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June 2019

Saints Row: The Third

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Action
Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: Volition
Release Date: May 10, 2019

About Andreas Salmen

I'm sure this is all just a misunderstanding.


Switch Review - 'Saints Row: The Third - The Full Package'

by Andreas Salmen on May 17, 2019 @ 1:15 a.m. PDT

The Syndicate, a legendary criminal fraternity with pawns in play all over the globe, has turned its eye on the Saints and demands tribute. Refusing to kneel to the Syndicate, you take the fight to a new city, playing out the most outlandish gameplay scenarios ever seen. Strap it on.

Buy Saints Row: The Third - The Full Package

It's almost summer, a time when video game releases usually come to a halt. The Nintendo Switch, however, keeps getting notable additions to its catalog, especially in the form of ports. One of the more surprising short-term announcements was Saints Row: The Third – The Full Package. Given the lack of open-world sandbox games like Grand Theft Auto on the Switch, it makes sense to bring over this port. Unfortunately, it isn't just about depicting crime in various shapes and sizes; it also runs poorly from a technical viewpoint.

Saints Row is a third-person shooter set in the open world of Steelport. It's a notoriously over-the-top action game that doesn't hold back — for better or worse. Saints Row: The Third is the third installment in the series, and we take control of the Saints gang, which is at the peak of its career. With advertisement deals, merchandising, and movie tie-ins, they're sell-outs of the criminal world. Of course, it doesn't take long before the Saints stumble and fall, losing everything to a mysterious opposing organization called the Syndicate. With empty bank accounts and severe losses, we must rebuild our empire and take over the city of Steelport. The Third is somewhere between the more serious original game and the ridiculous sequel. As such, it's in a good spot to provide equal measures of crazy and reality.

Saints Row treads a fine line between dumb, amusing humor and childish sexual references. Even if you're a fan, you'll note that not everything has aged well. There are plenty of slips and poor taste in the writing and execution. It's something you'll have to buy into if you want to get the most out of the experience, though. The nonsensical subject matter is usually delivered in a good way, with decent cut scenes and dialogue that is sufficient to pull us through the story.

A staple of the series is that before we start our crime boss journey, we can create our own character from scratch with a rather deep creation tool. If you take your time, you can build a few creative and funny character models that will add your own flair and humor to the game. The options and sliders seem endless, and the result will be shockingly funny. Creation tools aside, the rest of the content on offer is just as vast.

In general gameplay terms, Saints Row never attempted to reinvent the wheel; it just decorated the wheel with insane action and its brand of humor. As a result, the gameplay is relatively straightforward. We're tossed into the open world, and we're free to do whatever we like. We can play the main missions to progress the story, roam the streets to cause chaos, or take part in a multitude of side missions and activities that seem to pop up on every corner. The Third seems to have a variety of activities, but they all revolve around the same principles: shooting and driving. The main story and the main missions may be wrapped in different packages, but they're inherently similar. Firefights are frequent, and there's rarely a second of peace in this game, which keeps the pace high and entertaining. However, the gameplay is repetitive and subject to some unexpected difficulty spikes along the way.

Firefights play out similarly every time, even though the game does its best to provide interesting and epic set-piece moments. Combat can become quite frustrating because enemies are basically bullet sponges, and it's even worse when we face heavy units that seem indestructible. It certainly isn't impossible to play, but it doesn't feel fun when enemies take forever to die. Players can upgrade their guns, but even then, the damage output seems ridiculously low.

Combat is fun enough, with a few distinctive weapons, such as the iconic pink dildo for melee attacks, sewer shark gun, and mind-controlling octopus thrower. It's fun to goof around and try different things in combat. It's those moments where Saints Row shines, but those moments become rarer as the game moves along and repetition sets in. There are only so many fetch missions that one can do without feeling reasonably bored. There are a few standouts, such as the insurance fraud minigames that have us jumping into traffic to earn insurance money from our own bodily harm, but they also grow stale after a while.

Driving in Saints Row is arcade fun in its purest form, and shooting down a busy street feels great, especially when in a custom car or flying above the city in one of the many flying vehicles, including a magic broom. Car handling feels a bit light, and even tiny collisions can send the vehicle flying through the air. In a high-stakes pursuit, this can be relatively costly. Beyond driving and shooting, the game offers other light gameplay mechanics. As we play missions and progress, we earn money and respect, both of which can be used to obtain upgraded abilities or traits for our character. Money is also used to buy important buildings, which generate revenue every hour and grant discounts on their products. In doing so, we slowly rebuild our lost criminal empire until everything in the city belongs to us.

Content isn't something to complain about, either. Saints Row: The Third – The Full Package includes all released DLC, a few additional missions, and some extra equipment. Given that the base game isn't too meaty if you're just looking for the story, the DLC and extra missions push the game past the 20-hour mark — more if you're a completionist. The Switch version has content parity to other versions, which means that the game's "Whored" mode is also back. This version of a classical horde mode lets us decimate incoming waves of enemies with a variety of weapons and modifiers; the mode is genuinely fun, especially when playing with a friend. The Third on the Switch retains the option to not only play Whored mode but the whole game in online co-op. Considering the system's absent native voice chat feature, it is quite difficult to enjoy unless both players are in the same room. Nonetheless, it works and is a great addition.

Speaking of being difficult to enjoy, the game is reasonably fun and exactly what was expected. It retains all the positives and the flaws of the original 2011 release. Technical flaws that were present back then are still present, and frustratingly, that's only the tip of the iceberg. The Switch port of the game does not run well, and it feels unplayable at times.

The frame rate frequently jumps between above 30 fps and under 20 fps. Given the game's tendency to go big on explosions and grand missions, that's a problem from the very beginning. Sadly, it doesn't end there. While the resolution in handheld and docked mode seems to be cranked to the max, the game has an inherently unattractive appearance. Shadows are decidedly low-resolution, and everything looks a tad unpolished and pixelated — even more so than the rough-looking original release. The most frustrating part is the controls. The Third suffers from intolerable input lag to the point where tougher gunfights feel borderline unplayable. Even when setting the sensitivity to the full 100%, the controls don't feel accurate or responsive, which is a problem since the gameplay has to be accurate. It's incredibly tough to line up shots or drive without ramming everyone off the street. It feels unpolished and rushed.

Publisher Deep Silver promised to iron things out with a day-one patch that did not arrive until today, a week later, and even the patch can't iron out most of the game's issues. There are some performance improvements, but they're minor and don't address the heavy input lag. As it stands, the game is solid in theory, but the technical execution as a port is downright horrible to look at and to play. Things improve a bit when using the Switch in handheld mode, but it still isn't a pleasant experience. If you want to play on a TV, you won't have a great time.

Saints Row: The Third – The Full Package is no masterpiece. It never was. However, it is a fun action game that could've been a decent open-world game on the Switch. Instead, it is one of the most poorly optimized ports we've seen on the system thus far, making it hard to recommend. It is not unplayable and it is still somewhat fun, but the technical limitations get in the way almost all the time. For the $40 price point, The Third isn't worth the price of admission.

Score: 5.8/10

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