The Third Is The Word

HIGH “Power” by Kanye West is the best superhero theme music.

LOW The treatment of women.

WTF I would exceed this review’s word limit listing all the WTFs here.

What’s it like revisiting 2011’s Saints Row: The Third nine years later? It’s crude, brash and sometimes offensive, full of dick jokes and ’80s references, and the entire thing feels like a twisted cartoon trying to overload the player’s senses… And yet, there’s still plenty to love and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Originally released for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC, Saints Row: The Third was the third entry in Volition’s third-person open-world action series. Spearsoft has remastered it for modern consoles and added mild visual upgrades including improved lighting and a general graphic cleanup, but up close it still looks like a title from 2011. Thankfully, the visuals are just stylized enough — I’d say it hasn’t aged horribly. This remaster also includes all of the DLC and unlocks bonus weapons and costumes from the start.

SR:tTR takes place five years after the events of Saints Row 2. The members of the Third Street Saints gang have become international celebrities, their faces and names plastered on everything from energy drinks to science-fiction blockbusters. Adjusting to life after fame (and a botched bank robbery) they find themselves caught up in a turf war of epic proportions between several rival gangs in the city of Steelport.

The player controls the leader of the Saints, and they are fully customizable — and seriously, the customization is crazy, including everything from voice options to, uh… more ‘intimate’ aspects of the body. Creating a character feels like a game unto itself, and the player will be granted even more options down the line.

The central plot is a basic revenge tale as the Saints try to take over Steelport while avenging a fallen member, but it largely feels like a cobbled mess built on references and gags that teenagers wrote — the bombastic setpieces and humor sometimes work, but it also suffers from a serious lack of originality since many of them are parodies of other games and movies – things like an entire sequence that’s just one huge Tron reference that also nods to the arm cannon from Capcom’s Mega Man games. There are also some wacky survival minigames that parody Japanese game shows, and more.

While some of these worked more than others, the understated and sarcastic banter between the Saints was what had me laughing hardest. For example, there’s a pimp named Zimos who only spoke in autotune and managed to steal every scene he was in. I also loved how my main character would frequently reply to every command with a smartass remark amidst the gunfire. It’s not much, but those subtle moments made me laugh out loud more than some of the Looney Tunes-esque gags.

Thankfully, the story takes a backseat to gameplay. Steelport is home to many, many diversions, and while SR:tTR never reinvents the open-world formula, the content is enjoyable enough to stomach mild genre fatigue.

Some missions have the player protecting AI companions with a sniper rifle, there are city-ruining tank rampages, assassination contracts and even a mode where the player has to cause bodily harm to themselves in order to earn insurance money. One particular highlight was when the player jumps from a helicopter and onto a penthouse while Kanye West’s “Power” is blasting in the background. Of course, not every mission can be that great, but there’s enough variety here to keep open-world players engaged.

Experience from completed missions grants players enhancements, which makes up a large part of the experience. By the end of the game, my character was able to sprint for an unlimited amount of time while shooting flaming rounds from an assault rifle.

Mechanically, Third shows its age. The characters feel weightless and there’s no option to toggle auto-aim like most modern third-person shooters offer. Driving is a little clunky, and the guns players will use have different properties, but they don’t feel different. The hand-to-hand combat is also a bit creaky, since it’s damn-near impossible to land a punch.

It’s also worth noting that the enemies feel like bullet sponges and are relentless. On the Normal difficulty setting I found myself often having to restart at a checkpoint after getting annihilated. The AI companions meant to give backup are useless and need to be saved by the player far too often.

In spite of all this, revisiting Steelport after so long was still an enjoyable experience. Seeing my custom character discuss very serious plans while wearing samurai armor and an angry tiger mask is the best comedic relief any game has offered me in the past ten years, and replaying it brought me back to a time in middle school when I wanted nothing but open-world. It’s also the perfect starting point for those new to the series, and any game that lets me dress up as a hot dog while flying on a motorized broomstick deserves a glowing recommendation.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

— CJ Salcedo

Disclosures: This game is developed by Volition, remastered by Spearsoft and published by Deep Silver. It’s available on XBO, PS4 and PC. This copy was obtained via publisher and reviewed on PS4. Approximately 25 hours of play was devoted to the single-player and the game was completed solo. No time was spent in co-op.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M for Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Content, and Strong Language. While the humor of the game is very juvenile, this not one that kids should be playing. Characters constantly swear with words like sh*t, f*ck and b*tch used in abundance. There are plenty of sexual references ranging from strippers, prostitutes, the ability to make the player character fully naked (with pixelation covering any sensitive areas) and a bat that looks like a marital aid. The game is also violent, with characters getting shot, stabbed and bludgeoned to death. Definitely not for any kids below the age of 17.

Colorblind Modes: Colorblind modes are not present in the options menu.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Gamers: I played a majority of the game with no sound and found it easy to manage. Enemies appear as red blips on the minimap as well as collectibles and mission markers. There are subtitles though they cannot be resized or recolored. I’d say it’s fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: No, the controls are not remappable.

Cj Salcedo
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2 years ago

I know the aesthetic of SR4 isn’t as nice, and the gameplay makes guns almost unnecessary, but I laughed more in the first 30 minutes of SR4 than in the entirety of SR3.

Brad Gallaway
2 years ago
Reply to  hdefined

I’ve said this many times, but SR4>SR3 for me, bigtime. Honestly, SR3 is the worst-written one – pretty sure the dev team was going through a big shakeup at that time and they were not on point. However, SR3 was where most people finally took notice of the series, so since it was the first SR for many players, they always think of it as the best one, when really, it’s just… not.

2 years ago
Reply to  Brad Gallaway

I really enjoy 4 but 3 (obviously) stuck with me. I think it’s interesting to see you two share the opinion that 4 is better, since it’s usually the opposite online.

I will say, 4 has one of my favorite jokes in games: “Kinzie, what’s the right context for, and I quote, “I’m the Patron Saint of America, we should probably look into changing the pledge of allegiance to One Nation Under Me.””