Volition and Deep Silver are looking to fill the GTA-sized hole in the Nintendo Switch library, and they’re doing so by resurrecting a hidden gem from earlier in the decade. The Switch is no stranger to open world action games with titles like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, but we’ve yet to really see that contemporary free-roaming style first popularized in the early 2000s make its way onto the platform (with the exception of maybe Lego City Undercover). This changes with Saints Row: The Third – The Full Package, a definitive rerelease of the third entry in the Saints Row franchise.
The game first launched back in 2011 for PS3 and Xbox 360. While not the most recent entry in the Saints Row universe (that being 2017’s Agents of Mayhem), it has remained a fan favorite over the years – to date boasting a 100% rating on Steam. You play as the leader of the Third Street Saints, an ambiguously gendered smart mouth with a keen eye for guns and explosions. As your street gang looks to move into the Jersey/Cali hybrid city that is Steelport everyone is out to get you. Whether it’s rival gangs, crooked police, strippers trained in assassination, or terrifying government experiments gone wrong, your created creator will go to any lengths to see the Saints come out on top. You can steal cars, sell drugs, ravage the streets in a tank, and mow down wave after endless wave of cops. With a barrage of side quests, collectibles, and Easter eggs scattered throughout the vast urban environment you’ll never grow tired of boredom.
If this sounds eerily similar to any Grand Theft Auto game, that’s no accident. In its time, “GTA-clones” (as they were called) were pretty much a dime a dozen in the market. But, while most were uninspired and often half-baked cash-grabs, Volition sought to be a legitimate competitor with its franchise. While Rockstar was working to make their games as realistic as possible, Saints Row focused more on humor and over the top violence, effectively being more a parody of GTA than an outright rip-off.
The standout feature of Saints Row: The Third is its customization. The creation suite for characters is incredibly in depth and holds up extremely well even compared to current generation games. Vehicles, outfits, and weapons are also customizable and the included DLC content will give you plenty of wacky stuff to play around with. It’s a lot of fun to put in the time building your ideal character and you don’t have to infinitely grind or fork over real world cash like in newer titles just to unlock cosmetic items.
The campaign is very much a time capsule of early 2010s culture, bursting at the seams with outrageously edgy humor that definitely earns the title its M rating. Some of it hasn’t exactly aged well – the depiction of sex-worker abuse is probably the worst case of this. But the characters are written well and surprisingly complex, and there are more than enough activities in and out of the main story to keep anyone engaged for days on end.
While this has all the makings for a landmark release for the Switch, this port suffers from its fair share of bugs. This is by no means a WWE 2K18 situation where the game is broken to the point of unplayable, but they’re definitely noticeable. The most aggravating of these glitches happened to me several times throughout the campaign where a specific character’s voice-over wouldn’t load in properly, leading to in-game moments where characters seemingly talk to themselves followed by long pauses where dialogue is supposed to be. While that could be considered a minor annoyance and passable during gameplay, this got worse as the campaign continued, to the point where entire story cut scenes would play without any of the voice work. Considering the characters are one of Saints Row‘s biggest selling points, it is infuriating having to miss out on such an important element, especially since we’re talking about a game that ran perfectly on 14-year old hardware.
On top of various audio glitches, the controls are poorly optimized. Out of the gate the look sensitivity is ridiculously low and needs to be cranked to 100 via the start menu before you have any sort of comfortable control of the camera. Playing with the Switch Pro Controller, I ran into a bit of input lag and even button presses straight up not registering. Going over to the Joy-Con controller in handheld mode wasn’t much better, as the limited travel of the analog sticks combined with the rough look sensitivity made precision shooting nearly impossible. This less than stellar handling made seemingly simple gunfights frustratingly difficult.
That isn’t to say the port didn’t do some things well. The open city may not be as fleshed out as games that have come after it, but on the Switch it renders seamlessly as you traverse its streets, and the frame rate rarely dipped below 30fps, even in the midst of a citywide rampage. Despite the previously noted on-foot control issues, the driving mechanics of the game actually handle extremely well. Whether it is on a motorcycle, a tricked-out pimpmobile, or a ridiculously overpowered battle tank, running through Steelport at your own pace is ridiculously satisfying (especially coupled with the in-game soundtrack that still holds up super well in my opinion.)
It is incredibly frustrating having to weigh the content of Saints Row: The Third versus the bugs that currently plague it. At the center you have a well-aged, super fun romp that any Rockstar fanboy could easily get behind, but it is bogged down significantly by its lackluster sound and control. A lot more love could’ve gone into this, and a lot more love really should have. This would’ve been a great opportunity to remaster the game and maybe even create some Switch exclusive content; something to show the fans some love after Agents of Mayhem launched to mixed reviews.
Casual players just kind of looking for a less terrible Grand Theft Auto may be able to overlook the glitches and if this sounds like you I absolutely recommend you check it out because Saints Row: The Third is still the same fantastic game we got eight years ago, even if it’s not as fully featured as its contemporaries. But as long time fan of the franchise, it’s hard not to feel a little disappointed in the series’ Nintendo console debut. It’s possible these bugs could be fixed with a Day One update, but as it stands you may want to hang onto your Xbox 360 copy a little while longer.
Saints Row: The Third - The Full Package Review
- Graphics - 6/106/10
- Sound - 5/105/10
- Gameplay - 7/107/10
- Lasting Appeal - 8/108/10
Final Thoughts: GOOD
The overall lack of polish on Saints Row: The Third is apparent, but it’s still a lot fun to jump back to a time where open world shooters weren’t overrun with loot boxes and forced online functionality. A bit more refinement would’ve made this a must-have title, but fans of customization, blowing up helicopters, and Burt Reynolds, should find a lot to like here.
Evan Roode is a full time journalism student and amateur game historian. His favorite song from Guitar Hero III was “Even Flow”.