The best just got better-er
Saints Row The Third is the best Saints Row. Let’s put it out there, OK? While Saints Row 4 put the concept of a delusional, money-hungry, egomaniacal criminal becoming President into the public consciousness (and let’s face it, what are the odds of THAT happening… Wait, what?), Saints Row The Third struck the perfect balance of fun and gameplay that was a series high point.
Almost 9 years have passed since The Third’s original release now, which seems insane to me. Playing the game to death on the Xbox 360 holds very fond memories for me, from its opening mission where you skydive from an exploding cargo plane, to the absolute pinnacle of the http://deckers.die mission, it was an unabashed romp through the town of Steelport with enough weaponry to equip a full scale coup. SR4 had superpowers which basically turned it into the Crackdown game that everybody wanted, but The Third was “grounded” enough (if you can call it that) to allow for unparalleled chaos within a tightly defined world. I’m not going to delve too deep into the story, because… Well, honestly, it’s not that deep to begin with. Our original review called it “as deep as a coat of paint”, which is probably about right. Speaking of coats of paint, however, brings me nicely on to what makes this remaster shine.
Graphically, Saints Row The Third was always “OK”. It was obviously hampered by the aging tech of the PS3 and Xbox 360 at the time of release, and was frequently hampered by technical issues in the frame rate, weird resolution issues and slowdown in gameplay which made it unwieldy at times. Fortunately, the vast majority of those issues are now smoothed out. For comparison’s sake, I recently plugged my PS3 back in and fired up the original disc, and was shocked by just how iffy the game looked and played. Frame rates all over the place, fuzzy looking visuals, shocking loading times and more to boot, it really didn’t feel like the game I fell in love with in late 2011. Within minutes on a PS4 Pro, though, I remembered why I grew to adore this game. Raiding a bank vault with some explosives and a helicopter, while wearing huge papier mâché head of yourself? Priceless.
Graphically, the remaster is a step up. If you’re coming into this expecting the kinds of levels of detail that the Final Fantasy VII remake offers, I’ll tell you now that you’re going to be disappointed. This is a remaster in the purest sense of the word, taking the original game and cleaning it up to the point where it’s how you remember it being. The game is littered with hundreds of visual upgrades, some slight, and others about as subtle as a rocket launcher. First up is the character models. All of the main story characters have been redesigned, and it shows. In addition to this, there are improvements to vehicle models, weapon designs and a ton of visual flair has been thrown in for good measure across the city. There are more NPCs dotted around the world, new lighting effects and things like volumetric fog really help the city to feel more alive than it ever has done before.
One thing that I can immediately hear people asking, however, is “Does it run at 60fps?”. The answer, sadly, is no. At least not consistently on PS4 or PS4 Pro. The option to unlock the frame rate is there, but it is quite variable, and although it’s nice that the option exists, the variance in frame rate is really noticeable at times. This was made immediately apparent when I jumped into the PC version of the original and had it running maxed out at a solid 60fps. It also ran into a few stutters at points, which I’m going to put down to the engine, as even in the early missions, it did the same thing on both the PS3 and PC versions of the original. The remastered effects and textures do have a positive impact on the game, however. The improved resolution is the first thing, as it makes everything look much more crisp, without any of the issues with aliasing that plagued the first release. It’s a welcome upgrade all round.
When you get stuck into the game, you’ll find out just how insane it really does get. Whether it’s slapping someone round the face with a baseball bat designed like a sex toy, or calling in a VTOL jet to rain hell down on a bunch of enemies dressed like professional wrestlers, or maybe even completing one of the utterly bonkers “insurance fraud” side missions, it truly is a fantastic game. At some point in time, there was a fork in the road for GTA and Saints Row. GTA went down the path of realism, while Saints Row held up both middle fingers and jumped aboard the “Let’s just have fun” bus. With both feet first. Through the windscreen. Then set it on fire.
Normally, I try to finish up games as much as possible for review. However, having completed The Third multiple times in the past, I can honestly say that I’m looking forward to playing through what I have left of the game at my own pace. The visual overhaul that it’s received is really impressive, and while that elusive locked 60fps looks like it will remain in the realm of the PC Master Race, this is a great pickup for anyone who’s got a fondness for the series or has yet to experience the madness for themselves.