The Remaster Dilemma
Remasters are tough cookies to review. Odds are, if a game is popular enough to be getting remastered, most people already ďgetĒ what it's all about. Itís likely a good game, and thereís probably already been hundreds of reviews talking about the quality of the base title. So, how do I review the remaster? Do I spend my time going through every detail and fine point of the main game as if playing for the first time (Iíve put quite a few hours into the original Saints Row: The Third)? Do I do a deep-dive into the technological improvements and rate the game based on how much of an improvement it is over the original? Both seem flawed, so Iím going to hodgepodge them together and give you a little bit of both.
If you somehow aren't familiar with the Saints Row franchise by now, itís actually a fairly interesting story how it got to where it is now. Way back in 2006, the original Saints Row launched as a relatively grounded knock-off of the Grand Theft Auto franchise. You had your gangs, your city, your cars, and all the other good stuff that GTA is known for. The problem was that it just didnít really do much that itís bigger brother didnít, and it didnít do any of those things better. So, as GTA IV came out and showed a grayer, more dreary GTA experience, Saints Row found its niche by going the other direction. Saints Row 2 was a little brighter and a little more light hearted. Saints Row: The Third cranked the wackiness up, turning the whole thing into the beautiful, raunchy comedy that the series is known for today. The fourth game may have taken things a bit too far in that direction, leaving the third in many peopleís eyes to be the seriesí peak. Now, 9 years later, number three is showing some of its age, and this remaster aims to bring the experience to 2020.
What is My Purpose?
Itís important to understand that this game is absolutely a remaster and in no way a remake. The game plays exactly the same. There isnít new content, voice acting, or anything else. Itís the same game with a new coat of paint and better performance. If youíve already played and enjoyed the original Saints Row: The Third, I donít really see a huge reason to jump into the remaster. If you havenít yet experienced the mayhem and have been interested in checking it out, this remaster is absolutely the definitive way to play. In that regard, it succeeds in its objectives, and for that itís hard to give it too hard of a time.
Things are definitely improved visually, most notably the lighting. More contrast results in a less muddied look, and colors have a much more satisfying pop. Faces look better, too, with more depth and clarity. Driving at night is perhaps the biggest improvement, with darker darks and the presence of better light reflections on shiny surfaces. Itís nothing groundbreaking and, even on ultra, isnít what Iíd call gorgeous, but itís certainly not hard to look at. The thing is, the original has aged well enough that, while the difference is noticeable, it still doesnít look bad. Given that this overhaul is largely the only reason this remaster exists, it becomes a bit harder to recommend. While itís definitely the best way to play, and newcomers to the title should pick it up over the original, Iím not sure itís enough draw for anyone thatís been on this ride before.
A Sense of Humor
While I find the game absolutely hilarious, your mileage is going to depend almost solely on if this brand of middle school humor works for you. To me, most everything works, from the ridiculous self-ragdolling side games to the giant purple dildo bats, but if that kind of thing seems unappealing to you there isnít really any way around it. That humor is the game. Itís its essence. Its raison díÍtre. If you donít dig it, no amount of solid gameplay or customization is going to win you over. If it is your bag, the laughs start early and donít stop. Of course, humor isnít all the game has to offer. Controls are tight and the game runs well (barring some so-bad-theyíre funny environmental glitches), and the willingness of the title to keep one foot on the ground and one in the absurd makes for some breathtakingly beautiful action segments. In the opening two missions alone youíll be hanging from a giant bank safe suspended from a helicopter as you mow down other helicopters, then youíll blast your way out of a corner by raining hell down with drone-fired missiles. Itís beautiful mayhem, and the whole time the same words will be running through your head: damn, I feel like a badass.
Overall there isnít much more to say about Saints Row: The Third Remastered because, all in all, itís the same game I loved back in 2011. Underneath a fairly fresh coat of paint is the same adrenaline pumping, juvenile story of a gang-turned-media-sensation trying to rebuild itself. In that regard, assessed purely in a vacuum, this game is a smash hit. In context, though, I canít help but feel this release is a bit premature. With the original Saints Row: The Third still being recent enough that it looks alright and plays well, I canít shake the feeling that letting it nap for another few years may have resulted in a more impressive remaster.
Still holds the same juvenile charm and bravado that it did nine years ago, visual upgrades are noticeable, the game controls smoothly
Not enough difference between the original and remaster to justify another go around for those that have played through the original.