Developer: Volition / Publisher: THQ / Price: $59.99 / Played on: Xbox 360 / ESRB: Mature [Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Content, Strong Language]
Welcome to the holiday season, the metaphoric orgy of awesome for some and the complete ravaging of wallets for others. This month is absolutely chock-full of highly anticipated sequels. While undoubtedly a lot of gamers might be looking forward to dragons, war sims where, online, the homophobic vent their bigotry or the ability to play as a little boy in elf clothing, I am personally most excited for the sequel to one of the most overlooked sequels of 2008.
Since the second game in the open world series, Saint’s Row looks to have finally found itself, taking the insanity it dabbled with three years ago and running with it, waving the flag of absurdity high and proud. Does this iteration of customization, experimental war jets and large purple dildos exceed or merely meet the expectations set up in the mind of single fan? Let’s find out together as we review Saint’s Row the Third.
When we last saw the Saints of third street, they had completely taken over Stilwater. With the liquidation and complete merging of the Ultor corporation, the Saints have become a household name with full-on brand recognition, almost to the point obnoxiousness. Quickly things turn as the bank tellers open fire and a full scale ambush escalates.
In Saints Row 2 you could tackle missions based around gangs in just about any order, but because the Syndicate is a collective you move through this story in a much more linear fashion. By simply bringing up the mission app on your phone you are directed to any of the available story-based missions. My only complaint about this change is that if you play solely focused on the story, you might miss a lot of the extra content Steelport has to offer. The main quest itself took me about ten hours to complete one time through without going back to try the other multiple choice decisions.
Like other games in the genre, Saints 3 offers choices at key moments in the main storyline. They start out simple enough, offering either respect points or upgraded weapons. But by the end choices get to the point of two radically different endings to the game. For me this added a great deal of replayability to something many might look at as a single-player–only game.
Like most open world games, combat and vehicle accessibility are key and Saints Row takes this approach with full unprovoked force. Getting into a car used to be a simple act: just walk up to what you want, tap the action button and bam, new car. Sure you can still do that here but hey, why not jump vertically seven feet in the air and Liu Kang some shmuck through the windshield. Even basic moves like disarms, human body shields, and dick punching all have a hyper cartoon-ish element that just make the game more fun.
As you perform just about any action that’s indicative of mayhem, you’re rewarded upgrade currency known as “Respect”. Used in past games to progress mission unlocks, Saints 3 uses these points to upgrade your character’s overall skill and unlock literally dozens of attributes in the game. It took a while for me to comprehend, but it became clear that consistent upgrades were really the only way to move through the game without feeling an ass load of pain. For example, through the upgrades you can call in gang members to assist in most missions. But unless you yourself have a couple levels of health regen, a few weapon upgrades, and increased stats for your gang, you might find certain missions creating a pesky barrier to move through.
Like previous iterations, you can still buy clothes, property, car mods, and change your character through plastic surgery at just about any time you want. The options this time around, especially for character customization are nothing short of astounding. . It’s a minor inconvenience, but after creating a THQ account you can access the Saints Row website and download from a seemingly unlimited catalogue of character creations.
While most of the gameplay is solid, there are only a handful of design designs that left me somewhat baffled. Performing most actions are tied to the Y or triangle button; this becomes problematic when there are too many options on screen. Too many times I would try to leave my crib by opening a door, which used the same button as the player access menu for that area. So unless I was full-on sprinting into a door, the game would mostly become confused as to what I wanted to do. The A.I. could be buggy at times and coming to their rescue during missions was occasionally annoying but it never ruined the experience.
Unlike most genres, open world games get a lot of credit or spite based on their licenced soundtracks; Saints Row the Third falls somewhere in the middle. While there are a handful of classic hits in the game, none of the radio stations really stand out. Oddly enough there is an Adult Swim station that features songs from Metalocalypse, Venture brothers, and Aqua Teen Hunger Force. While custom playlists exist, I was unable to find any music stores or find unlockable tracks like previous games. While not a deal breaker, it’s a feature I still miss. The best moments of the music in the game are when they eclipse specific missions or story sections. There’s just something about parachuting into a penthouse apartment and shooting everyone up to Kayne West’s “Power” that makes you feel like a complete badass.
The voice acting is top notch all across the board. Celebrities like wrestler Hulk Hogan and pornstar Sasha Grey are here, but not overused; I found their performances to be pretty subtle yet invoking. . Y Ultimately the beauty of Saints Row: is you pick the sound you like and I doubt anyone is going to walk away disappointed with the all-new zombie voice.
If you’re looking for any additional gameplay options outside the main story mode, you may find yourself severely disappointed. Rather than include a separate multiplayer mode, developer Volition decided to focus on the co-op only. While some might miss the inclusion of deathmatch or other modes I never found myself yearning for any of that. Saints Row 2 was always at its best when you and a friend played through the story together and I’m happy that this was the focus the third time around. There is an additional option aptly named “Whored Mode,” which is a minor distraction at best and suffers from a few glitches. You and a partner can take on up to 30 waves of varied obstacles that range from dildo-swinging gimps to giant beer bottles shooting guns at you. There are only three levels in total and you can’t use your custom character so while the addition is a nice gesture, it doesn’t feel like a necessary portion of the game.
The Saints Row franchise has never really been known for its visual prowess. If you’re looking for Grand Theft Auto IV looks with insanely fun gameplay, well, you’re in the wrong place. That’s not to say that the visual update from Saints 2 to 3 is bad, it’s just not the graphical leap many fans were hoping for. There is definitely an increased attention to detail especially on cars and player models; unfortunately you can spot visual hiccups during load times or fast travel. I do have to compliment the in-game cutscenes and character animation. For the most part these sections look almost flawless and nearly pre-rendered. If not for the inclusion of my custom character I would have almost called shenanigans on the whole thing.
Saints Row the Third is an experience unlike any other. It never takes itself too seriously, it remembers that games should be fun and they should entertain. It’s not that any particular part stands out above the other, rather, on the whole, everything is just downright awesome. The character creator alone warrants multiple playthroughs and the story is literally only half the game. While Saints Row the Third has a handful of issues, aesthetically and technical, the positives far outweigh any of the negatives.
9.5 / 10