The Saints Row series will always have a special place in my heart for many reasons so when the surprise announcement came that one of my personal favourites in the series was to be re-released as a remastered game for current consoles just as this generation is preparing to make room for the next one made me smile. It gives a chance for fans of the original game to relive the chaos and mayhem that only Saints Row can deliver but also a chance to reintroduce this series to a new audience just in time for a new title in the series…possibly…. hopefully. But next to the smile I had revisiting this game, it also brought up a question that recently I have found myself pondering more and more, do remasters still have a place in a generation now getting used to successful remakes of our classic favourites?
Hard to think its been nine actual years since the original release of Saints Row the Third, a game that really changed a lot fans felt about the series as it embraced the zany arcade craziness over the top mayhem by moving the Saints to a new city and in what is pretty much a reboot of the world, puts the Saints at war with a much larger Syndicate of four crimes bosses who seize the opportunity to take everything from the Saints with their focus on movies and merchandise clouding their focus. It was a clever way to kick off a new chapter in this series and for me at the time it was a welcome one, with GTA becoming a march larger ‘real world’ experience whilst still a parody, it just did not offer the same co-op fun I could have with Saints Row.
Saints Row the Third still has one of the most fun openings to a game and very quickly sets the tone for the rest of the game as the humour, action and soundtrack quickly blend together setting up the Saints before their inevitable fall from power. Right away you can see how the updated visuals and lighting engine have paid off with this remaster as character models and the city of Steel Port look better than ever. It took a while to get used to how current it looks but the city looks great at night and during the day with the new lighting engine really makes it worth while just moving around the city taking it all in especially if you are playing on the Xbox One X.
Whilst the new makeover looks great, the substance of the original game and its gameplay largely remains exactly the same as the original which has both good and bad results for this remaster. First is the good, and that comes in the superb character customisation which allows players to create their very own Saints character from the physical appearance right down to the choice in voice, Male option 3 has always been my go-to choice for example. All the weapons and vehicles are back and now all the DLC vehicles are also available from the beginning as well which might make it a little OP when the first vehicle you can free roam in happens to be a tank but there you, nothing about Saints Row is ever about playing it safe.
The aim is to take Steel Port over and return the Saints to glory whilst getting a little payback on the Syndicate who stole everything from you which requires not only completing a bunch of story missions and some issued by individual characters but also in seizing control of the different areas of the city currently under the control of the 4 Crime Bosses. Nothing has been altered from the original game and it plays exactly as it did but in the last nine years since the original release and seven years since Saints Row IV and though the gameplay is still fun, it feels old after nearly a decade of other games using different mechanics. But the humour is still a massive part of why the Saints Row series is just so fun to play and even more than GTA, it is fully self-aware of both the parody element to the game and the over the top nature to everything it tries to deliver and it pushes the very grown up themes along the way as well which has no better ambassador in the game than the Penetrator bat!
But sadly, along with all the good things that have been brought into 2020, the bugs and glitches have as well and is really a disappointing factor for this remaster. Bugs include button lag such as trying to grab an enemy as a human shield can often fail just as the action to get in a vehicle the normal way can take two or three attempts to complete. Hit detection can also feel off at times and often using the melee finishers can result in falling through the map which it did on more than a few occasions. The AI of your partner on some missions, especially any escort or ones that require you to protect them can be frustrating as I found at key moments they would just freeze, vanish or just be so completely dumb that they just stand there being shot which requires constant reviving. Having to replay whole checkpoints because the AI controlled character would fail to do what it took to progress is as annoying in 2020 as it was originally and I really hope it can be patched to improve it.
This is what brings me to the whole ‘Remaster vs Remake’ argument as yes remastering a game to make it work on current consoles with improved visuals is great for fans to replay or to introduce the series to a new possibly title in the future, but a remake has the advantage of being able to work out the problems of the original like bugs and glitches. Whilst this remaster captures the heart of the original game by taking care to be as truthful to it as possible, not taking the time to work out the bugs and problems such as the camera being so close over the shoulder that it felt like a misstep to modernise it a little by moving it a little further back.
Saints Row the Third Remastered is a great way to revisit a truly classic series that sadly missed out with a new entry this console generation and I hope this is something that might be addressed on the birth of the next generation coming this year. But the bugs take the shine of what is a fun game to play and I fully recommend grabbing a friend and playing this co-op as there is just so much fun to be had at a time when smiles and laughs in the world are few and far between at the moment. I loved returning to Steep Port and the Saints, it has a humour that appealed me all those years ago and this shows that there is still room for Saints Row in current gaming. This is unashamed crazy chaotic fun when everything works, but the frustration of the old issues still being present stick out like a sore thumb.
My best advice, set your vehicle radio station to The Mix and just have a fun time with a friend in the world of Saints Row!