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Review – Saints Row the Third (PC, Xbox360, PS3)

2011 – Volition – 1 Player (Campaign) Multiplayer (Online)
PC, PS3, Xbox360

The Good

  • Loads of fun Gameplay
  • Reminiscent of classic GTA
  • Amazing custom character creation with voices and interactions not just “faceless”

The Bad

  • The missions are kind of just a repetition of a handful of mini games
  • Kooky level may be too much for some people’s taste.

In Depth

Saints Row really has a comeback story behind it. The first game is apparently rather terrible. the second game is better but not great. It’s already saddled with being a “GTA knockoff” by default no matter what it does. Somewhere Volition has managed to get something really right because Saints Row the Third seems to be quite a hit among gamers. So much of a hit that THQ had decided to focus more on games like Saints Row over things like it’s failing Wii Tablet thing (U-Draw).

This thing is pretty long and image heavy, so you’ll have to click through to get the whole thing.

Saints Row the ThirdSaints Row III feels very much like the spiritual successor to GTA: Vice City. Not only for the reason that the main character (nameless, it’s you) is a raving psycho, much like vice City’s Tommy Vercetti, but also because Steel Port is full of bright vibrant colors, much like Vice City was.

There are other gameplay aspects though that help keep up the comparison. Vice City had a strong focus on owning property that existed in the later games but, at least in San Andreas, it kind of felt like an after thought a bit. Vice City was about owning the town and being the boss. Saints Row III shares this focus and owning property isn’t really part of the plot but it’s a lot of the driving force behind everything you do since it brings in money.

All of these comparisons might make the game seem unoriginal, but it’s certainly anything but. The gameplay shares a lot of core aspects to Vice City, which is possibly the best GTA game in the series, but the plot itself is quite a bit different. One of the main aspects of GTA is that the games all take serious cues from other sources for their plots. GTA3 is sort of Godfather esque with it’s Mafia themes. Vice City may as well be Scarface the Game. San Andreas shifts around a bit from every LA gang banger flick to Casino to more or less ripping off the rap scene of Dr. Dre and Eminem. Saints Row 3 tries it’s best to keep itself fairly original, and does a surprisingly good job of it.

Saints Row the ThirdTake the opening few missions. You start off doing a basic bank heist with your fellow Saints gang members when everything goes wrong and you are taken prisoner. You’ll find yourself fighting for freedom soon afterwards, however your prison is a large cargo plane and escape means leaping into a 10,000 foot free fall fire fight. This sets up and starts off your quest to avenge Johnny Gat and take out the three incumbent Gangs of Steelport.

Each gang features a different theme and each one has unique missions themed around them as well. The Deckers are a bunch of computer hackers which require some “hacking” which takes place in some Tron-like virtual worlds. The Luchadors are a gang of tough Mexican wrestlers, and taking them down will require you to toughen up by doing activities like driving an angry tiger around or careening like a ball of fire (because you’re on fire) across the city.

Saints Row the ThirdThese activities are the real focus of the game. The entire city is divided up in to little quadrants of control. Each one can be taken over through a variety of means and taking over a section means more hourly income from the city. Some are as simple as driving up and buying a property on the lot. Others involve fighting of gang members for control. Then there are the variety of missions mentioned later.

Which brings up a few of the game’s flaws. As much as I do love this game, and spoiler or whatever, I do recommend this game whole heartedly, there are some issues with it’s design. These issues become more obvious and prevalent later in the game. For starters, some of the “story missions” are just a short cut scene with some character, then you go and do one of the standard territory activities. If you’ve already DONE the activity, this can lead to moments where you just get an odd cut scene that seems to go nowhere, then the story missions ends with no explanation. It seems like it might have made more sense to not let the players do these missions before hand.

Saints Row the ThirdThe other issues, which is a bit more major, is the changing city. Throughout the course of the game, the situation escalates in many ways. Eventually, the STAG army starts patrolling everywhere and becomes more aggressive with their control of the city. At one point one of the small islands becomes a zombie infested cesspool. STAG raises several of the bridges to create some restricted zones.

