In 2011, Saints Row hit what I consider a series high with Saints Row: The Third. The game took what made 2 work, cranked the humour up to 11 and created one of the most unique and downright fun open world games of the generation. It found its identity but also kept it grounded, unlike its follow up that didn’t strike that balance. As such, its Switch port announcement had me very excited, as the prospect of experiencing it all again in a portable format was very appealing to me.
When I actually played it, excitement wasn’t quite my main mood. Simply put, the Nintendo Switch port of Saints Row: The Third is pretty bad. It’s not WWE 2K18 on Switch bad, but it’s a noticeable step down from the original versions, which is baffling considering the Switch is more powerful than the PS3 and 360. It’s immediately noticeable graphically; textures are much less detailed compared to the original (even when docked) and the overall graphics feel duller and even jagged in areas.
These presentation issues are exemplified by the poor frame rate. Frames frequently drop whenever too much is happening on screen, and in a game as hectic as Saints Row: The Third, there’s rarely occasion where there’s not a lot cluttering it. It’s made even worse by how inconsistent these drops are; if it was consistently terrible you’d arguably at least adjust to it, but the drops just happen randomly, making them jarring and thus even more frustrating. These drops aren’t as common in handheld mode, but they’re still problematic across the board. These drops appear to impact the controls too, because the original game feels much more responsive and tight compared to this port. This isn’t a huge issue as chances are you won’t be directly comparing them unless you’re a reviewer and, on their own merits, the controls are still relatively intuitive despite the frame rate issues, but it’s worth noting that even this aspect has a minor downgrade.
So, is it a complete train wreck? Not necessarily. Beyond the technical side of things, Saints Row: The Third remains a phenomenal game, perhaps even one of my favourite open world games available on the system. As noted above, the game ramps up its humour in just the right ways, and the result is a game oozing with personality, hilarious dialogue and gyrating (yes that counts as a positive point, it’s 2019). This translates into the gameplay, which features numerous over the top set pieces that are creative and memorable (skydiving into a mansion while blasting Kanye West is just as amazing now as it was eight years ago, as is diving out and then back into a plane). The wrestling inspired melee attacks are amusing as are the taunts and various customisation options (doing the aforementioned activities while accompanied by an army of purple ninjas is simply a fantastic experience).
Again, though, what makes this flamboyance work is how its offset by grounded elements. The humour would become grating if you weren’t attached to the characters and world, but there’s so many great character moments and memorable developments that that character connection is there. This serious context creates a juxtaposition that makes it all click, meaning the crazy parts are able to soar and the player is able to breath in between them.
One final point I wanted to mirror from IGN’s review is their comment on Saints Row: The Third’s quality of life implementations. Their review notes how the game includes things like waypoint directions being shown on the road rather than just the minimap, and how you can get into cars faster by doing a unique running animation instead of the longer, traditional one. These are true and undoubtedly enhance the fluidity of the gameplay, to the point that I really wish they were in more games.
So, is Saints Row: The Third worth picking up on the Switch? Well, if you plan on playing the game mostly in handheld form and/or can tolerate an imperfect performance, I’d say it’s worth it. It fills the “gritty open world” niche that is sorely missing on the Switch right now, and if you’re looking for that then Saints Row: The Third is the perfect pick. However, if you plan on playing this docked most of the time and/or consider poor performance a gamebreaker then you might want to skip it unless you’re a diehard fan. It’s not the worst port I’ve ever played, but it’s not good either. Fortunately, all of these issues are fixable via a patch, meaning this could end up being a stellar port. For now, however, Saints Row’s first Nintendo Switch outing is a great game dragged down by a poor port.
If you do want to buy it, you can get it here. What do you think of Saints Row: The Third’s Switch port? What do you think of Saints Row: The Third in general? Let me know in the comments or via my Twitter profile @JoshsJots.