Over the top, extreme and ludicrous is Saints Row The Third Remastered in a nutshell. An action adventure sandbox title, that puts the player in situations that are similar to action films like the Fast and the Furious franchise. Want to drive a tank out of a plane and battle other tanks while plummeting to the ground? How about using a RC car controller to control full size vehicles to take out rival wrestlers? Or just run around and hitting anyone you can with a dildo bat? How about doing this with a friend? If this all sounds satisfying to you, buckle up.
The Saints Row series is the Ying to Grand Theft Auto’s Yang. Volition released the first game in the series back in 2006 to critical success, with all titles being a sandbox affair and following the formula not too far from the GTA titles. The first game would have the player become a gang member of the Third Street Saints. The Saints would set out to take down three rival gangs of their fictional city, Stillwater. The first title would end on a cliff-hanger, paving way for 2008s Saints Row 2, which would see our heroes once again take down three rival gangs to take back Stillwater.
Enter Saints Row The Third, originally released in 2011 but now remastered for the current generation. The largest difference between this series and the GTA games is its focus on humour and the absurd. Saints Row does not take itself seriously and as the series has progressed, it has become more and more outlandish. In saying this, the game can be very juvenile and it could offend the wrong type of gamer, especially if they are walking in blind. If you are a serious gamer, this is not for you. The majority of female NPCs are sexualised, wearing next to nothing and acting in a provocative manner. Even many of the enemies portray this, such as the sexy nurse assassins and the Blood Countesses, who wear naughty nun uniforms. If you know nothing about the series you should expect the preposterous. I absolutely love how it does not take itself seriously and how the humour has become a staple of the series.
The game starts 5 years on since the conclusion of Saints Row 2 and the Saints are now the flavour of the month, becoming celebrities in their own right with their own merchandise line, energy drinks and an upcoming movie being made about them. The entertainment begins with a number of spectacular missions, robbing a bank while wearing masks of the Saints beloved leader, Johnny Gat, all to promote their upcoming movie. It quickly turns pear-shaped, with the Saints being arrested and turned over to the ‘Syndicate’ and their leader Phillipe Loren. The Syndicate consists of three of Steelport’s gangs, each with their own flavour and unique style. They are:
- The Morningstar, who run the local sex trade.
- The Deckers, who are a bunch of hackers and control the black market.
- The Luchadores, who are arguably the cities biggest gang and themed on Mexican wrestlers, led by the eccentric Killbane.
About halfway into the game, the Saints and their rival gangs also have to deal with the might of STAG, the Special Tactical Anti-Gang unit brought in by Senator Monica Hughes. STAG prove to be the biggest threat for the Saints with their private military muscle. Their soldiers carry laser weaponry and use tanks, helicopters, troop carriers, jets and even an aircraft carrier. The Saints must overcome all four obstacles and claim Steelport for their own.
After the initial introductory mission, the player creates their own character with an extensive amount of freedom. Apart from the standard gender, race, height, weight and outfit options, there are a number of hilarious possibilities and get-ups. Want to make a green Hulk look alike in a G-string? What about a super over-weight male in female formal wear? Or blue bearded lady with a Hispanic male voice? The player can even change the characters sex appeal, which changes the size of the male package or female bust. The possibilities are huge and as the game is played and businesses around the city are purchased, it unlocks more outfits, tattoos and body cosmetics.
Once the players character is completed (which took me nearly an hour), it is into the core gameplay of missions and for me, it is these missions that are the star of the show. While I will not drop any more spoilers, many of the core missions have a lot of variety and are much more than the old formula of receive a mission, travel point A to B and kill the target. It is this rinse and repeat that has made many other open world games feel monotonous. The majority of the Saints Row missions mix it up, be it through weaponry, vehicles or set pieces all set to a kick-ass soundtrack pumping along with the players destruction. While the main campaign has 47 missions and is approximately 15 hours in length, it is the Activities, Diversions and building your Respect that pads the game out in a good way.
