Saints Row: The Third is the newest addition to the Saints Row series, developed by Volition Inc and published by THQ. The game is a Third Person Shooter which revels in its own madness as it is built around the ideal of doing completely over the top things for fun.
The game starts with a quick look at how the 3rd Street Saints are now, with a gang turned Media Empire which stretches from drink endorsements to stores full of Saints’ merchandise. It then moves to a heist in a bank where Johnny Gat and Shaundi are joined by an actor, Josh Birk who is researching the gang for a movie based on the Saints’. After a brief lift ride and disguising themselves with large Johnny Gat heads they meet up with the Boss (you), who is also disguised. After a few bad turns things turn really sour and you all get put in prison despite having paid off the police already as a larger payoff has overridden yours.
After being taken out of Prison you are brought onto the private jet of Phillipe Loren, leader of Steelport’s union of gangs; The Syndicate, which comprises of the Morning Stars; Loren’s gang which is very business orientated in both style and how the operations are run, the Deckers; a group of cyberpunks and technophiles lead by super-hacker Matt Miller and finally the Luchadores led by the champion Mexican wrestler Killbane. After the Saints refuse Loren’s offer to join them, the Saints rebel and escape the jet in an adrenaline fuelled escape before landing in Steelport.
From there the story takes numerous twists and turns, meeting some truly interesting and sometimes weird or funny characters along the way. It does go over the top at every moment possible and will even go into some rather strange areas. Because of this need to be over the top the game can sometimes feel disjointed and the departure from being able to tackle gangs in any order to being in a slightly more direct path doesn’t actually help the story much and seem more for introducing one of the activities that are on offer.
After the initial bank heist you are able to create and customise your character as you see fit. This ranges from the modification of body and facial sizes and features to customising the outfit that your character will wear to begin with; baring in mind that you can purchase new pieces of clothing and tattoos from shops in the city. It has a reasonably deep amount of variants for all the different features and items of clothing and with six different voices; three for each gender, you can create an avatar to your liking.
Story missions are generally fun and almost always have some sort of set piece to wow you, whether it does or doesn’t though depends as sometimes the wow isn’t much of a wow and more of a “how do I kill this” moment. This is especially true with the Brutes that the Syndicate throw at you. A few of the missions are just to introduce you to activities but the majority will push more engaging scenarios your way. Some of the more important missions will give you two paths to choose at the end giving you rewards and penalties depending on the choice made; some are purely statistic based while others actually impact the game world.
Steelport is absolutely huge and you will spend a large portion of your time running or driving around it to get from place to place. Vehicles handle well in relation to their types, so sports cars drive generally smoother than the larger 4x4s which in return means that they can plough through vehicles and not get pushed around quite as much as the lighter vehicles. Vehicles, like your character can be customised with cars being more customisable than bikes and boats and helicopters being fixed with one look. You can customise performance, as well as changing chassis parts and making colour changes. Boats see very little action in game while driving and flying tend to be the better options. Cruise control is a handy feature on most vehicles but when shooting in cars it’s easier to take things out in front of you but if you are riding shotgun shooting won’t have any problems. GPS this time around is improved even more since the second game and so long as you have a waypoint on the map you can normally find your way. Large guiding arrows will appear next to bends in the road to show you which route to take but due to their design they are never obtrusive and you will always be glad they are there. Shortcuts can also be added real-time as you find them on the map which will update your GPS too.
Combat has at least 2 types of weapon in each slot; baring bare hands, which lets you do takedowns or just pull average punches instead. There are melee weapons, pistols, submachine guns, assault rifles, shotguns, explosives and then special weapons. Most weapons are upgradable but a few aren’t, the ones that are tend to get stat increases and sometimes the 4th and final upgrade level will herald a rarer change, from incendiary bullets, explosive rounds, laser targeting and much more. Everything is upgraded with cash via one of the gun shops around Steelport.
The control scheme unfortunately cannot be changed which means that you stand still every time you want to change weapons, which isn’t handy in a fire fight. The “awesome” button is mapped to be sprint as well; it makes all your normal actions awesome by doing something that is more over the top than the standard action. Hijacking a car with the awesome button sees you jump and dive through the windscreen, ejecting the driver from the car and then being ready to drive off. Other awesome button actions include knockdowns, violent assaults and surfing on someone’s back. Unfortunately the melee awesome button isn’t a one hit knock out so its use is more limited to just the visuals of it but the carjacking will completely replace the standard action as its just so much faster to do and as such makes some vehicles feel archaic as you can’t enter them anywhere near as quickly as you want to.
