Saints Row The Third Remastered Still Feels Like A Relic

saints row the third remastered

HDR and upscaled textures can't stop Saints Row The Third from feeling like it belongs in the past.

When Saints Row The Third launched in 2011, the games landscape was wildly different. It was a booming year for games: Skyrim, Arkham City, Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 dominated the gaming headlines. The industry was only beginning its ascent into the cultural mainstream. Games were still seen as over-the-top, violent and mind-numbing affairs — and there were multiple calls for bans on video game violence.

Saints Row developers Volition took these concerns and ran with them, poking fun at the controversy. The game's main story follows a group of gangsters known as the Saints as they take over the streets of Steelport and navigate the seedy underworld of pimps, wrestlers, aliens and clones.

saints row the third review

At the time, it was called out for its treatment of sex workers, its portrayal of women (for which the developers later issued an apology) and including a giant dildo known as 'The Penetrator' in the game.

The Saints Row franchise has always been tongue-in-cheek. The intention was never harmful. The series leant into stereotypes as a means of subversion. But in 2020, it's hard to take Saints Row The Third as a well-intentioned joke. While missions like Gangstas in Space and The Trouble with Clones remain incredible and wild fun, it's hard to enjoy a game that appears to have such overt disregard for women.

In Saints Row The Third, women are mostly depicted as "whores" and if they're not obviously sexual in nature they'll traverse the streets of Steelport in thoroughly revealing clothes. One of the major antagonistic factions you'll face in the game is the Morningstar, a group of gangsters who dominate the sex trade. Every woman in this faction wears a red latex outfit complete with thigh high boots, collared chokers and low-cut tops. These women are treated as expendable and killing them sends their bodies ricocheting across the screen in a flash of arse and tits.

Tits which fly and bounce across the screen like they're attempting to gain sentience and depart the Earth.

saints row the third remastered

Breast physics have a tough time in games. Recently, Fortnite stoked up controversy with a character model that came built in with jiggling, bouncing breast physics. It was replaced with a hard-chested character model after an apology from Epic that deemed the snafu 'embarrassing' and 'careless'.

The thing is, breasts do jiggle. They're weird sacks of fat and tissue. They're not solid and developers shouldn't be afraid to create realistic female bodies — but realism is hardly something that Saints Row The Third does well. In the game, boobs wobble like free-standing jelly. Playing a female character means watching your chest bob and ripple with every step. Even one glance across the screen sends your character's boobs flying. And of course these physics extend to every woman in the game. You can find these strange, liquid-y objects on every street corner and they're so distractingly unnatural that it's laughable.

I'm sure the Saints Row The Third developers have seen boobs before, but Saints Row boobs are like half-remembered visions from a dream. It would be funny if boobs weren't the only thing women are in this game. Even helpful 'homie' Shaundi isn't much more than her flapping, exposed breasts.

The irony of Saints Row The Third attempting to be a parody is that by objectifying the women of the game as they do, they're still actively objectifying them. It doesn't feel like a joke when women are singled out for sexualisation and some missions revolve entirely around their sexual exploitation and abuse at the hand of pimps.

saints row the third review

It's a bugbear that pops up often in games because women have so often drawn the short straw when it comes to their in-game portrayal. This isn't new. Gaming in the 2010s was dominated by white male figures because the industry catered to a slim demographic — a demographic which is no longer gaming's sole audience.

Saints Row The Third is a heavy-handed product of its time. While it's ridiculous, fun and over-the-top, its parody leanings have been lost in 2020 because games have risen to become as ridiculous as the games it attempts to parody. The games of 2020 are wild and shocking. Cyberpunk 2077 is leading that charge with dildos, first person sex, active sexual assault and customisable genitalia being the norm for the game. 2020 makes Saints Row The Third look tame in comparison and the humour has suffered accordingly.

In 2013, early internet star Tom Green penned a blog about how his lewd comedy work had been dulled by years of imitation and repetition in the years since the 1990s. The impact and shock factor of his work was lost because wild, injury-laden antics became commonplace. People stopped reacting and it lost its sense of controversy. The same is true for Saints Row The Third. Overt depictions of female sexuality, sex work and abuse of women in games is now commonplace — it's not edgy or controversial anymore.

saints row the third remastered reviewA sexy nun. Wow, never seen that before.

Without that shocking humour, Saints Row The Third presents as a straight video game narrative. Re-releasing the game in 2020 only highlights just how far the games industry has come since then.

Today, women carry blockbuster titles like The Last of Us Part II. They're queens, adventurers, sirens and warriors. When you compare the leading ladies of the modern era of games to the women of Saints Row The Third, the difference is stark and very disappointing.

In 2020, playing Saints Row The Third feels embarrassing.

Saints Row The Third looks like a modern game. A complete visual overhaul makes textures and colours pop. The remastering here is genuinely fantastic, particularly at night. HDR rendering and a new lighting engine makes textures sparkle and builds out the usually drab streets of Steelport. But slapping a fresh coat of paint on this game can't save it from feeling outdated. It was fantastic in 2011, a parody of video game violence and shock culture. In 2020, it's no longer shocking or controversial.

Saints Row The Third looks better than ever. But it's hard not to feel like the game should've stayed in the past.


Comments

    Well I for one am glad that you aren't the one deciding which games deserve to stay in the past and which ones dont.

    These days co-op games only seem to exist to sell skins and the gameplay is secondary to the monetization. I can accept some aspects of a game being outdated if one of the outdated features is getting a complete product for your money.

