The Saints Row series is one that took time to find its footing. The first installment could feel like a Grand Theft Auto clone that was trying to have a similar concept, but perhaps didn’t have everything needed to stand out and define itself. Saints Row 2 kicked things up by defining the gameplay, setting a tone, and beginning to establish characters like Johnny Gat, Shaundi, and Pierce. In Saints Row: The Third, the series began really hitting its stride, and Saints Row: The Third Remastered gives people a chance to better appreciate what made this installment strong.
What always made Saints Row: The Third so enjoyable is the gusto with which it kicks things off. You start out on top of the world. Your avatar is the head of the 3rd Street Saints. You’re rich. You pull crazy stunts to promote yourselves, the brand, and any possible products to become even more famous and rich. And then, it strips it all away in a sequence that’s boisterous and elaborate. A bank heist goes wrong! A large crime syndicate called The Syndicate tries to blackmail you into giving them all your money. When you basically give them the finger and fight its minions in mid-air after jumping out of a plane, The Syndicate takes all your cash. You’re in a new city with only Shaundi and Pierce, Johnny Gat is gone, you’re broke with no Respect, and you have a perfect excuse to earn it all back again.
It is a piece where personality counts. Your fellow gang members are all these memorable characters who can be genuinely funny and, honestly, good (to you) people. It can feel like it borrows from Mass Effect, even before Saints Row IV’s recruitment and loyalty missions, due to Homies talking to each other when on missions with you. The Syndicate’s baddies can be goofy, but also menacing. Since Saints Row: The Third Remastered is a “complete” bundle, it means you also get prettier versions of the Gangstas in Space, Genkibowl VII, and The Trouble with Clones mission packs that add even more opportunities to interact with weird people in even weirder situations. (The Trouble with Clones is my favorite.)
And honestly, it is all easier to appreciate in this version of the game because Saints Row: The Third Remastered is so extraordinarily pretty. Remasters aren’t uncommon and there are different tiers of them. With some, the main selling point is really just having them on more modern platforms, because there wasn’t enough work put into them to make it worth while. (Silent Hill HD Collection is a good example.) Some go above and beyond like say Final Fantasy VIII Remastered, with new character models and complete visual overhauls. Saints Row: The Third Remastered falls into the latter group. It might not have the frame rates you’re looking for, but everything else genuinely looks better. Because of the new lighting engine, textures, things like new models for characters, vehicles, and weapons, it genuinely feels fresher.
The only thing that seemed out of place was my own avatar. On a standard PlayStation 4 there were times when it stood out in stark contrast to more refined and defined character models. Putting her next to Shaundi or Kinzie especially makes it more noticeable. From behind? Sure. Everything is fine. But once you see the face, which you can normally tweak, that’s where you can see that the defined characters’ models look and feel a bit better.
And, to be frank, Saints Row: The Third Remastered is in a good place right now. Given the current state of the world, a lot of people might be separated from people they care about, stuck spending a lot of time at home, and dealing with incredibly serious and bleak news. This is an injection of pure levity and nonsense at a time when people might need it most. Yes. Let me go fight the Luchadores and their pro-wrestler boss. This is the insanity I need right now.
Let’s be frank. There will always be debates about which Saints Row game is the best. (I’m of the mind that everything after the second entry was a step in a positive direction.) Saints Row: The Third Remastered is a chance to revisit one of the better installments at its best. You have a strong base game, all the DLC that added more personality to it, and a remaster that genuinely improves character models and effects. It comes at a time when some people could very likely use something goofy to lift their spirits. Especially since the co-op remains intact. It’s a good time to be a 3rd Street Saint again.
Saints Row: The Third Remastered will come to the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC via Epic Games Store on May 22, 2020.