Aside from missions, there are also activities and the Saintsbook entries to complete as well as vying for control of sections of each of the four districts. Activities are mostly returns from previous Saints Row titles, such as insurance fraud and mayhem but there are some redesigned ones like escort as well as new ones. The most interesting one of the lot is Professor Genki’s Super Ethical Reality Climax, which is a game show that crosses the Japanese game shows that have assault courses with a murderous shooting gallery, where you kill mascots for points and need to keep your combo up to earn as much cash as necessary. Surprisingly it isn’t a standalone game mode which is a shame as its one of the best features of Saints Row: The Third and was featured heavily in the marketing campaign. Trying to control a district concerns completing activities as well as buying shops and properties and fighting off areas filled with a rival gang. District control increases revenue earned which in turn lets you buy more shops and properties as well as weapon upgrades and abilities. Saintsbook is split into 3 sections: Assassinations, Vehicle Deliveries and Challenges. Assassinations are small missions which rely on you following the brief and killing a target, some of which have descriptions that make it difficult to understand or just have difficult/awkward objectives to complete. Vehicle Deliveries has you roaming around looking for a vehicle type in a certain area, luckily the vehicle that’s wanted appears on the map; but once you have the vehicle the law is after you and you need to deliver the vehicle to the chop shop it’s wanted at. Finally challenges range from the absurd to awkward to a natural action that you will do without thinking. Things like drive a certain distance will be added to during the game, as will carjacking; things like taunting enemy gang members is just awkward and streaking and vehicle surfing is absurd. There are some fun challenges that you actively have to seek out like stunt ramps, nut-shots (which can be accidental too) and destroying Emu cars.
Almost every action you perform will garner you with respect, which is Saints Rows version of experience. After gaining enough respect you will level up (to a maximum of 50) upon which new abilities or bonuses are unlocked either for free or for purchase with cash. There are many different upgrades to choose from and some will give bonuses to weapons, others to followers, some will give you resistances and others will give other kinds of abilities such as the ability to see collectables on the map, or a bonus to respect or increased health regeneration. Once you reach top level you can start to buy some really game changing abilities, like unlimited ammo for a weapon or 100% resistance to a specific damage type.
The game can be played entirely in co-op but you will need to play it via the internet or system link as it doesn’t support split-screen play. Outside of the main game Whored mode acts as a more comic version of the standard horde modes seen in various other games recently. It features 30 waves with a choice of 3 maps, where most waves actually have very different styles of play. From only using specific weapons to enemies that stand at double your height there is a lot to play through but there isn’t really any incentive to play it as it doesn’t tie in with the single player at all and it doesn’t have leaderboards. It can be played in co-op as well in the same fashion as the co-op campaign, so internet and system link only.
Graphically the game is pretty sharp and has well designed levels and characters; you get plenty of elbow room for making changes to the way your character looks; from cool to pretty, to ugly or weird. You can always change things later on as well so things aren’t set in stone. The sexual attraction slider in the character creator is maybe a step to far as it increases or decreases your characters “assets” dependant on gender. All the different gangs and groups have their own aesthetics so you can immediately tell what’s what in the game. The luchadores are maybe a little lacking in comparison to other gangs as they have very basic looks in comparison.
The audio for the game is pretty good, with voice actors doing a decent job and some famous names thrown in. The licenced tracks have some really good hits that are well known and are placed in some really good points in the story, which serves the game well as it keeps a great tone to those missions but there are a lot of tracks that are not very well known and will be uninteresting for most players. Luckily you can create a mix tape of all your favourite songs so that you only have to listen to them but apart from mission soundtracks you only hear music in the cars which is a big let-down as you will miss parts of the song if you leave a vehicle.
The game tries to be as fun as possible and leads to some great moments and funny jokes, but ultimately it hits a few snags because of the pacing and some of the stranger missions it tries to incorporate.
Presentation and Audio
The graphics are good and have great design in characters and environments. The voice acting is pretty high quality with some big names taking on roles within the game. The music has some good songs amongst a lot of different genres but the way some of these songs are played during some specific missions adds to make the mission feel just right.
You will have fun in Steelport, with as much to do as there is there is always something that you can find to enjoy. Unfortunately at times some of the elements feel too thinly spread or as though they could have been more but this is a common problem of open world games in general.
The game is undoubtedly fun but it takes a few hits during the awkwardly paced story and can sometimes feel like its spread a little too thin because of all the wacky extras that are in the game. Most of the time the glitches that appear add to the madness and are usually fun but the occasional bug will get you down, especially when it wrecks a difficult or long mission. DLC should keep you hooked for a while after release.
The game does a lot right by Saints Row 2 but tries to extrapolate on its madder side maybe a little too much which is why it can feel a little spread thin in certain elements and why the story can be a bit disjointed. Open world games have a hard time keeping things flowing and while the start to the game gets a little slow after the initial few missions once you’ve got a little further and bought some abilities the game opens up more and feels much more accessible. I loved Saints Row 2 and this has a lot of what made it great but it does fall short at times during the story which I felt 2 was better with. That having been said the improvements to activities are very good and the game is still very fun, getting most of the main elements completed took me about 20 hours and now I’m wrapping up what remains before I start again to try a different approach with the decisions I missed.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.