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Saints Row: The Third on Switch is a disappointment

Saints Row: The Third feels like a game for 2011, for better and worse

Saints Row: The Third promotional art Volition/Koch Media
Chris Plante co-founded Polygon in 2012 and is now editor-in-chief. He co-hosts The Besties, is a board member of the Frida Cinema, and created NYU’s first games journalism course.

Saints Row: The Third was an unexpected gem in 2011, a comparably progressive and slapstick riff on the Grand Theft Auto formula. Last week, Koch Media released a port for the Nintendo Switch. The result is a disappointment, but that’s not entirely the port’s fault.

The folks at Digital Foundry have done a fantastic job comparing this version to its nearly eight-year-old siblings. The results are a mixed bag. The team found that the Switch port approaches parity with the original PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game, particularly in 720p resolution in handheld mode. It doesn’t fare nearly as well in docked mode, as the 1080p resolution decreases the game’s already poor frame rate.

But worse than the frame rate is the game’s high amount of input lag. I’ve played the final build of the game, and the controls are unbearable. They’re slow, imprecise, and maddening when lining up a headshot — especially on the small handheld screen. Hopefully the controls will be improved by future updates — one is scheduled for later this week.

Digital Foundry doesn’t dig too deep into the game itself, even though the content itself can be just as frustrating as the controls and performance.

In hindsight, Saints Row The Third marks a transition from the crass and provocative early entries of the series to the more open-minded and inclusive later entry and expansions. But played today, it struggles to carry so much baggage from its era.

The first menu invites players to try “Whored Mode.” The “Sex Appeal” slider on the create-a-character menu inflates the female character’s breasts and the male character’s penis. There’s a dildo bat.

None of these details are particularly offensive as much as they’re dull and unfunny. Replaying this game feels like taking a time machine to a Spencer’s Gifts.

The port is not strong enough to recommend to potential newcomers who only own a Switch. And the original entry has been outdone in practically every way by Saints Row 4, making that entry a better starting point for folks with other consoles or a PC.

The next level of puzzles.

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