. Probably as a result of this, the loading times are pretty bad at some points, unfortunately. I often found myself waiting upwards of 15-20 seconds for the game world to load in or when moving between cutscene and gameplay. It’s not the biggest deal in the world, and may not even be an issue at all on PC, but it is a minor annoyance on the PS4.
The ultimate question that any Remaster has to answer, though, is whether it’s worth purchasing again. At a $40 price point, this represents much better value than most remasters, especially if you’re interested in the chance to experience The Third in a much better looking Steelport and all of the zany characters that come with. Those expecting gameplay updates to come with their remasters, however, will be out of luck. Meanwhile, new players who are intrigued should have no real qualms about picking this up, as it's easily the definitive version of The Third.
This review is based on a digital copy of Saints Row: The Third Remastered for the PS4, provided by the publisher.
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