Saints Row: the Third - Remastered
Reviewed on: PC
Reviewer: Maiyannah Bishop
Review Play-Time: 22h
Publisher: Deep Silver
Review Published: 2021-12-09
+ Some graphical improvements
+ Works on some environments
- Severe technical flaws
- Poor AI seems markedly worse than the original
- Several gameplay modes significantly compromised by
Editor's Note: The copy of the game used for cooperative play was one that Maiyannnah bought for her partner Trish.
Saints Row: The Third - Remastered is a third-person action sandbox game developed by Spirasoft and published by Deep Silver. The original Saints Row: The Third was a game I sang the praises of, with good reason: it was an absolute blast of a sandbox with a lot of attention to small detail, all nestled in a sandbox that was big enough to be engaging while still having depth, filled with enough activities and variety to keep the game engaging well through 100% completion and beyond. It represents a rare breed: one of only a handful of games I kept going back to over the years - so surely the remastered version of it should be something I exalt, no? Sadly, I must report that it is not thus, unfortunately: the remaster is a mess of both glaring technical flaws and gameplay tweaks that both throw a whole series of unpleasant caltrops across the aisle of the previously-enjoyable gameplay.
If you're just here to know if the remaster is worth picking up: no, it is not. I could not recommend the remastered edition over the original. If you're a new player you're buying the inferior version of the game. If you're a fan, you no doubt are going to be as irritated as I was that several of the gameplay modes have severe deficiencies now.
This review is intended to cover only the elements the remaster changed or modified - you can find the full review of the original game on Highland Arrow as well: Saints Row: the Third.
When Good Heists go Bad
With the rash of games which have been getting remasters in the market these days, it has become a topic of much debate whether a game is truly needing a remaster or if it is just a cynical cash grab to get the players to buy the game a second time. I was initially hopeful with Saints Row: the Third - Remastered because when initially teased it was made out that existing owners of Saints Row: the Third would get the remaster for free. That hope was quickly dashed when it actually released and I had to pay full price for it, which rapidly drained any benefit of the doubt I may have given it honestly.
I had ended up buying the game full price, so as for both myself and my partner Trish to play co-operatively in, as we always enjoyed doing so together when we had the chance with the original installment. This turned out to be a mistake, as the cooperative play was one of the things most deeply affected by the changes in the remastered edition. I don't know what they may have done which prompted it, but where before we had the occasional desync maybe once every few days we played, it became, instead, several desyncs and disconnects a session, including an almost constant nagging that the connection was slow. A warning it gives that is underlined rather severely by those drop-outs - but also a warning it gives which, given its constant nature, served as a nigh-omnipresent reminder that the netcode is significantly worse for wear in this outing, which given that one of the given reasons for remastering it was to improve that experience, in turn served to demonstrate how this remaster has failed at its stated, given purpose, or at least one of them.
I'm Free - Free Falling
Problems arose not only with the netcode, but also in the one category I would say the original game could have used technical improvement: the artificial intelligence of both allies and enemies alike. The AI in Saints Row: the Third - Remastered is as intelligent as a brick - and not a particularly sharp one. The original game had sufficient enough combat AI for both parties, but pathfinding in particular was always somewhat sketchy. An anecdote which comes readily to mind: when playing the original game with my partner co-operatively after my review, we had one mission where you have to ride shotgun while the AI drives the car around a pre-determined path. Well, we had one instance where the AI kept getting stuck doing the path: due to the fact that this was a combat mission and you have the whole high-energy explosions and car debris flying around and all that going on, the AI ended up forced off its route due to the destruction and broken cars in particular, and was unable to resume the normal path. Left helpless to do so, it just … randomly drove around in what I presume was the default driving pattern behaviour, no doubt the "fall through" case for the AI. This happened once in the original, in the DLC mission where you are chasing the clone Oleg. In the remastered edition, any case where this could happen, it did, and it became so egregious it basically stopped both any actual progress in its tracks - and any desire to play the game further.
The largest manifestation of this problem are in Guardian Angel missions. For those unfamiliar with the original game, Guardian Angel missions are a deviation of an escort mission: rather than being on the ground having to wander around or drive with a targetted NPC which you must protect, you are either riding behind them, or in an airplane above them, or similar. With the enemy AI being seemingly more suicidal, and the AI in both parts having both more pathfinding problems and, well, just problems in general, it makes these missions especially difficult to complete. I do have to confess, to be fair to the game, that even in the original the Guardian Angel missions were not the high point of the game to me, and even in said original version of the game, I did not particularly enjoy them; that said, however, I was able to complete each and every one of them without restarting even, except for a couple of the more difficult ones, which did take a couple of tries. In comparison, the remastered edition of the game some of these an exercise of frustration, with the AI happy to play right into explosions, other vehicles, road signs, people, and basically just every danger it could find, along with occasionally picking fights with NPCs which weren't even part of the event, but rather were just essentially set-dressing. These experiences quickly became one in frustration, and my partner and I lost patience with them without much time at all; I would go on to complete some in the single-player mode for completion's sake, but I think I have at least a fistful more of hairs which turned from blonde to white in the so doing.
