PSBeyond reviews Saints Row The Third
A lot of games nowadays focus on immersion and try to draw us in with advanced graphics engines and well written storylines. Saints Row The Third is the exact opposite of that because it doesn’t try to make you feel like the events taking place on the screen are real. Instead, it does what Grand Theft Auto used to back in the day – give you a heavy arsenal of weapons, sets you loose in the city and what happens happens. In one sentence this game can be summed up as over the top unrealistic mindless fun.
The story picks up a few years after the protagonist and the Saints take down the Ultor Corporation in Saints Row 2. The Saints have become celebrities, with Johnny Gat and Shaundi becoming pop-culture icons. There are Saints energy drinks, bobbleheads and a chain of Saints fan stores called Planet Saints. The story goes hand-in-hand with the feel of the game – after all, the idea of a street gang becoming celebrities is pretty out there. Eventually they attract the attention of a multi-gang organization known simply as The Syndicate, who demand tribute from the Saints. The Saints refuse and long story short, a gang war between The Saints and The Syndicate takes place in Steelport, a town that feels very similar to Stillwater, but much more industrial. The opening mission still takes place in Stillwater, with the Saints robbing a bank and signing autographs in the process. The mission itself is probably one of the best openings ever seen in a video game. It’s hard to put the reasons for that into words, but playing the mission will not leave you disappointed.
The only disappointing thing about the storyline is that the once fun-loving stoner chick Shaundi now feels like a generic sexy but serious female sidekick, as well as a certain part of the story dealing with Johnny Gat, but that’s going into spoiler territory. Still, there are some very interesting new characters that fill the void nicely. Ex-FBI hacker Kinzie Kensington, for example, is every bit as twisted as Shaundi was in Saints Row 2, if not more so. Wrestling fans will appreciate Killbane, the leader of the Luchadores gang, who uses a lot of insider terminology, such as saying “Time for the high spot boys” before The Luchadores let loose on the Saints with a rocket volley. A nice little nod to THQ developing WWE games as well. Other than the Luchadores, the Syndicate also consists of the stylish Morningstar with their Europaean swagger led by the Belgian Philipe Loren and the Deckers, a gang of cyberpunks led by young hacker Matt Miller, who ends up on the receiving end of a lot of jokes about his age, especially from the protagonist. Later on a government-run Special Tactical Anti-Gang unit (STAG) joins the fray after the gang war get way out of control.
The graphics are far from impressive, but that feels like it was done on purpose. There are a lot of bright colors and the character models look very cartoonish, which really helps the absurdist feeling that the Saints Row franchise is known for.
Of course, an open world game isn’t much without a good deal of side missions. One of the more noteworthy changes from Saints Row 2 is how this game handles them. Instead of having them all on the map from the get-go, they become part of the main story and can be repeated at will. This is a welcome change because you don’t get overwhelmed by the freedom of choice anymore. You get forced to try an activity once and then you can repeat it if you enjoy it. Unfortunately, the Crowd Control activity is gone, but there are some new ones. Tank Mayhem is just like the normal Mayhem, but you get to do it in a tank. This is probably the most fun activity in the whole game. Additionally, there is Dr Genkis’ Ethical Reality Climax, an obstacle course which has the player fending off waves of heavily armed animal mascots, as well as Guardian Angel which has you protecting a fellow saint from above with a rocket launcher and a sniper rifle. There is nothing revolutionary about the gameplay, but its still great fun because of the sheer variety of ways to put your enemies out of their misery. Guns can be upgraded with explosive ammo, armor-piercing ammo, flaming ammo etc. This gives the player a lot of choice in terms of what weapons to use, because no weapon feels inferior to any other after you purchase all the upgrades. Sprinting now modifies certain actions by letting you do a roll instead of jumping or an awesome looking running takedown instead of attacking.
Character customization has always been one of the strong points of Saints Row. In Saints Row The Third some of it is better, while some of it is worse. You can no longer pick a fighting style or mix and match clothes – instead, all the tops, bottoms and shoes are preset. Thankfully, so pants (unfortunately not belts) have holster attachments and you can have your character speak in zombie grunts, even during cutscenes. As always, your character can be dressed in anything from everyday clothes to something outrageous like an animal mascot or a futuristic soldier.
It’s a real shame that Saints Row The Third was a Fall release because it was overshadowed by the amount of anticipated games releasing before the Holidays, such as Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3. It definitely deserved more attention than it got because its awesome mission design and absurdist gameplay deliver a very unique mindlessly fun experience. If that seems like your type of game, then Saints Row The Third is nothing short of a keeper.