Saints Row: The Third Switch Review – Steelport has seen better days

Another in a long line of last generation games to be ported to the Switch, Saints Row: The Third first came out in 2011. It shifted the series’ tone with over the top action set pieces which helped to somehow ramp up the the Saints’ absurdity to levels that were previously thought dangerous. It still features entertaining and ridiculous things like a heist where you steal the actual vault and threading yourself through the windshield of a plane and out the other end – and that’s just the first two missions – it is showing some of its age eight years after its initial release.

The Full Package makes a mixed first impression, as even in the opening of the game the Switch begins to stutter. It’s worst when Skydiving high above Steelport and dodging debris from the aforementioned plane, but it’s an annoyance that is always just around the corner without the day one patch, which paradoxically isn’t actually available at time of writing but postponed until sometime this week. Flying about the city drops the frame rate quite a bit, even when docked, and it occasionally pops up whilst driving around as well.

What’s worse is that the game isn’t even that impressive to look at. In fact it looks very dated. Textures usually hover somewhere between blurry and pixellated and you can clearly see when they’re replaced by higher detail versions as you get closer to them. Character models are still pretty decent, but perhaps only by comparison to everything else. Thanks to a chronic lack of anti-aliasing, all this is presented to you is so jagged that Alanis Morissette keeps trying to take it with her medication. The game might be eight years old, but maybe a little work could have been put into sprucing it up a little further for the re-release.

Looking past those disappointments and you still have a large open world packed full of ridiculous things to do and the Saints’ unique brand of humour, which is a combination of the witty, the weird, and the wrong. There are very few games – in fact, I can’t think of another – that allow you to skydive into a penthouse suite to Kanye West’s Power and then start beating people to death with a giant purple dildo sword. It’s moments like this that combine a certain amount of style with an abundance of silliness that made the third Saints Row really memorable in the first place. It delivers plenty of them, with the only issue being that the actual mechanics haven’t aged too well.

Shooting feels a little sluggish and awkward, which isn’t helped by the unstable frame rate, driving feels a little stiff, and there’s a slight sense of anarchic inconsistency throughout the game. Some guns deal so little damage that they are useless until they’ve been upgraded at least twice, whilst others seems to cut through body armour right from the off. Even missions suffer, as one moment you can helicopter across the city whilst launching rockets at enemy cars before hanging off a skyscraper on a wire sniping at people, whilst the next you can be throwing yourself around in cars hoping you catch some air over and over. The side missions are so numerous that they soon lose their lustre and begin to grate a little, but some outstay their welcome quicker than others.

Saints Row often relies on the silly tongue in cheek nature to be enjoyable rather than tight game design, which is fine, but it makes the game feel a little hit and miss. Some jokes just don’t land, and while it’s inevitable when some many are being thrown around, it means that when they don’t and you’re in one of the less inspired missions in the game, it can start to feel old. Thankfully, there’s three more jokes a few seconds away, you’ve dressed your character like a superhero, making every cutscene even more ridiculous, and you can shoot mind controlling octopi at people.

Without the day one patch’s technical improvements, we can’t recommend Saints Row: The Third – The Full Package right now. Depending on how much that fixes, it could still be worth it depending on your sense of humour and nostalgia for the start of the decade. If off colour jokes mixed with spoofs, style, and swearing is your thing then it might still be worth picking Saints Row: The Third up on Switch. It has a ton of content, bundling the base game with all its DLC, so there is plenty to do in Steelport, hopefully letting you see past the rest of a dated, unpolished open world game.