    I just enjoy playing the game, while also understanding that it's depiction of women is in no way realistic or should affect the level of respect I have in real life.

    I'm not sure I completely understand feminism, but I just try to treat everyone as an equal individual.

    This just goes back to, it's not necessarily the game, but the already existing mindset of the person experiencing it.

    Also, not fair to Shaundi, she's so confidant and smart, she's FAR more than just boobs

      I think we can discuss issues like this without being nasty to each other also

        That's a very mature approach, and I appreciate it. Like I said, I enjoy Saints Row a lot and it's good fun - but it's important to call out the issues the game has as well. Not everyone will feel the same way and that's okay.

          You also say "In 2020, playing Saints Row The Third feels embarrassing" before your summary of saying it looks new but should have stayed in the past. If you actually enjoy playing it and think it's good fun perhaps you should have put that in your summary as well.

            I mention earlier in the piece that the game is good fun - and it is. In calling it out as embarrassing what I mean is that it's not a game I would feel comfortable sharing with parents or a friend - its treatment of women is laughably bad, and it's easy for others to take it at face value without a deeper understanding of the franchise.

              Yeah, I'm 38, and I'm not rushing to show this to my 80 year old mother, nor my 10 year old Brother in law (His parents let him play games I wouldn't allow without minimum a firm discussion; Mortal Kombat 11)

              I'm not trying to demean any minority's/gender's/attraction's struggle here, but I don't get a positive representation in media at all. I'm a slightly overweight ginger with glasses and a emotional disability. Best we got was Charles Crandall Finster (worth 0 Points, 90's kids)

              "it's easy for others to take it at face value without a deeper understanding"

              and that's just it

              Comedian Frankie Boyle's got this little speech from one of his shows, wherein he makes a joke about killing his family. The audience giggle, and kinda sound slightly uncomfortable, and he points out, he obviously hasn't, it's a joke. Reminds of these kind of things.

              Don't take everything as you see it, and yeah, try to understand what's appropriately right and wrong in the actual world.

              Sorry if this is too much, that disability can make me focus and rant.

              Oh forgot to mention, I tend to play a female character in saints games, because I genuinely enjoy that she maintains the cocky macho bravado no matter the gender.

              Could you imagine if you could've been a female Kratos..?

      The dismissive description of Shaundi in the game really undermines the article, since Shaundi is the intelligent, stable and grounded member of the crew. It shows a shallow reading only focused on appearances. Which is confusing since Shaundi's outfits really aren't overly skin baring in any of her appearances. Crop top with a jacket over it and pants, worn in a confident no-nonsense style.

      I'm not sure how the Penetrator is problematic, since statistically speaking you'd be smacking around more male gang members than female with it in the game. Same with the weapon that was cut from the Australian release of SR4. (I do hope an uncensored version of all the games is released on AU Steam / GOG one day)

      All in all, its easy to pull apart the article piece by piece for its flaws (from my perspective), particularly since it has a tone of slut shaming for the clothes that some (but not all) of the female NPCs wear, but as you said so eloquently:

      This just goes back to, it's not necessarily the game, but the already existing mindset of the person experiencing it.

        The Penetrator was considered problematic at the time because it was shocking and appeared to promote sexual violence - it's now understood for the joke it is. Unfortunately, the Australian Classification Board remains very strict.

        The issue with the outfits isn't me slut shaming - it's the fact that every woman in the game is designed to be sexual and attractive for a mostly male audience. I'm not going to get into the male gaze because it's an overdone topic but personally it made me uncomfortable and undermined the power of the female characters.

        You're very welcome to pull apart this article - it's a personal opinion and one I stand by. We all experience games differently and personal context is important.

          Thank you for responding. I realise that my response could come across as a bit harsh. I'd written a bit more out in my initial response and just cut it back to two positions I could stand by at that time. In the end, I agree about the personal context, and opinion.

          I don't know if you've had a chance to play the uncut Saints Row 4, but the missions they removed are the conclusion to Shaundi's growth and development from her introduction as a stoner addict with a head for business in 2, through her becoming a recovering addict putting all her energy and attention into business, and trying to become a replacement for Gat for the Boss in SR3, and finally the two sides coming to clash and her coming to terms that she didn't need to go from one extreme to the other.

          She's easily the character with the most development through the series, which was of course thrown away by the Censorship Board due to the presence of the 'alien narcotics'. Yet you've got her and the MC doing actual drugs in SR2. (Go figure)

          So that was where I was coming from with my defense of Shaundi.

        Penetrator aside, I genuinely feel you've missed Shaundi's arc like akeashar says below, but I'll let it slide cos I'm enjoying the polite exchange.

          That's a very fair point, and I definitely could've been more patient with Shaundi's character arc. She is a strong character but I found it hard to look past her character design, particularly when every female character in the game is designed in such an exaggerated, 'sexy' style. But again, that's a personal thing and others will have less of a problem with the overall stylisation and crassness of the game. Thank you for explaining more about her arc.

    "It was fantastic in 2011, a parody of video game violence and shock culture. In 2020, it's no longer shocking or controversial"

    Yeah 2020 feels like a much less fun time to live in than 2011.

    I can't actually remember the plot to this one, as my character exclusively used zombie voice.

    I prefer this game over some microtransaction nonsense and an unfun open world like most modern games are. I do wish they'd have added all the clothes from 4 to 3 and the couple of extra cars just for more variety.

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