Saints Row The Third? More like this is the third time I’ve reviewed Saints Row 3, and the second in as many years after last Fall’s technically shaky Nintendo Switch port. I bring that up because it puts me in a pretty good position to confidently say that Saints Row The Third remains not only my favorite Saints game, but also still a decidedly fun one nearly a decade after it first came out. I just thought that if Volition was going to go to all the trouble of remastering this hilarious GTA satire for 4K systems, it would’ve done a little more to live up to the gracefully aging gameplay.Here’s why you should play this game, if you haven’t yet. Saints Row 3, while comically over-the-top, was nevertheless the last Saints game to have one foot still planted in reality before number 4 went full Matrix and Mass Effect on us. That relatability laid the foundation for some of its most memorable moments in 2011, and those remain fantastic in 2020. There was jumping out of a helicopter and parachuting down to reclaim your gang’s old rooftop penthouse to the tune of Kanye West’s “Power.” And no matter how many times I play it, I’ll still have a big smile on my face while cruising around singing along to Sublime’s classic ‘90’s tune “What I Got.” Its progression is still smart, too; completing missions, activities, and daring driving earns you respect and money, which can be cashed in for upgrades like dual-wielded pistols, NPC gang members you can call in as backup during battles, and increasingly stupid weapons and vehicles. Even Saints 3’s story – often a weak point in open-world jack-of-all-trades games like this – is worth seeing through. There are two equally funny endings that I guarantee you won’t see coming.Saints Row 3 also layered a lot of fun extracurricular activities on top of the comic-book-meets-gang-warfare story. Mayhem, in which you’re given a set amount of time and unlimited ammunition for certain weapons like grenades or a rocket launcher to cause as much property damage and destruction as possible, is still gleefully fun. And I’m not sure any open-world game’s side quest or secondary activity has given me more joy than the self-destructive Insurance Fraud mode, which combines intentionally over-the-top video game physics with the sensibility of a Looney Tunes cartoon while challenging you to throw your limp body in front of moving vehicles. The goal: to cause as much pain to yourself as humanly possible in a few minutes. It’s as enjoyable now as it was in 2011.
I do wish Saints Row 3 had more going on in the remaster department. The fresh coat of paint slathered over the top of Steelport honestly isn’t all that attractive. I played on PC, which is the only platform including the Xbox One X and PlayStation 4 Pro where the framerate can go above 30fps, and even on Ultra settings it didn’t really inspire any awe. Yes, you can tell that the car models have been redone, the character models have been touched up, and the daytime lighting is better in general, but it doesn’t look anywhere near as good as something made in 2020 – and a good remaster should at least be plausible as a modern game. Rain looks especially bad, and one area where Saints 3 hasn’t held up well is seeing the same male and female grunts shooting at you hundreds of times.
If you’re going to deliver a remaster of a game that’s only nine years old, it’s got to look better than this – especially if it’s at the end of a console generation and not up to what the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro are capable of. We’re staring down the barrel of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, and their games will make this mediocre update age incredibly quickly. Still, the game that lurks underneath has fundamentally held up very well, and will still be a good time for new players even if it won’t live up to the rose-colored glasses view of the returning crew.