Saints Row: The Third is the third game in THQ and Volition Inc’s open world action franchise. It seeks to make a great first impression, but can the infantile humor and wide-open gameplay garner lasting appeal to players?
The Saints have come a long way since their humble beginnings. As Saints Row: The Third kicks off, you and your crew have risen to superstar status with business being run more like a major corporation than a gang. Discontent with movie deals and a wide range of Saints-branded merchandise, you and your companions have decided to heist a bank.
Things quickly turn sour, as you discover that the bank belongs to an international crime syndicate called…the Syndicate. In retaliation The Syndicate sees to it that the Saints are downgraded to standard criminals, drains the Saints’ bank account and immediately takes over all Saints territory, leaving you to rebuild your empire while seeking revenge on the Syndicate.
While Saints Row has always been a bit silly compared to open world action games, Saints Row: The Third takes this to a whole new level. The main story itself is relatively grounded, but it’s everything in between that makes it so preposterous. You’ll be competing in Japanese game shows, driving tigers around in convertibles, riding carriages driven by leather-clad sex slaves and other similarly outlandish activities.
One of the first things you’ll notice in the game is the great customization system. You can customize your physical appearance with great…hrmhm…detail. Don clothing ranging from mobster style suits, silly costumes, flamboyant underwear, or… nothing at all. Customize cars with a moderate selection of body kits, performance upgrades, decals and paint jobs. And you can even chose the style of your gang members, whether it be leather, punk, street or biker.
As you complete missions, activities or perform special stuns you earn money and respect. The respect unlocks upgrades and special abilities. Money is used to purchase these upgrades and abilities, along with property and weaponry. The weapons are varied and inventive, awarding a the player a great sense of power when fully upgraded. There is nothing quite like having two huge handguns with explosive bullets, or raining down death from above with remote controlled predator strikes.
Unfortunately the actual shooting mechanics leave much to be desired. A cover system being just one of the most glaring omissions. Most encounters boil down to you running back and forth from a safe position shooting a dozen or so bad guys each time. There are some special enemy types that help mix things up, but these appear much too often, eliminating any significant impact they might have had.
Vehicle gameplay isn’t all that great either, unfortunately. While providing for some arcade fun, the cars all feel floaty and as a result, they’re easily tossed into the air without any feeling of momentum or a fear of gravity. While the vehicle and shooting gameplay aren’t terrible, it disappoints us to see that they weren’t refined a little further.
There is a great amount of variety in all the different activities you take part in which makes up for some of the game’s shortcomings. It’s also hard to stay mad when you consider the unique and creative implements of destruction the game places at your disposal.
Strengthening this delicious chaos is a fully featured coop mode which infinitely improves the overall experience. You can import your singleplayer character into the coop, and you can also keep the progress and rewards you get from the coop back into the singleplayer.
Alongside the coop mode there’s the…eh….whored mode, spelled with a W. Saints Row: The Third, takes a different approach to the now classic horde mode, putting the players in new situations for each wave. It usually boils down to “kill the bad guys,” but it’s refreshing to see this level of variety.
Visually the game isn’t anything special. The city of Steelport feels empty and lifeless compared to other recent open world games. Textures are all pretty flat. Building models can look crude and two dimensional. And while the pedestrians look decent, you won’t walk down the street for long before you run into a couple of clones. The vehicles also lack detail, but this is remedied somewhat by the extensive vehicle customization.
Saint’s Row: The Third is a game clearly made with a philosophy of quantity over quality, as no single aspect of the game stands out as a truly great experience. That said there are hours of fun to be had from this game, even if you only do everything once. They might not all be zingers, but you’ll be entertained nevertheless. If you’re an absolute nut for open world games, don’t mind crass at best, and downright bad at worst comedy, and have a dedicated coop partner, you should definitely get this game. To everyone else; try before you buy.
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Name: Saints Row: The Third
Available on: PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360
Developed by: Volition Inc.
Published by: THQ
Release date: November 15th 2011
EG Score: 3 out of 5 / “Worth Renting”