I remember having a LOT of fun playing Saints Row: The Third on the PlayStation 3. Whilst the previous entries offered enjoyable crime-fuelled romps in open-world cities, it was the third game in the series that really took it to the next level thanks to its sillier approach to gameplay and the sheer absurdity of the tasks you complete. It just made for a good time and proved popular with both gamers and critics in the process.
Despite this, I was still a little surprised to see that the game was getting a release on the Nintendo Switch. Sure, we’ve seen plenty of games getting some surprise modern remasters these days, but this wasn’t one I expected to see. It’s hard to complain given that I had such a good time playing it back when it originally released though, so getting to do it all over again in the palm of my hands could only be a good thing. However, whilst it still offers silly and over-the-top fun, it’s easy to see that Saints Row: The Third is a bit dated these days.
Saints Row: The Third sees the Saints propelled into fame, with the gang now recognised by the public and proving to be cult icons. That doesn’t mean they would have changed their ways though and to promote the release of an upcoming Saints Row movie, they rob a bank. Of course, it all goes a bit wrong when they’re arrested and face off against the Syndicate, a powerful organisation that want to get rid of the Saints. This all leads to a showdown on the streets of Steelport, with the Saints having to battle the Syndicate threat in order to leave their own unique mark on the city.
The tale is humorous and full to the brim with silly moments, and it’s complimented further by the zany nature of Saints Row: The Third’s gameplay. Once again you’re able to create a kooky custom character (and there are PLENTY of neat customisation options) and then lead them through a vast open-world, all whilst taking down a ton of enemies (and civilians if you like) and partaking in some absurd activities. It follows the same sort of setup as Grand Theft Auto, but with the zaniness notched up to the maximum.
One of the most delightful things about the game is the range of side activities you get to complete. A lot of these are pretty conventional in design, such as the Driving Stunts, the Base Jumping, the Assassinations, and the Drug Trafficking, but then there are also more sillier tasks to complete such as the Tiger Escort that sees you driving your tiger passenger to various locales as it tries to attack you, the Insurance Fraud where you have to get yourself as beaten up and bruised as possible by passing vehicles, and the infamous ‘Professor Genki’s Super Ethical Reality Climax’ where you partake in a gameshow full of traps and enemies to take out. Yeah, there’s a whole lot of fun stuff to do in Steelport, which when combined with the set-pieces of the main story missions make for a very enjoyable time.
Of course, Saints Row: The Third is an older game with it launching on last-gen consoles back in 2011, so naturally a lot of the gameplay mechanics do feel dated. The shooting itself can be a little clunky and there’re no cover mechanics either, so it definitely feels a lot less fluid than more recently released third-person shooters. It never feels outright bad or anything, but you’ll certainly feel like you’re playing a last-gen game.
Whilst the gameplay itself was always going to prove fun thanks to its zany and over-the-top nature, it was with the game’s performance and presentation that I was most concerned. It’s worth noting from the get-go that Saints Row: The Third feels a lot better to play on the Switch’s handheld mode as opposed to being docked, with quite a few frame rate issues and sketchy visuals being on show when played on the big screen.
It’s not something that bothered me though – all I wanted from the game was to be able to play it on the go. I’ve already put a ton of hours into Saints Row: The Third in the past after getting the platinum trophy on the PlayStation 3 version of the game, so I didn’t need to play it again on the sofa whilst staring at a TV. No, I wanted to be able to play it in bed, on public transport, in between lunch breaks at work, and heck, even on the toilet if I wanted to. Thankfully, it delivers there, but those who were planning on playing on their TV may either want to wait for the incoming fixes (the developer has already promised a new patch to address a lot of issues) or invest in an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 version of the game.
In handheld, the frame rate was consistent with only a few drops here and there (don’t go expecting any 60fps action though), the visuals were sharp, and it all controlled well too. Of course, it’s an eight-year old game now so you shouldn’t expect some bombastic visuals that’ll blow you away by any stretch of the imagination, but it looked and played well enough to compliment the outrageous antics you’ll get up to gameplay-wise.
Saints Row: The Third is still as bizarre and fun as it was when it originally released back in 2011, but there’s no denying that some of its gameplay mechanics can feel a little dated in this day and age. It also doesn’t perform that well when docked either, though that’s something that the developer is hoping to have addressed sooner rather than later.
Thankfully, playing on the Switch’s handheld mode is a lot of fun and it’s great to have this big city full of insane activities to complete and enemies to take down in the palm of your hands. It’s far from perfect, but Switch owners looking for some open-world chaos will certainly find that Saints Row: The Third is still worth checking out today… well, as long as they don’t want to play it on their TV.
Publisher: Koch Media
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC