Saints Row: The Third Review

Saints Row: The Third

Each year brings new video games that push the boundaries of storytelling and innovation, but sometimes you just want to dropkick people through car windows. The team at Volition understand this, as Saints Row: The Third acts as a love letter to gamers who enjoy chaotic, over-the-top, and downright absurd action. The game may be rough around the edges and some of the mechanics are a bit shaky, but it’s hard to focus on that considering how ridiculously fun it is.

The third entry in the franchise finds the Saints gang on the rise, with plenty of fans and a lucrative film contract in its back pocket. But all of that is immediately put on hold by an international crime organization called the Syndicate. The unnamed protagonist and the rest of the Saints eventually find themselves in Steelport where they must fight this new threat in order to claim the city’s territory. The basic framework of the story is simple and of little consequence, but the larger-than-life personalities and relentless humor is where Saints Row: The Third‘s narrative truly shines. Most of the jokes in the game are silly and juvenile, but in a charmingly goofy kind of way. And only in a Saints Row game will you find characters like an auto-tuned pimp.

From a gameplay perspective, the inherent similarities to the Grand Theft Auto franchise are still there, but with this latest entry Saints Row is starting to separate itself from the crowd. All conventions related to realism are thrown out the window, and the focus is entirely on making the most ridiculous game possible. This is clearly reflected by the various missions that task players with all kinds of crazy objectives. One might involve shooting RPGs from a helicopter while the next is all about a Luchadore wrestling match. This variety in mission structure both prevents repetition and provides hours and hours of quality entertainment. Also adding to the fun factor are the creative weapons, including my personal favorite, the Apoca-Fist. Ever wanted to make a guy explode by simply punching them? Well there’s your new weapon of choice.

Saints Row 3

There are also plenty of side activities to keep gamers busy. They include the return of Insurance Fraud, which is essentially Burnout’s Crash mode with a human instead of a car, and Professor Genky’s Super Ethical Reality Climax, a twisted game show where players shoot guys in bizarre costumes. These diversions succeed in expanding the game’s longevity and also stay faithful to the uniquely comical and ludicrous world that Volition has created.

The actual gameplay mechanics are where some of Saints Row: The Third‘s blemishes start to pop up. The most notable of these is the gunplay, which is largely disappointing. The most powerful guns are fun to play around with, but action-game mainstays like the shotgun and SMG feel unsatisfying. There’s also a lack of strategy or challenge during shootouts, as players can often run up to large groups of enemies and attack them point blank. Even in a sandbox game, these kinds of fundamental problems are troublesome.

Saints Row: The Third makes up for these shortcomings by expanding the customization options. The character creation tools are still fantastic, allowing players to run wild with their imaginations. I created a guy who spoke in a zombie voice throughout the entire game. And yes, it was absolutely hilarious. Even more impressive is the amount of freedom allowed in the new leveling system. Respect gained by completing missions and performing feats is no longer used to open up story missions. Instead, players can unlock new upgrades that improve weapons or character-specific stats, and provide monetary bonuses among a whole slew of other options. Weapons can also be upgraded and vehicles have customization options of their own. There is a surprising amount of depth that one wouldn’t expect from a Saints Row game.

Competitive multiplayer is completely absent from Saints Row: The Third, but there is still drop-in/drop-out co-op support. Just imagine all of the crazy things one can do in the game and then multiply that by two when playing with a buddy. Obviously it ends up being a lot of fun. Less successful is Whored mode, the Saints Row version of taking on wave after wave of enemies. It does have its own distinct flair since the maniacal weaponry and enemies found in the single-player campaign are included in the co-op mode. But it also gets tedious rather quickly and doesn’t hold up for long periods of time.

Saints Row 3

When dealing with sandbox games, visual issues often pop up. Saints Row: The Third is no exception, as there are a few too many graphical glitches. In addition, the city of Steelport feels rather lifeless and lacks the kind of expansiveness found in other titles that attempt to create a unique game world. Aside from that the game looks decent, but it’s nothing to write home about. The audio is much better, with an all-encompassing official soundtrack and solid voice-acting. There are even notable celebrities in the game, including Hulk Hogan and Burt Reynolds. Saints Row: The Third gets a few extra cool points for having those two individuals in the same game.

Not everyone will be able to handle the excessive absurdity of Saints Row: The Third, but gamers who think weirder equals better are in for a real treat. The most respectable aspect of the game is how it’s able to integrate a ton of crazy situations into a deep system with numerous customization options. The mechanics aren’t always the best, but there’s no denying that Saints Row: The Third is a blast to play.


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Author: Anthony LaBella View all posts by
My first experience playing a video game blew me away. The fact that Super Metroid was that game certainly helped. So I like to think Samus put me on the path to video games. Well, I guess my parents buying the SNES had a little something to do with it. Ever since then my passion for video games has grown. When I found that I could put words together into a coherent sentence, videogame journalism was a natural interest. Now I spend a large majority of my time either playing video games or writing about them, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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