Saints Row The Third has no traditional side missions; instead it focuses on a number of activities that are scattered throughout each of the cities territories. Activities include:
- Guardian Angel, which involves protecting one of your homies by using a sniper rifle while hanging from a helicopter and blowing up incoming vehicles with a RPG.
- Mayhem and Tank Mayhem, where the player causes as much havoc as possible, racking up damage either on foot or in a tank.
- Escort or Tiger Escort, simply driving a celebrity around town whilst avoiding different obstacles, or doing this with a tiger in the passenger seat that attacks the player for collisions causing the car to swerve.
- Professor Genki’s Super Ethical Reality Climax, a game show where the player needs to get to the end of the map at the same time as avoiding traps, killing mascots and shooting reward boards to earn the required score. This is my favourite of the Activities.
- Other activities include Heli Assault, Insurance Fraud, Snatch, Trafficking, Trail Blazing and Cyber Blazing.
These Activities have different difficulties, Easy, Medium and Hard and the higher the difficulty, the higher the cash reward and Respect.
Also around the city of Steelport are Diversions and most of these can be found on the map or via the player’s cell phone. They include:
- Assassinations, pick a target, go to the location, lure them in and strike.
- Vehicle Theft, get your ‘Gone in 60 seconds’ on with car jacking certain vehicles from certain territories.
- Gang Operations, killing enemy gang member to takeover a territory.
- Streaking, surprising a number of citizens by running naked through the city.
- Store and Building Ownership, which extends the players Respect and earns hourly income
- City Takeover, which is rewarded upon completion of all Activities, Gang Operations and by buying all stores and properties.
- Base Jumping, Barn Storming, Hold-Ups, Mugging, Vehicle Surfing, Challenges and Collectibles to name just a few more.
All of the above listed activities earn the player Respect. Respect is the games levelling up system and once the player earns certain levels of Respect, it unlocks abilities or ability upgrades. The abilities are extensive and cover a lot of qualities including health and regeneration, damage reduction reduced reload times, dual wielding, increased ammunition through to taking away the player’s notoriety. Unlocks also include more cosmetic items, upgrades for homies and automatically taking over territories. Be warned that all unlocks cost money and purchasing real estate and taking over the city are required to bankroll these upgrade habits.
On top of player upgrades, stores littered around the map offer the player upgrades for weapons, vehicles and cosmetic items for cash. Most weapons can be upgraded 4 times, boosting weapons in strength, accuracy, magazines and other perks such as scopes and ignition rounds.
Speaking of weapons, there are tons of them the player can accumulate. The player carries 7 weapons from 7 classes at anytime being a melee weapon, handgun, sub machinegun, shotgun, machinegun, explosive weapon and special weapon. While there are many of the standard weaponry in these classes there are also a number of more bizarre weapons. These include:
- The Penetrator, which is a massive one-eyed purple dildo bat.
- Apoca-Fist, which explodes enemies in a single punch.
- Shark-O-Matic, a shotgun that fires fish guts on targets and attracts a Great White Shark that jumps through the street to munch down.
- Mollusk Launcer, which shoots mind-controlling octopi.
These weapons are all fantastic to play with and there are more to be found throughout this remaster. There are also large temporary weapons carried by brute sized enemies. Once they are defeated these weapons such as a mini gun, flamethrower, grenade launcher become available to use until they run out of ammunition or fuel.
It’s difficult to traverse a sandbox game without vehicles and Saints Row The Third Remastered includes a large number of real world counterparts with fake names. There are sedans, utes, SUVs, emergency service vehicles, motorbikes, trucks, helicopters, jets, boats, tanks and more. On top of that there are a number of special vehicles that the player starts off with via the included DLC, plus others that can be unlocked via completing missions. The super fast sexy kitten car that is shaped like cat with a machine gun tail is a favourite of mine. Any car you don’t own can be jacked, taken back to a workshop, significantly upgraded, modified and then be permanently available in one of the players cribs or any workshop.
