Friday, June 26, 2020

Saints Row: The Third - Remastered (PS4, XB1, PC) Review

I'm running out of time for the month of June, so it's time to kick it into high gear with the review backlog I have this month. Let's begin with Saints Row: The Third - Remastered, my third go with this particular entry in the Saints Row series. Is this remaster of such a high quality that it's worth taking a return trip to Steelport? Like the Saints, let's go marching into the SuperPhillip Central review!

The third time's the charm for the Saints' third entry

I'm no stranger to the Saints, in particular, Saints Row: The Third. Having reviewed it on the PlayStation 3, the Nintendo Switch, and now the PlayStation 4 build of a brand-new remastered version, I've been around Steelport a few times now. Despite the series's flagrant juvenile sense of humor and moments that occasionally bring a cringe to my face, there's something about the open world sandbox gameplay of Saints Row: The Third that keeps me coming back for more.

Saints Row: The Third - Remastered is hardly a "tighten up the graphics on level 3" and call it a day effort. No, between the much more defined and detailed characters and environments, the Saints and Steelport have never looked so good. It almost seems like the developers undersold their own tech giving the game a "Remastered" title when it feels sometimes like a full-fledged remake. While the beauty of the game is a bit of a bittersweet thing, underneath its flashy veneer is a game full of retained bugs and occasional frame-rate issues.

Compare and contrast the top screen (on Switch) to the bottom (on base PS4).
While Saints Row: The Third - Remastered has been greatly changed visually, it remains a very similar experience to its original release back in 2011 with regard to gameplay. Aiming at targets can be a bit troublesome, as can the less than stellar driving controls. There's definitely a learning curve to both. As mentioned, various and numerous bugs and glitches plague the game, whether they be characters falling through the environment and other gameplay-related issues, trophies not popping up, or worse, game crashes. Still, it says something about this remaster and Saints Row: The Third in general that even with these bothersome issues, I still felt the urge to continue playing, seeing myself enjoying my time with the Saints again regardless.

The Deckers are but one of three rival gangs ready to get in the way of the Saints' Steelport domination.
Your character in Saints Row: The Third is yours to customize how ever you wish. The Saints Row series delivers one of the most robust character creation systems in gaming, to my recollection, and everything from voice to brow size to... ahem... sex appeal, can be altered to your liking. As you earn respect from completing missions, performing insane stunts and otherwise awesome feats, you unlock new abilities for your character to purchase for themselves. These range from more ammo capacity, lowered vulnerability to weapons and hazards of various types, higher health and stamina, and an increased amount of Saints members that can tag along with you at once, to name just a small sample of the abundant amount of options available.

The Third Street Saints are number one, baby!
Saints Row: The Third - Remastered as a game, much like the Saints, is one of excess, and Remastered delivers content in spades with all three DLC packages in one nice and neat game. If you recall, the Nintendo Switch port also had these missions in the game right from the start, but with this fully remastered version, you get all that and some gorgeous graphics as opposed to visuals from the early 2010s. These missions take you from encounters with Genki, a bloodthirsty mascot who puts the leader of the Saints through death-defying stunt mini-games, to being an unassuming actor in a crazed director's big blockbuster project about gangsters in space, appropriately called "Gangsters in Space".

It's no Ben-Hur chariot race, but this is one intense vehicular exchange all the same!
Aside from the DLC missions, there are the standard missions within Saints Row: The Third's story that sees the game opening up with the Saints robbing a bank in a caper gone awry, as things are never easy when it comes to the Saints. A rival gang sees that the Saints are arrested for their ill-fated heist and they are thrust into the unknown, the sin-soaked metropolis of Steelport, where the Saints must rebuild their empire from scratch. Of course, the three large gangs of Steelport won't lie down and die so easily. Missions in Saints Row: The Third follow a similar prototype to that the series's clear inspiration, Grand Theft Auto, though Saints Row's third outing has no qualms with going absolutely insane with the stakes and ridiculous scenarios throughout the story.

Yeah... this definitely was not in the whole foolproof "rob the bank vault" plan.
When you're not tackling story missions, there's a host of side hustles and activities to partake in--from purchasing properties, to clearing gang operations strategically sprinkled around Steelport, each piece of side content slowly gives the Saints more of the city to take over. These side hustles also provide the Saints with an hourly cash flow which can be accessed from a helpful phone, which is also used to select missions, assassination targets, vehicle theft targets, as well as to access a map of Steelport. It's a handy and dandy phone, which makes a lot of the work in Saints Row: The Third less tedious to do.

Speaking of tedium, the side activities in Saints Row: The Third - Remastered range from fun to utterly obnoxious with a mix of boring within. It's certainly a blast both figuratively and literally to commandeer a tank and unleash as much destruction and property damage as possible in a set amount of time, while it's more agonizing to deal with a dimwitted AI who seems suicidal in both their driving and their moving about when it concerns the Trafficking missions. Then, there's the Heli Assault side activity, which thankfully there are but two, and these drag on a little too long and can see the health of the AI character you're meant to protect as they proceed to make various deals around Steelport, dwindle to absolutely nothing in a flash. This results in multiple minutes of playtime wasted in a frustrating fashion.

Side activities are mostly optional affairs, offering various rewards for completing them.
Still, there are far more fun moments in Saints Row: The Third - Remastered than there are frustrating or yawn-inducing ones. Laying the smack down in a ring full of Luchadores, taking on the appearance of a villain via plastic surgery to infiltrate an enemy base, and saving the day after an ultimate, ultra-important, in-game choice as the song "I Need A Hero" by Bonnie Tyler blares show just some of the crazy silliness that Saints Row: The Third - Remastered exudes. These are the entertaining and enjoyable moments that the game produces on a frequent basis.

Saints Row: The Third - Remastered may not have evolved too much in the gameplay department, but what it has done is more than market itself well as a remaster, looking phenomenal at times. Much of the humor is dated and beyond juvenile, but there is some good stuff that gave me a giggle here and there. If you're sick of Steelport and the Saints' adventures therein, this remaster is not going to do anything to sweeten your opinion on the fictional city, but for those who want to jump in for a first, second, or--like me--a third time, then Saints Row: The Third - Remastered is a great game and excellent effort.

[SPC Says: B]

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