The Third Street Saints have come a long way since their conception back in 2006. Starting out as a goofy take on Rockstar’s proud formula, Saints Row has progressively accepted its ridiculousness, and now downright embraces it. The Third brings all of that full circle with some of the most bizarre and outrageous plotlines and missions, creating one giant punch line that is as much fun to play as anything else on the market. Pedestrians will be launched out of cannons, drug dealers will murder hot dog mascots and, most importantly, you will be shooting furries in an insane, over-the-top game show for money. This is Saints Row.
The story picks up with the Saints at the top of their game. After thwarting the Ultor Corporation at the end of the second game, they have the entire city of Stilwater to themselves. They are stars with their own comic books, energy drinks and even movie deals. The first mission has you robbing a bank and lifting a vault out in the process. You quickly discover this is no ordinary bank, and it is actually owned by a new gang called The Syndicate. Things spiral out of control, and eventually, a war begins between the Saints and The Syndicate on the brand new island of Steelport.
The story is as wacky as the game, but it definitely had me hooked, mainly because of the characters and their- well- their character. You will run into a colorful cast of homies throughout the game. From Zimos, the pimp who talks through a voice box to Oleg, a large brute that runs around in the buff the first time you meet him. I also loved the voice acting. Even my generic protagonist that I created has three options for both male and female voices, and they all immerse you into your character. Besides, who can honestly not love a game with Burt freaking Reynolds in it? The dialogue and camaraderie between The Saints and the inhabitants of Steelport really drew me into the game and the world.
The Saints Row series has slowly transformed from an open-world style game to more of a third-person action title in one really large level. Shooting controls are definitely more geared for spraying bullets, and the car handling is right out of an arcade racer. I actually prefer this to the more gritty, realistic stylings of others in the genre. The Third continues this by trimming back a lot of the fat found in the previous games. There are still activities strewn about the world with fan favorites making their return, but a lot of the redundant tasks have been completely replaced. Missions are no longer comprised of delivering item A to point B nearly as much, and you spend less time performing menial tasks.
One of the big changes to The Third is the progression system. You still earn respect and money from everything you do, but now you can upgrade your character with perks. For example, you can upgrade the amount of health you have or how fast it regenerates. You can also add bonuses such as bullet resistance and less falling damage. Each new respect level opens up new items and bonuses, and you can purchase them with your cash. This lets you progress the stuff that affects your game the most. You can also upgrade cars and guns at shops, making them more effective and deadly. Personally, I love adding spikes to the sides of my tires and running along the sidewalk. Yes, the game brings out my bad side.
Right out of the gate, you are tossed into insane action. Skydiving, driving tanks and using drones to bomb roadblocks are simply common fare. Missions feel more entertaining and less tedious very early on, making it easy to get lost in the action. Activities play a decent role with things like insurance fraud, snatch and escort all making a return. Sadly, some of fan favorites are omitted such as Fuzz and the bodyguard missions. I do love the new structure, though. It no longer feels like there is an insane amount of each activity making earning 100% completion completely obtainable, even by normal players.
This doesn’t mean the game is short by any stretch of the imagination. Blowing through the 47 missions will easily take you between 10-12 hours. Throw in the collectibles and activities, and you could easily lose another 15. Toss in the completion aspect of upgrading everything, and you have well close to 40 hours of game packed on this disc. This also doesn’t even include the multiplayer aspect of the game. You also have multiple paths that will alter the main story or add bonuses to cash or respect. It isn’t Mass Effect-like moral choices or anything, but it does change it enough to make you think about it before doing it.
Speaking of multiplayer, Saints Row The Third comes in two co-op varieties. You can, of course, hop into the main game with a buddy and wreak some insane havoc around the city, which is always a blast. This time around, you also have a new mode based on the recently popular horde mode that every game seems to need now. Of course, it has its own Saints Row flavor to it. It is called ’Whored Mode,’ and as you can imagine, it involves fighting wave after wave of the walking sex. Honestly, more of a diversion than anything else, I did have a blast with this mode, but it isn’t anything that is going to keep me coming back for wave after wave.
I guess if I had to nitpick the game, most of my issues would stem from the fact that the game feels like a super-sized version of the second one. This is in no way a bad thing. More content, especially when it is so ridiculous, is always welcome, but the game doesn’t feel like it has taken monumental steps forward for the series. The omission of some of the fan-favorite activities also hurt, but not as much as you would expect. Still, I could not drag myself away from the streets of Steelport, and that always speaks volumes about a game.
Visually, things are pretty much like they were in SR2. The cartoony visual style still works great, and pop-up has been tweaked, but not entirely removed. The frame rate snags from time to time, but explosions and the sheer scope make up for it. The ragdoll animations are still infuriating at times due to you being stuck in an animation and still taking damage. Not much has changed visually since the last game, although they did tweak the menus and upgrade systems. The new cellphone interface is very slick. The sound on the other hand is stellar. The voice acting is top-notch, outside of Hulk Hogan, who doesn’t do a poor job; his voice just doesn’t fit the character. The soundtrack was awesome, including stations featuring Adult Swim tracks as well as plenty of familiar songs including “You’re The Best,” from the Karate Kid, and so much more.
Saints Row The Third is an incredibly fun experience that fans of the series will have a blast with. The new diversions and ridiculousness like Professor Genki’s stuff just appeals to the crowd. Never once will you take this game seriously, and you shouldn’t, but when it grabs you it never lets go until you are simply done having fun. I was never frustrated at the game. If I failed a mission I simply went back in and did something more bizarre, which is the beauty of Saints Row. As long as you know that going in, you will have a blast. I can’t recommend this game enough, though. It simply defines what it means to have fun playing games.
Review copy provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.