Saints Row: The Third Review
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On 11/30/2011 at 05:00 PM by Jesse Miller
It's so absurd that it's hard to be offended by these Saints.
For anyone looking for a fun, wacky and non-nonsensical game that more than fills the massive shoes left behind by Vice City and San Andreas.
It only takes about 15 minutes to get an idea of what exactly Saints Row: The Third is about. Actually, let me rephrase that. It only takes about 15 minutes to understand that Saints Row: The Third is as illogical as it can possibly be without the dialogue being performed completely in pig latin. The ends don’t justify the means here. The means unapologetically justify themselves and you should just be glad that you get the pleasure to tag along. In just 15 minutes you’ll commit mass murder dressed as a bobblehead, ride a bank vault being yanked into the air via helicopter, and jump out of a jet with your guns blazing. There is no real justification for any of this, except that it’s fun to be absurd.
Taking place shortly after the events of the second game, the Third Street Saints have found themselves cannonballed into the realm of international superstardom. The gang is more brand than group of outlaws and they have the clothing lines, comic books, and Saint’s Flow Energy Drinks to prove it. Being above the law may sound entertaining and on a certain level it is, but it’s clear that the Saints need to get back to their roots. Luckily for us the powers that be agree and bring them screaming back to Earth.
During a routine bank robbery that sets off the action in the game, things go awry in the most spectacular fashion that they possibly could and the leader of the Saints (read: the player) and his main homies find themselves far from the familiar streets of Stillwater and in the massive, varied and unfriendly locale of Steelport. That’s when the fun really starts.
Unlike most open world games the entirety of Steelport is available from the very beginning of the game. There aren’t any broken down bridges or mysterious roadblocks impeding your way. Exploration is encouraged and the tools to help your trailblazing are shoved in your lap in rapid succession. The amount of freedom presented to the player from the get-go may sound daunting, but the slow progression of introducing side quests and “gotta-find-them-all” types of collectables ensures that you don’t get overwhelmed.
As you progress past those first frantic 15 minutes in the game and start really chipping away at the surface of the game, things start to gain a bit of focus – if you could indeed call it that – this game is all about choices. Character creation is extraordinarily robust, allowing you to create characters that resemble Hollywood icons, popular fictional characters or anything else you could think of and with the inclusion of readily accessible plastic surgery practices scattered across the world map you can completely change your appearance whenever you want.
For as much variety and off the wall craziness that the Saints bring to the table, the main and side missions mostly follow standard archetypes. There are various escort and kill-em-all missions that populate the game’s plot progression, which can be a little repetitive at times. But in true Saints fashion there are just enough oddball and absurd tasks that will keep you entertained and wondering just what this game will pull next. A standard smash and grab job may result in a zombie outbreak or you may find yourself in the middle of a luchador match, smashing all comers in the face with a urinal or a blow-up doll – the choice really is yours.
We all know that money is king and the same holds true for the world of Saints Row, but Volition takes it a step further by expanding exactly what it is you can do with your hard earned (or stolen) moolah. In most games cash is used to purchase guns, ammo, cars, and cribs. This is true for Saints Row as well, but it’s also used to improve your character as well, and I don’t mean by buying a better wardrobe. Skills, abilities and other bonuses are all purchased with cash. Extra health, longer sprinting ability and faster reloading isn’t improved through practice or “points.” Nope, they’re all made incrementally better by advancing to an appropriate level and then spending money accordingly. Since all types of improvements (personal/arsenal/vehicle/domicile) all use the same currency there is a level of strategy employed in how you play the game. Some players may concentrate on self improvement, while others may up their arsenal instead. Cash is rather plentiful though, and most players will find it doesn't take terribly long to completely deck out everything.
For all the fun Saints Row is, there is one glaring issue with the game. It’s short. Sure there are a ton of side missions and collectables to waste your time on, but those that play the game deliberately – with the sole goal of plot progression – will find that their time in Steelport will equate to about 8 hours. It’s easy to expand upon that number through various shenanigans and the game begs for multiple playthroughs, but with THQ being as open as they have been about DLC missions coming down the line it’s obvious that the meat and potatoes of the game was cut short in order to peddle future digital content.
Now, I’m not here to debate the merits of DLC, but when a game feels incomplete as Saints Row: The Third does, and it is known that DLC will be coming at a cost to the player; I am forced to dock the final score accordingly. When the game suddenly ended with minimal build-up and no indication that this was the final mission I was forced to reconsider my initial stance, which is unfortunate because the game really is excellent.
Missing, removed or late coming content aside, Saints Row: The Third is a great game that offers players a fantastic degree of freedom. A longer central story would have done wonders for this game, but even with that considered this game warrants your attention.