Saints Row: The Third Remastered Looks Nice But Feels Old In 2020

Screenshot: Deep Silver

Saints Row: The Third Remastered brings the apex of the franchise to PS4 and Xbox One for the first time, warts and all.

Originally released in 2011, the third game in the Saints Row franchise was a turning point for the series and the most successful effort to distinguish it as something more than a Grand Theft Auto clone. After the straight-laced original and the wackier, but still grounded second game, SR3 saw its developers at Volition lean into being the more bonkers open-world crime game. Around the same time, GTA IV moved its series in a more serious direction.

Saints Row’s third game added gangs of mascots, shark guns, and features like the “Awesome Button” which allowed players to complete nearly every action in the game, like stealing a car, faster and usually with more style. It didn’t go as far as later games in the series. It didn’t give each member of the Saints crew superpowers. It focused on a simple story of gang warfare and friendship. The result is a game that feels like it is its own thing rather than a GTA knock-off. Later games were zanier, but SR3 struck the perfect balance of zany and serious.

Screenshot: Deep Silver, Kotaku

Saints Row The Third is an open-world crime game that tells the story of The Saints. At the start of SR3 they are a world-famous gang, with TV ads, toys, and clothing stores. But after robbing a bank owned by a rival gang syndicate, the Saints are captured and tossed into Steelport, a city over which they have no control. The rest of the game is all about revenge, about meeting new friends who can help the Saints destroy the rival gangs and take over Steelport. At the time, SR3 felt like a huge improvement over the previous two games and quickly became a fan favourite.

It is impossible to talk about the 2011 game without mentioning how much it feels like a relic of a different era. Within its first few hours, SR3 has already alluded to colonialism being a good thing, insulted various groups via some of the hairstyle and taunts and their names, and included a few missions featuring mindless NPC women who are only called hos and whores. It sucks. And it might be easy to say “Well, that was nearly a decade ago…” but I don’t think that excuses a lot of the content and jokes. Thankfully, a lot of Saints Row: The Third is focused on larger-than-life gang leaders, friends hanging out and big action setpieces, so you can mostly avoid the gross aspects. But they are there.

What has aged better and what makes SR3 easy to return to is the combat. Old GTA games had frustrating shooting systems that involved unreliable auto-targeting. Saints Row games always played more intuitively with a reticle that was always on screen, a dedicated grenade button, and a weapon wheel. Combat in Saints Row The Third is stiff compared to modern shooters like Fortnite, but it plays well enough even now.

This is with HDR turned on. Looks nice sometimes! (Screenshot: Deep Silver, Kotaku)

The new remaster’s tweaked graphics are nice, offering better textures and an improved draw distance, but the addition of HDR lighting didn’t impress me. It was too inconsistent, making night scenes too dark and my own character too bright. Not long into playing, I turned the HDR off. I felt better about the option to sacrifice consistent 30fps to allow it to sometimes exceed 30. It’s not a locked 60, not even close, but it is a nice option. Oh, and turn off the film grain filter. It looks bad, and it flickered on and off when I was playing, which was distracting.

While Saints Row The Third Remastered looks better than the older original versions, don’t expect anything too impressive. This is still clearly a 360-era open-world game. Lots of NPC clones walking around the streets, repeated textures, chunky animations, etc. However, for fans of the franchise, it is nice to see this game finally make its way to current-gen hardware. Hopefully, similar remakes are in the works for the first two games.

As for this remastered version of SR3, it’s totally fine. If you loved this game back in the day, you might still enjoy it now, though be prepared for some jokes landing like turds in 2020, especially if like me you grew up a lot in the last decade. If you didn’t enjoy or care about this game back in 2011, you’ll still hate it in 2020, but now you’ll hate it in HDR.


Comments

    What's with the current hobby of games journalists crying about colonialism?

      It feels *so* shoehorned in this article lol. I mean I've heard of reaching but he's really 'stretch-armstronged' himself here...

      Heaven forbid a journalist should touch on real world subjects. The horror.
      Also talks about sexism, does that trigger you too?

      Last edited 23/05/20 1:36 pm

        Colonialism hasn't been a real-world subject for centuries.

        Do try to keep up. You seem to be stuck.

      Exactly the kind of reaction a certain section of gamers have when journalists talk about any real world issues and how they relate to games. Much like whenever someone mentions sexism or misogyny, we get a wave of vitriol aimed at ‘SJWs’ and anyone/thing else that doesn’t exactly match their narrow world view. It’s nauseating.
      Art is a reflection of life and if you can’t handle discussion of this then I feel sorry for your myopic little minds.

        "Art is a reflection of life and if you can’t handle discussion of this then I feel sorry for your myopic little minds." - The irony of you feeling sorry for anyone being so unenlightened as you and yet happy to attack anyone who has a "narrow world view" that doesn't match yours?? Take a moment and ponder on your own words and see how you attacking people who don't agree with you, is the same as you having a problem with certain gamers attacking SJW's. Two sides of the same coin.

        It's hilarious that you think these journalists like the one above want to have a discussion about these topics.

        They don't want to discuss topics like colonialist themes in video games. They want them removed.

        Colonialism isn't a real-world issue anymore, Only for journalists looking for something to be offended over.

    They should completely remake Saints Row 1 & 2.
    like the only things, it should keep is the Music and the Voice Acting
    Replace everything else.

    btw I never played Saints Row 1
    but I did play a massive amount of Saints Row 2

      SR1 wasn't anything special. It's real claim to fame was 'Here's GTA on next gen before GTA hits next gen!'. It looked nice and cool, especially the demo, but then GTA4 hit and blew every single aspect of it out of the water. Then, they followed up with SR2, which carved its own identity out brilliantly, bringing the humour, bringing the character and made the series what it is now :)

        Agreed, SR1 really was nothing special, but SR 2 was an awesome game that deserves a remaster. A definitive difference from GTA at the time with its focus on gangs etc. But then Volition decided to try and take it into a more comical, slapstick direction when GTA went more realistic, SR3 is where the wheels got loose on the SR franchise and SR4 is where the wheels went flat, flew off and the car went over a cliff in flames with all the super powers and aliens focus. When you play a game like SR4 where you have super powers that take away the point of having vehicles, weapons or actually have to try to be killed because you are OP before the midway point, then you know Volition failed with SR4.

          Indeed. I felt like SR3 just needed to be around 20% more serious, with some more missions of substance rather than 'go to this character, go to that character', and less wacky and it would've nailed it completely.

          The less said about 4 better. I really, really did not enjoy 4 as a Saints Row game. As a Superhero open world game it wasn't too shabby. But as a Saints Row game? Nothankyousir.

          We don't speak about Agents of Mayhem...

            Yep. SR3 (and SR4 - and Gat out of Hell) practically did away with story missions and made it mostly about grinding out activities. SR2 was great, and would love something like that again.

              See, I did love SR3, but it felt way different. The moment Aisha died in SR2, that was a 'shocking' moment in the game, when the game slowed down the crazy and got serious. There's barely any of that in 3? The closest is Gat in the beginning (sorry to anyone but a decade old game is fair play). But even then, 4 undoes that with Zinyak :\ I'd definitely love to see a remake of 2 in part 3's engine that's for sure.

      I remember watching Good Game (or new games plus) that saints row 1 wasn't that good
      (btw I miss Good Game nowadays)
      so...
      Saints Row 1 should be completely remaded into something new
      Saints Row 2 should also be remaded but in an remastered fashion (better engine, bah, bah)

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