Saints Row The Third Remastered – Interview with Developers

Saints Row the Third Remastered recently released for PC, PS4 and Xbox One. If you’ve read our review, you’ll know it’s a big old ball of fun. However, we also had the chance to speak to the developers to get a deeper insight into the remake/remaster.

While we weren’t able to find out how long Saints Row the Third Remastered has been in development we did learn about some of the technology the developers implemented and how this remaster has been brought kicking and screaming into 2020.

Given the franchise’s penchant for non-PC and offensive humour, we also questioned the developers on how Saints Row the Third Remastered could exist in an increasingly woke world.

Saints Row the Third Remastered

Released in 2011, Saints Row the Third came out in a time that, even nine years ago, was far removed from today in terms of causing offense and of being woke. When I put that to the developers and asked how Saints Row the Third Remastered would fare they told me;

With a game like Saints Row: The Third, the goal is not to be realistic in its portrayal of characters – they are over the top, all their quirks and attributes dialled up to 11. This also feeds into the overall style of humour of the game – as a Player you can relish in doing activities like Tank Mayhem that lets you drive around the streets of Steelport blowing cars and choppers to kingdom come.

It allows you to fashion your own avatar in an in-depth character customization tool, giving you the power to celebrate whatever character you want to be.

It does not take itself too seriously and asks the player not to, either.

Playing through Saints Row the Third Remastered I found plenty of material that had dated. There’s a lot of regressive content that’s not only outdated but also offensive, however, in a way, I agree with the developers. Saints Row the Third isn’t asking to be taken seriously, nor is it serious in anything it presents. There’s a lot of potential to be offended though complaining about offensive content in Saints Row is like complaining about zombies in Resident Evil or cars in Gran Turismo.

It’s a part of the game’s DNA.

With Saints Row the Third Remastered’s content intact, I asked the developers about what had changed, had been added and altered in this release. Rendering the UI at 4K was one of the major changes, as was optimising the code in order to increase the density of pedestrians and cars.

According to the devs, this “will greatly add to the mayhem and the player fun.” And I have to agree. Wondering around the streets in Remastered versus the original is like day and night. In the original there were smatterings of vehicles and people on the streets but now, they’re everywhere. It makes Steelport feel more alive and much more like a lived in place.

Though, like Gotham City, I have to wonder why anybody actually lives in Steelport…Don’t people know they don’t have to stay in crime-infested places?

Interestingly, the developers have opted not to change the controls in Remastered. Instead, stating the “visual and performance enhancements complement the gameplay in making it a richer experience.

“New assets and lighting, create an immersive atmosphere and mood that elevate the original game to current generation standards.”

When I asked the devs what the most impressive thing about Saints Row the Third Remastered was, they had a lot to say. Instead of reinterpreting it, I’ll simply insert what they said below.

“It is difficult to pinpoint exactly what one thing is the most impressive in the Remaster but the player experience that arises from the combination of the new assets along with the world density; the combination makes the Saints Row experience shine on modern hardware.  

“We added more surfaces like puddles or glass, or metals to reflect the world around them, bounce the lighting better and thus create a more realistic vibe to the environment. Furthermore, from an Art Direction point of view, we had to recolour the world to make it work with the new PBR materials. This improved the overall readability of the surroundings and helped to achieve more accurate lighting results. Lighting has always been a big topic, especially from an Art Direction standpoint. We wanted not only to show the benefits of PBR but also to enhance the variety of the product and its style. 

“We looked into the title and we made a snapshot of the available times of day and we genuinely pushed every single section of the day to support, or enhance better the mood. Some, like sunrise, or sunset are completely different then what they were before. Furthermore, we pushed as far as possible the other times of the day so we can achieve maximum impact. 

“To support all these the team had to implement many different solutions: to name a few, besides the Global Illumination, there is a fully new Sky per setting, reworked in HDR, with eye adaptation and increased level of credibility; Cubemap reflections; Volumetric Fog, which is having dynamic values for height, density, position and all changes are noticeable with the camera movement and of course having Light Shafts, especially noticeable in Downtown.

“In addition, we looked in detail over the Object Occlusion. Good Occlusion helps on one side to really give depth and on the other to ground the assets properly. In this regard, we improved drastically the Ambient Occlusion via 3 different Solutions:

  • The team added Environment Obscurance which help defining better big shapes and spaces between buildings. This helps separating the “world pieces” better from each other
  • we used and improved the old SSAO to support better medium sized details
  • and for all the fine details, most materials come with additional texture map which is giving additional details

“Weapons and vehicles were remade completely from scratch with a higher level of detail and more realistic proportions. Those are key assets to the game as they are part of the front-facing UI, cutscenes and gameplay. The increased fidelity there improves drastically the overall experience.

“For the Story Characters like Shaundi or Pierce, the assets were also redone completely, using high poly models with higher fidelity and high-level materials. Their character designs underwent an update from an Art Direction point, to fashion them more after the original Brand vision known from official artworks and the Power Trailer. Other characters, like the different factions, have also received full visual lift-ups, while remaining true to their original concept. The Player Character which the Players can create themselves received a new high-quality base body. All materials and shaders for the clothes have been improved to fit with the rest.

“Last, but not least, the Pedestrians the Player can encounter in the city got their heads and clothes remade and updated with overhauled shaders and materials.

“When out and about on the streets of Steelport, Players will notice that the city is much, much busier than in the original – there are more vehicles and more pedestrians roaming the place. Grass and foliage density has been increased greatly. Not only lends this a livelier picture. It also ensures that more impactful moments of mayhem with explosions and collisions of vehicles and pedestrians can take place, which can change the overall perception drastically.

“There are many more bigger and smaller enhancements, improvements and redone assets, materials or shaders that were done for this Remaster and when taken together they present a visually stunning and immersive game that carries the original’s gameplay into the current generation of consoles.”

Saints Row the Third Remastered is available now.

Thanks to the devs for their time.

Leo Stevenson
Leo Stevenson
I've been playing games for the past 27 years and have been writing for almost as long. Combining two passions in the way I'm able is a true privilege. PowerUp! is a labour of love and one I am so excited to share.

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