Like all Saints Row games, the cast of characters are great, over the top stereotypes that make you laugh. Most of them have quality banter and can even sing with you when along for a joy ride. The characters are the driving force of the story, their charisma will keep you invested during the cutscenes and you may find yourself cheering on the heroes and booing at the villains. The player can bring their homies (once unlocked) with them to tear up the town while roaming the city, but unfortunately they take a back seat during missions unless they are scripted to be there. New character Oleg is awesome and so big he has to be in a back of a pick up truck to go anywhere.
The player also gets a few choices at the conclusion of some missions that give some freedom, resulting in unlocking different rewards. It is not until the final mission that this last choice needs some serious thought due to dire consequences. The good news is the game encourages you to go back and try the other ‘final’ mission, as both are somewhat different and have a different epilogue mission and ending.
The soundtrack in the game is also killer, apart from the great selection on the radio stations with the player spending a lot of time in vehicles; the licenced soundtrack also drops in perfectly through a number of larger, heavy hitting missions. Sound effects to the day are still solid and weapons have a forceful sound.
The remaster brings along a new can of paint. The new lighting and radiance of the world gives everything a glossy look. The skies provide brighter days and at night, the illumination of the lit up billboards on the skyline buildings really pop. All this with HDR makes for an overall better looking game. I really enjoyed the few thunderstorms that passed over; the rain, fog and reflections from puddles are some of the best I have seen in a sandbox title. Sadly, there were only a few of these in my overall 20-hour play through, where I was only 69% complete of all Activities and Diversions. The remaster also includes more NPCs littered around the city to make the world feel more alive. Character models, vehicles and weapon have not just had a face-lift but a complete remodel. While many of the main characters look similar, the extra detail is very noticeable for players returning to Steelport.
The remaster also comes with over 30 pieces of DLC, much of these are cosmetic but it does include a few new weapons and vehicles. The real meat is in the three expansions. The first is Genkibowl VII that provides 4 missions and 3 new activities that are added to the city map. My favourite being Sexy Kitten Yarngasm which is a nod to the Katamari series. The next, Gangstas in Space sees the player complete 4 missions making a film of the same name. The Trouble with Clones has the Saints trying to rescue an old friend. Both Gangstas in Space and Trouble with Clones are story related and do no add new Activities. All DLC is approximately a bit over an hour each and stretch out the story like an epilogue if you want more.
While this review is full of praise there are a number of negatives that do detract from the experience. The frame rate can stutter with large explosions and sadly it is capped at 30FPS on consoles. ‘Pop in’ of vehicles, especially on the freeway is still very obvious and can be distracting. Plus there are a number of frustrating difficulty spikes that can induce player rage. Even with the fresh gloss, lighting, new cars and weapon models, Steelport overall can look long in the tooth. Even though the city is vastly more populated than the original, there were a few occasions that I could be driving for over a minute without seeing a pedestrian, or even a car.
Parental guidance wise, there is no question; this game has images and language that is not appropriate for children, some partners and parents but it can be paused any time if the player needs to get away, or hide the content from prying eyes.
Overall, Saints Row The Third is an entertaining sandbox game that gives the player a set of outstanding tools to create pure mayhem in this absurd toy box. The characters are memorable with each having their own personality and villains with motives. The missions are the highlight of the show; they keep the player on their toes and constantly mix up the experience. The remaster allows current players to jump into Steelport seamlessly and fans of the series will have a blast returning. To put it how Johnny Gat would, freedom, fun and a f#$@ing good time is front and centre of Saints Row The Third Remaster and I can not wait to see where Volition and Deep Silver go next in the series.
+ The outlandish humour and world
+ Variety of missions
+ Fun Activities and options to chose what you want to do
+ Remaster is the best place to start for newcomers
+ Excellent tools to create mayhem
– Steelport is beginning to be outdated
– 30 FPS, even on Xbox One X and PS4 Pro
Pottsy for One More Game
The publisher provided the review code for this game. One More Games thoughts on this title are theirs and theirs alone.