BY RYAN MCCAFFREY If you ask me, Saints Row The Third is the highpoint of Volition’s open-world gangster series. When it came out back in 2011, it pushed the comedy and absurdity introduced in Saints Row 2 to new extremes while still keeping one foot planted in reality, unlike the completely over-the-top Saints Row 4. So I was fired up to play again on the Nintendo Switch, but The Full Package edition turns out to be a good news, bad news situation. On the small, 720p screen, it looks and runs okay, though not up to the Xbox 360’s level. Put it in the dock and blow it up on a television in 1080p, though, and…it’s tough to watch.“
The framerate takes an obvious hit in docked mode, and the texture detail (or lack thereof) really stands out.
Gameplay-wise, Saints Row The Third holds up pretty well. Right from the opening moments where you’re jumping out of a plane – and then jumping back into it through the cockpit windshield – it’s a wild ride. Explosions are plentiful, crazy weapons abound, and goofiness is around every turn in Steelport, where the Third Street Saints gang has become satirically embraced as pop culture icons. But it’s got substance to go along with that style; in fact, Saints Row: The Third has great touches that I’m still waiting for modern open-world games to crib from, like a “quick hijack” button to leap through the windshields of cars and steal them in one swift motion while on the move, and augmented reality-style GPS turn indicators on the roads to keep your eyes on the action instead of the minimap.
ABOVE: Watch IGN’s original 2011 review of Saints Row: The Third for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. You can also read the full Saints Row: The Third review, which we gave an 8.5 back in 2011.
All of that, and the DLC overload you have to click through when you first start up, can be best appreciated in handheld mode, where it runs acceptably even in two-player local online co-op with lots of craziness going on. And I stress acceptably. I’d expect a game built for the 360 and PS3 to run better on Switch, especially with such substantial sacrifices made to graphical detail. But throw the Switch in its dock, where resolution kicks up to 1080p, and the story changes noticeably…for the worse. The framerate takes an obvious hit, and the texture detail (or lack thereof) really stands out. Large explosions and busy action are commonplace, and they bring the action to a slideshow-like crawl. And yes, I fired up the 360 version to make sure it wasn’t just the nostalgia talking. Even the controls feel slightly less responsive on the Nintendo port. It’s minor but noticeable.
That means my recommendation is decidedly mixed and conditional on how you like to play. If you plan on playing in handheld, you’re pretty safe. But if you want to play on the TV from the couch, you’d be better off breaking out your last-gen console to revisit the best Saints Row game. The Third is still a bonkers experience that revels in being FUN above all else. It’s just too bad that it struggles so mightily on Nintendo’s latest console, which has shown ample ability to handle a game like this in other cases.