If you’re not aggressive early in the game about completing some of the activities, you may find they become extremely difficult later in the game. For example, if you had not previously hunted down any of the photography checkpoints on the Zombie island, then the photographer is likely to get killed by the zombies anytime you approach.

This can also make several of the vehicle theft operations much more difficult. Several of the vehicle thefts involve oddball vehicles, like the street sweeper, garbage truck, Emu, etc. The GPS will take you across bridges which might be raised on your return trip but many of these larger and slower vehicles can’t make the bridge jumps, even with NOS. This can lead to a long out of the way trip with a permanent mission based 2 or 3 star warning level, which means cops or STAG shooting you the whole time. Your vehicles are not indestructible, so you might see the problem this would cause.

Saints Row the ThirdThere is also the STAG restricted zones which pop up all over the central city later in the game. Often, especially when flying, you may accidentally cross through one of these zones gaining and instant wanted level. Once again, this can make some missions trickier than they should be.

On the other hand, there are aspects tot his game which almost make it too easy. If you continually buy upgrades, by the end of the game you’ll likely have bought unlimited ammo for most of your weapons and “take no damage” for most types of damage. This makes many of the later missions an absolute cake walk. these upgrades are optional of course, but the design of some of the missions almost make them a requirement. While avoiding spoilers as much as possible, the final missions has you fighting one larger “boss” type enemy while being constantly assaulted by waves of smaller enemies. The smaller enemies can easily be thwarted and killed but they come at an almost endless space and the mission has a 5 minute timer in place, so being slow and steady on picking off the main bad guy doesn’t really work. Without having immunity to bullets this missions becomes supremely difficult.

Saints Row the ThirdWhich is another issue really. The game can get a little TOO busy at times, especially with STAG laser fire flying everywhere. It’s hard to keep track of where to shoot and where to run at times and destroying some of the forces just means another one almost instantly pops up in it’s place.

But enough complaints.

One last point I wanted to touch on before closing up. This game has a lot of choices. for anyone worried, these choices always have clear benefits for each one listed and other than the singular one at the end, none of them impact the game in any other way. The first time I was presented with a choice, destroy a building or take it over, I almost panicked about “what if I pick the wrong one”. The end result, is only what’s specified. Keep it and get more money, destroy it and gain respect. Which brings up the final choice in the game. This choice has no white text benefits, it is only “Do A, or Do B”. Each will give a different game ending, but thankfully, picking one will allow you to replay the mission and pick the other. This sequence is also pretty excellent all around in it’s use of music and chances are, unless you’re a souless monster (which your character is supposed to be I suppose), you’ll end up getting the “happy ending” first. Which does present my only real complaint with the choices. From a long term perspective, almost all of the choices have a clearly superior choice. Take the choice given by the Decker’s Matt Miller. He’ll get you a permanent discount on Weapon Upgrades or Vehicle upgrades. There are a finite number of weapon upgrades, maybe half of which you’ll have bought by this point, maybe 20-30 remaining. Meanwhile, there are loads of different vehicles in the game, each have a minimum of like 10-15 upgrade options. the clear choice is that, long term, vehicle upgrades is a better choice. Not that it probably matters by the end of the game when you get 50k an “hour”.

Saints Row the ThirdSo, there are legitimate issues, but some of it feels like trying to find faults for the sake of faults. The reality is, very few, if any games are perfect. Saints Row the Third is very very good. It’s loads of fun, it’s full of campy attitude. Almost everything about the game is over the top insane. the city basically tries to destroy itself for the sake of ridding itself of the Saints. Keep in mind, this is a GTA type game, which means it’s full of foul language, sex jokes, and of course, violence. If you enjoy old school GTA, this game will definitely satisfy you.

One Comment

  1. S says:

    Good review! Saints Row 3 was just awesome game. To me it felt like the game came out with perfect timing where many games were going with dark and gritty environments wanting to be ‘real’. Saints Row 3 to me was the proverbial middle finger to the coffee stained GTA world that every publisher was following lock-step. Then again, I could be biased due to Professor Genki and the character customize system.

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