We've Only Just Begin
Even if that was where the technical issues ended, those two points alone would be enough of a turn-off for some people. Let me do my best Billy Mays impression now though when I say: but wait, there's more! While the remaster does sport graphical upgrades, particularly in the lighting and reflections category, those upgrades have come at a dire cost: even on a well-overspecced machine, the framerate of the game tanks considerably, and frequently. To achieve the same framerate as the original game, a game that came out a decade ago I might add, you have to knock down the graphics until it looks like it might as well be the original first Saints Row game on a good day if you squint enough. To say nothing of how demanding it is to run it with the handful of graphical accoutrements that were added to the game as one of the key selling points of the remaster. On a GTX 1070 Ti - the upgrade of the third most prevalent graphics card by market share (with the #1 being the 1050 Ti, and the #2 spot being the 6GB version of the 1060) - the game dips under 30 in complex scenes fairly regularly at max settings, and usually maintains around 50-60 tops. When I knocked it down to "just as good as the original" - I got maybe 60-70 frames per second, for the cost of defeating half the point of getting the remastered edition to begin with.
There are a bevy of much less serious weird glitches or technical flaws as well. Pathfinding in general seems worse, as somewhat touched on above, but also the spawns for enemies seem much closer, and whatever algorithm that spawns random vehicles on the roads has had its random-generation messed up: when I was playing, both solo, and with my partner it was spawning maybe about half the vehicles on the road as cement mixer truck (including much more close to the actual posting of this review when I was double-checking to see if a very late, recent update changed anything in that regard, which - no, it did not.) NPC spawns seem not as obviously effected, however the ramp-up in cop spawns escalated much more quickly in the remaster, and there sure were much fewer mascots this time around. I'm willing to concede this may just be an abherration of the random generation of these items: but regardless it puts a thick underline on how that aspect of the game has been jimmied with.
One odd thing about the whole experience is the things that found the chopping block, too - I suppose because of technical ineptitude when they were re-implementing the engine. Some side features will be missed from the original, in this remastered edition. One that came immediately to the forefront for me, in trying to get some screenshots for the graphics incorporated into this review, is the "selfie" mode in the camera, which allowed you to take screenshots without the UI being present, is notably absent from this version. So, given that it had deigned that a perfectly-stable (without stuttering or rubber-banding) connection from my partner was a "Slow Connection" to which it would constantly overlay an intrusive message in the middle of the screen about, couples shots weren't happening without considerable frustration. "Is that the end of the world?" one might ask, and no, it isn't - but these things add up over time, and a key appeal of the customisation systems in these kinds of games is showing off to your friends and loved ones the things you make in them, in this case your characters and tricked-out vehicles. It isn't the only ommission - the radio tracks got switched around with the usual pains of music licensing, and I would say the replacements are less appealing to my own musical tastes, at least (though I'll happy admit that's a subjective assessment, and some may prefer the newer ones.) Another omission is many of the cheat options and exploits, and while I can understand cleaning up the latter, this is a remaster which seems to have forgotten the chief appeal of its sandbox was doing over-the-top, silly, and most importantly fun things in it. In that light, removing ways some people have fun with the game seems silly and counter-productive to the design goal of this kind of sandbox game. This isn't some high skill-ceiling game where you might introduce a lot of angst and frustration if someone can cheat, but rather a power fantasy sandbox where you character is introduced into an escalating series of ridiculous encounters for the sake of fun. In that light, this seems poorly-thought out at best.
I feel, having now whinged myself inside out about the flaws and ways the remaster detracts from the original, that it is important to emphasise: the same game we loved here is underneath these scars and flaws. Time and what I can only determine is corporate greed have harmed it to some degree, but it is still an excellent game if you can put up with these shortcomings which have been introduced by the remastered edition. "But May," you might interject to ask, "surely then that means it is a game you'd recommend if you're telling us it's still a great game with those flaws?" To that, I can only reiterate my stance above: sure, it's alright, but with the original basically being often available for the price of peanuts in some stores and frequently discounted on sales, I could never recommend something asking full price which is an inferior version, over the original which is cheaper, more technically-competent, and does not bear these flaws introduced to the other game modes.