From firing out of man-cannons to fighting gangs with oversized sex toys, the life of a Saint is far from boring. Since the series first began in 2006, Saints Row has continuously outdone itself with each new entry, crafting gameplay that is just as unbelievable as the characters themselves. The third installment of Saints Row is looking to define “insanity” by showing just how psychotic an open-world game can be.
Saints Row: The Third follows your created character after overcoming the gangs and Ultor Corporation in Stillwater. Having gained superstar status for their actions, the Saints pretty much do what they want when they want, which leads to a bank heist. As you might expect, this robbery doesn’t go as planned and they idolized gang finds themselves behind bars as well as having gained the attention of another large crime organization, The Syndicate. From here, things get out of hand, as they tend to for the purple-wearing gangsters, leaving the group stranded in Steelport where they must rebuild their forces and fight back against their new-found foes.
Has Saints Row: The Third become king of all that is crazy? Or is it just crazy for thinking it could be?
The main characteristic that has continued to separate Saints Row from being “just another GTA clone” is the core gameplay. While the first game wasn’t too over-the-top, the sequel definitely kicked things up a notch, but still fell flat in certain areas. As they say, “third time’s the charm” and they couldn’t be more right regarding this franchise. Volition has perfected the gameplay formula that compliments the wacky world of Saints Row. The amount of options Saints Row: The Third throws at you is almost overwhelming. Immediately after landing (and I mean that quite literally since you parachute into the city) in Steelport, you’ll quickly amass new gang members, activities, story missions and, overall, just a plethora of events awaiting you on every street corner. Take some time to roam around and you’ll come across some familiar activities, such as Insurance Fraud and Mayhem, as well as new ones, inlcuding Guardian Angel and, a personal favorite, Professor Genki’s Super Ethical Reality Climax. Those last two require some explanation. Guardian Angel has the main character protecting a fellow gang member complete a task, usually with the help of powerful equipment. The first time you partake in this activity you’ll be partially rappelled down the side of the building providing covering fire with the McManus 2015 Sniper Rifle. The second activity mentioned is by far one of the most entertaining additions. Professor Genki’s Super Ethical Reality Climax is a show where the player must dispatch rooms full of oddly dressed opponents, gaining killstreaks, bonuses and other prizes as they progress to the very end. Sure they can be dispatched with guns, but the more satisfying route is through the brand-new melee system. WWE-style maneuvers, genital-related attacks and brutal quick-time events round out the fisticuff abilities.
Let’s talk about that melee system for a second. You have three options, as mentioned above, when it comes to beating down enemies with your bare fists. Sprint at an enemy and press the “fire/attack” button and your character will do a one of many different satisfying actions. You may find the leader of the Saints body surfing his target (a much shorter, more comedic version of what you’ve seen in Prototype) or he/she might hop over the unsuspecting foe from behind only to turn around and slug them in the face. Don’t forget about those testicle-oriented combat options. A click of the right stick turns your fist (and any other weapon for that matter) into a nut-buster. Finally, you have the most in-depth option. QTEs can be activated on individual people, allowing you to experience each pummeling through consecutive button prompts. Also, it’s worth noting that the melee weapons themselves (bat, penetrator, etc.) have all seen improvements in handling, making the act of swinging them violently at random pedestrians even more enjoyable.
If you decide to overlook the side-missions, which you’d be crazy to do, Steelport is teeming with ongoing events that are incorporated into areas more seamlessly than missions and activities. Sometimes you’ll come across an area where you can start a survival-type mission against waves of gang members, which results in the extermination of that gang operation. Other times you’ll notice a car outline highlighted on your mini-map, informing you that it is a car you can steal for a reward. These missions come to you via SaintsBook, the small social network that shows you what to steal and who to kill. I believe you’ll find this much more fun than our current social networks.
Cash and Respect are nothing new to Saints Row, and while they are both gained in the same manor as before, the way they are used in The Third is different. Respect levels up your character and opens up new abilities in the “Upgrades” menu. After selecting “Upgrades” from your phone, you can purchase various enhancements to further customize your virtual persona. Want to dual-wield pistols? Go for it. Need better protection from explosives? A no-ragdoll perk awaits your purchase. Literally every aspect of the game can be changed through these upgrades, which, in turn, alters how you play the game. Cash can be spent elsewhere, however. Businesses can be purchased for greater territory control and hourly income gain, cars can be customized from the inside out and guns can be upgraded several times to maximize the firepower at your disposal. All of this stems from the two enhanced components, Respect and Cash.
This mode is so awesome it deserves its own section. You can forfeit the campaign all together and go straight to the balls-to-the-wall Whored Mode, which is a wacky wave-based game mode. As the waves progress, so does the unbelievable nature of your opposition. One wave had my pre-selected character firing at mini Saints Flow (the in-game energy drink) cans that were wielding weapons. The following onslaught involved taking an oversized sword to angelic women. The final one I’ll mention is the abundance of animal-costumed fiends that fell victim to my unbeatable tank. Whored Mode must be experienced as words alone cannot do it justice.
Let’s not forget about that story though. Saints Row: The Third has a story fit for a lunatic, with each mission managing to increase the level of bizarre behavior from the last. Unlike GTA, tedious and repetitive missions are nowhere to be found. Actually, each new mission will increase player excitement and amusement. Whether you’re driving around town with a tiger in the car or running stark naked through a labyrinth, “WTF?!” and “OMG SO AWESOME” are bound to be stated countless times before the credits roll. Just when you think things can’t get any weirder, The Third will consistently show you that the craziest moments are yet to come.
Saints Row: The Third has given up on competitive multiplayer in order to focus solely on cooperative play. This was the right choice. Saints Row 2’s competitive mode was half-baked. Removing the feature in favor of fully fleshed out co-op integration. All of the aforementioned craziness can be experienced with a friend online. If you think running around town wreaking all of this delicious havoc alone is fun, just wait till a second Saint drops in two double up on the damage.
Compared to other recent releases, Saints Row: The Third doesn’t impress much in the visual department. But when placed side-by-side with its previous entries, The Third manages to greatly improve upon the characters, environments and overall style of Saints Row. Gangs each have their own distinct look (from the blue-colored Tron-esque members to the dark and drab goth gang) while the environments are sporting much more vibrant colors, making Steelport a welcome looking playground for destruction.
As with all open-world games, The Third features a few noticeable glitches here and there. There will be moments where AI doesn’t act as suspected. These select few will go off and do their own thing, sometimes ending up facing a wall. Other times body parts will stretch through solid objects, leaving a distorted (and usually dead) person laying in the environment. Besides that, slow-loading textures and pop-in are common occurrences while exploring Steelport.
Saints Row: The Third is the definitive open-world experience, especially for those looking for something that walks so far on the wild side it should be admitted into an institution. This game represents ultimate freedom, allowing you to dress up as a hero, doling out unrelenting justice, or just blow everything up in a gorilla suit. Besides a few unimpressive textures and occasional glitches, there isn’t much bringing Saints Row: The Third down. Every aspect of the game has been given a boost over its predecessor and it is noticeable. I must applaud you, Volition. This is the sandbox title us gamers have been waiting for to satisfy our most unusual desires.
[Editor’s Note: Saints Row: The Third was reviewed on the Xbox 360 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]Saints Row: The Third Review,