Saints Row The Third Review
The Saints are back, and better than ever.
Being an open world, sandbox game, Saints Row has always been compared to GTA, and how it’s just a GTA wannabe. Well Volition Inc, and THQ may have started it that way, but with Saints Row The Third it grows out of GTA’s shadow and into its own spotlight of being a wild, over the top, in your face and tremendously fun game.
The story in Saints Row The Third picks up after the events in Saints Row 2, where the Saints took over Stillwater, and became instant celebrities with energy drinks named after them and a movie deal in the works. Things get off to a rocky start for the Saints after a bank robbery goes south, and they end up in jail, only to be escorted out by members of the Syndicate. The Syndicate is made up of multiple gangs, all wanting a piece of the Saints power, territory and money. Now you’re not just going to give in to this takeover of your turf and all hell breaks loose. Without giving too much away, you escape from the airplane they were transporting you in over the city of Steelport where you setup shop in order to plan your defeat of the Syndicate.
Over the course of the game you’ll meet up with plenty of interesting and mostly wacky characters, some willing to help you take down the Syndicate and some looking to cash in and take some of your empire. I don’t think too many people will buy a Saints Row game thinking there will be a great story, but it’s not terrible either, and it does the job to fill in the pieces between all the side missions and activities you’ll have a blast with in the game.
During the game you earn money and respect (XP) for completing main and side missions, activities and even challenges. Each new level of Respect that you reach you will be able to unlock a new upgrade for abilities, health, damage, combat, vehicles and more. Each upgrade will cost money so you are going to need cash on hand as well as an available upgrade slot. It’s a slight touch of RPG elements in a game you would probably least expect them. You can also, for a price, upgrade and buy new weapons at shops around the city. To help earn extra money, you can buy properties and shops which will increase your hourly income rate, and as much as it sucks to spend the cash early, it pays off in the end to have a high hourly rate as quick as you can. I had about $5000 an hour pretty early and it made buying game and weapon upgrades much easier in the end.
One of the more familiar extras in Saints Row are activities such as Tank Mayhem, Insurance Fraud, Snatch and many more. If you played Saints Row 2 you will feel right at home with many of the same activities returning, and they did add in a few news ones such as Professor Genki’s Super Ethical Reality Climax, which is a game show obstacle course where you have to make it to the end earning enough money from kills, and shooting bonus targets within the time limit. I’ve had a blast with these and were one of my favorite new activities. Activities are a great way to earn extra money and respect in between the main missions, and some of the funnest things in the game.
I really liked Saints Row 2, but I was never completely sold on the driving, as the handling felt off and kind of goofy. Luckily, Volition agreed and completed revamped the handling and controls of driving, from cars and planes, to bikes, everything handles and feels very smooth. You can drift around corners, zig-zag through traffic, and completely forget what driving was like in Saints Row 2. It’s a huge part of an open world game, so it’s great to finally have that piece fixed, and not just well, but really well. I actually prefer the driving in Saints 3 over GTA4 and that’s saying a lot as GTA4′s driving was really well done. Some people may disagree at first, but go back and play some GTA4 after this and I think you’ll agree.
As far as the missions go, they aren’t your average – drive here, kill the targets, deliver the package, etc. Sure, some of them are like that, but you will be experiencing some of the best missions in an open world game to date. For starters in the first few checkpoints of the game I was riding bank vaults being carried by helicopters, shooting enemies on rooftops, blowing up helicopters, using a remote attack drone to rain down missiles, and that was just the first 45 minutes. The missions range from average to ridiculous, and it’s helped by some of the new enemies like brutes who sometimes carry mini-guns or flamethrowers. You are never at a point where you feel like you’ve been doing this over and over, and that is often the case with large-scale open world games, but not in Steelport.
Check out the video below to see the Tank Mayhem activity in action.
The same goes for the weapons and vehicles Saints 3. You aren’t just using (but are available) Shotguns, Pistols, Sniper Rifles, SMG’s and Rifles. You have access to optional ridiculous weapons like a baseball bat sized dildo “The Penetrator”, a Remote Reaper drone which works like an AC-130, where you have a top down view to rain down missiles on the enemies below, among others. Vehicles also get their crazy counter parts with the Gat-Mobile which is a van turned into a giant Johnny Gat head with a joint in its grill that is a working flamethrower and a few more that really spice things up. They keep getting crazier as you play, so be prepared for more fun around every corner.
As much fun as I am having with Saints Row The Third, it’s not all fun and games, with some technical glitches rearing their ugly heads. I’ve had cut scenes with no sound, cars appear out of nowhere which cause me to crash, and one time I was running down the street shooting an SMG and all of a sudden the gun was gone. When I pressed B to check my guns, they were all gone too. I had to reload the last save and it was fine, but that was one of the weirdest glitches I have ever experienced. Hopefully these minor bugs will be fixed with an update soon, and none of them ruined the game, but they were definitely annoying enough to mention.
In Saints 3, and hopefully not Saints 4, there is a new survival based “Whored Mode”, where you have to survive waves of enemies with certain conditions such as the type of enemy or gun, changing in each wave. On the surface it sounds similar to Horde mode, Nazi Zombies, or FireFight, but it’s not nearly as good as any of those. One round you could be fighting bikini girls with the penetrator and the next you could be fighting zombies with a shotgun, but the waves are so short that by the time I start to get into it, it’s over and the next wave may not be so much fun and they lose me again. I’d rather the time they spent on this go into more testing and bug checking.
On top of the campaign missions, side missions, activities and even Whored Mode, Saints Row 3 offers challenges to complete, hidden ramps and collectibles to find, assassinations contracts to complete, vehicles to find and steal for money, and more. It’s a big game, with a ton of fun packed inside, and the best part is that you aren’t stuck playing alone.
Saints Row The Third supports 2 player, drop in – drop out, co-op for the main campaign and Whored Mode can also be played with 2 players.
I do have to say, as much as I love that the game includes online co-op support, I equally hate that they limit it to 2 players only. Especially in such a big open game like this, having 4 players running around together, causing mayhem would have been so much better. That being said, it’s still fun to play through with a friend and it’s done well, allowing both players to progress their own characters that they can take back to the solo campaign. So at least it’s got that going for it.
To make time available to include co-op, Volition Inc decided to drop the competitive multiplayer that was found in Saints Row 2 and I’m ok with that, as I didn’t care much for it, and I’d rather have a proper solo and co-op campaign first for this type of game.
The achievements are going to keep you playing for a while, even with standard ones for beating certain missions and the campaign completely, with achievements for stealing and delivering all the Vehicle Theft targets, beating all instances of all activities, and finding all the collectibles (a crate of inflatable sex dolls) are examples of how you are going to have to explore every inch of Steelport to earn that 100%. Doing this, helps extend the life of the game, and gets gamers involved in every aspect of the game. If you want the achievements, you are going to have to play everything.
Despite some technical flaws, 2 player only co-op and the lackluster Whored Mode, Saints Row The Third is the epitome of the phrase “the third time’s the charm”, and this time Volition nailed it out of the park and gave us the best Saints Row game yet. GTA4 was amazing, but it lost some of the “fun” that GTA was known for, and Saints Row The Third brings us back to that time and puts you in control of how much fun you want to have, and trust me, there is plenty of it to go around.