Saints Row: The Third: Full Package | First Impressions

After tens of hours spent exploring the lore-filled dragon infested world of Skyrim, and being impressed with how well it ran on Nintendo's newest hardware, I wanted to throw a different challenge at my Switch. As a fan of open-world games, one series that has sat on my backlog for a long time was Saints Row. And while I know the series has come a long way from the more serious gang-related storylines of its first two installments, I still wanted to play a game where I can drive around in the vehicle of my choosing and chip away at random fetch quests and street races. With that in mind, this remaster of Saints Row: The Third, aptly subtitled Full Package, was the obvious choice, with 30 pieces of DLC content bundled with the base game to add to the game's already infamous levels of mayhem.

In Saints Row: The Third, the Third Street Saints have gone from gangsters to celebrities, and their rise to stardom has caught the attention of the Syndicate, an even more powerful crime fraternity. This lands the gang in Steelport, a Syndicate run city that's different than the fictional city of Stilwater found in the first two games. Over the course of its 15-hour campaign, you'll be doing a myriad of ridiculous things in order to free Steelport from the Syndicate's grips and show them you're a force to be reckoned with. From its opening crawl (yes like Star Wars) the game lets you know that it's not taking itself too seriously. And in its opening mission, it reminds you to do the same.

In the first two hours of the game, I had taken part in a bank heist, jumped out of a crashing plane, engaged in aerial gunfights, customized the size of my package, and escorted a reality tv show creator to an event while satisfying his sadistic obsession with murder. Needless to say, Saints Row manages to throw in so much batshit crazy variety into the gameplay that you never have to worry about being bored. The city of Steelport is well designed with NPCs driving a decent variety of vehicles to commandeer. Although, thanks to the included DLC, the best modes for transportation are already in your garage when you start the game. There is also a quick hijack method that replaces the "opening the door and getting in the car like a normal person" animation with a jump through the window. This, along with the fact that once you're actually driving few obstacles on the road can actually stop you, makes it clear that the game is designed to get of your way and let you have fun. Most of the side missions are short, and thanks to the Switch, it means you can easily jump in for a mission or two without having to carve out a chunk of time for it.

However, none of that truly matters if the game doesn't perform well and unfortunately that's the game's biggest drawback. Saints Row: The Third suffers from constant frame drops and pop-ins that took me out of the game and stopped me from enjoying it. In handheld mode, the game runs a bit better and thanks to the smaller screen the graphical shortcomings aren't too noticeable. But in docked mode, the game looks rough, with muddied textures that look visibly low-res despite being in the peripheries of a speeding car. There were several times as I explored the open world, that I would be speeding in a car that I had just stolen from an innocent NPC, and a van or truck would just appear in front of me and cause me to crash. These were problems that were apparent when the game released last year but in 2020 they still remain.

The screenshot you see above is one that I took directly from my Switch as I played the game and the entire on-rail driving segment looked just as bad. When it runs well the game can look fine, and while its obviously not comparable to the upcoming PlayStation and Xbox remaster, it's still playable. Your character model and most of what you use and interact with retain a fair amount of detail considering the hardware it's running on. And I think it's important to realize how impressive it is that a game like Saints Row: The Third can run in the palm of your hands. However, when a game that was never visually striking enough to write home about starts to stutter and lag, it makes it hard to appreciate the game despite its obvious design choices that were made with player enjoyment in mind.

At the end of the day, Saints Row: The Third - Full Package on the Nintendo Switch remains a poorly optimized port of a fun game. If not for the performance issues this would be a game I could easily recommend to anyone looking for an open-world game to wreak havoc in on the Switch. But as it stands right now, I didn't enjoy my time with the game enough to give it a stamp of my personal approval. If you still want to play Saints Row: The Third for the first time or want to revisit the streets of Steelport, the remastered version releases this Friday, May 22, on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One for $40. And if you're adamant about wanting a Saints Row experience on the Switch, then you can always get Saints Row IV: Re-elected, which I've heard runs much better.

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