Holy $#!^. It really is a challenge to clean up your mouth after playing Saints Row: The Third. It’s not because you are going to say the game is $#!^ or a waste of your &@*%ing time, but because there are so many moments where you burst out with, “Did that $#!^ really jut happen?” that the game’s foul mouth and your own just get blended together.
Saints Row: The Third is the end of a trilogy of progressively more extreme satires of the original Grand Theft Auto experience. The first Saints Row was somewhat grounded in reality while the second added a more fantastic storyline and more head scratching plot twists and more “Can they really get away with that?” moments.
Saints Row: The Third is like the Spinal Tap of the series. Take everything they have built… and turn it up to 11.
Saints Row: The Third controls much like a standard third person open world action game on the surface. Players punch, shoot and carjack their way through various missions or just reign chaos upon the poorly defended denizens of Steelport. What Saints Row: The Third has done to change things up is a constant stream of mix and match gameplay mechanics to keep the player constantly feeling like they are doing something new.
One of the earliest missions in the game has players free falling past debris while shooting other falling enemies. At some points, rocket launchers and tanks get involved in the free fall mix. Some areas take players to shooting gallery style trips as they are in an on rails scenario with a rocket launcher to defend their crew. Even playing off the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare inspiration, players can call in missile strikes to take out opponents at will.
Side missions introduce various mechanics such as players throwing themselves into traffic to commit insurance fraud like they did in Saints Row 2 while others give new elements like maintaining a high speed to keep the tiger sitting next to them happy (Don’t worry, it does actually make sense with respect to the story). Still later, just when you think you have seen every gameplay combination the game can throw at you, players must enter a death match wrestling style brawl… with the added chainsaw and shark as weapons. The game utilizes a mix of quick time events both for cut scene effect as well as for dodging the attacks of the newly introduced Brute enemies or doing extra damage with melee combat.
The Brutes prove to be a game changer in terms of traditional Saints Row (or even Grand Theft Auto) style combat. These big juiced up muscle heads can’t be taken down with a simple headshot like every other opponent that can be encountered. These make high explosive weapons so much more valuable instead of only being used for large crowd dispersal.
Gone from the game is the competitive multiplayer. While Saints Row 2 had some creative elements, the community never grew large for the online multiplayer, leaving for many empty game lobbies. Like Saints Row 2, Saints Row: The Third does feature cooperative gameplay allowing players to go along for the ride with a buddy as they traverse the story mode together. Added to the game is the Whored Mode (a.k.a. Horde Mode / Survival / Zombie). Now pretty much a staple in action games, Whored Mode takes a different approach to simply unending waves of opponents. Each wave has different modifiers, weapons, enemies and powerups strewn through the level. This can be played solo or cooperatively and each wave varies in difficulty depending on the number of enemies, the somewhat predictable enemy AI behavior or the amount of Brutes used. The mode feels familiar but at the same time different enough to give it a try. While fun, it doesn’t have the same drawer as the open world of the campaign as the areas for Whored mode are limited parts of the map.
Story and Presentation:
Storyline progression from Saints Row 2 to Saints Row: The Third has been improved. In the previous title, players were forced to complete side missions to increase their respect meter in order to unlock story missions. This time, that has been done away with completely and players can progress through the story and through activities at whatever pace they prefer. This keeps the pacing much better in the title and allows for a more cohesive storytelling process unlike the last game where one of your closest friends has been killed but you can’t go after their killer unless you go deliver some hookers first.
The story itself takes new leaps and bounds in terms if utter lunacy and fantasy. While there was still some semblance of reality in Saints Row 2, Saints Row: The Third throws all that out the window. Early on in the game, players jump from a plane and begin to plummet to the ground, shooting targets on their way. They are then able to land back in that plane’s cockpit minutes later. Make no mistake, Saints Row: The Third knows it is a game and doesn’t try to hide it. In a later portion, players enter a virtual reality world as they try to attack one of the rival gang leaders through cyber heroism and find themselves disguised as some outrageous and wild avatars in this Tron-like world.
Coming from the world of professional wrestling, the “insider” lingo used in the game is scarily accurate. Not only does it fit the world of Saints Row as one of the major gangs now hides under luchador masks, but it shows some real reverence and respect to the world of pro wrestling from Volition. Maybe this is their way of telling THQ they want to get their hands on the next WWE game.
Dialogue is still over the top and foul mouthed, but like the rest of the title it works because Saints Row: The Third won’t let the player take it more seriously than it takes itself. From a car that shoots people out of a cannon (if you picked up the Platinum edition of the game or preordered it) to the gigantic purple sex toy that you can beat random citizens to death with to even the “Hulk hands” that make people explode into red mist on contact. The game also provides a much longer campaign story than previous titles that makes all the gameplay variations talked about above make sense in relation to what the player is currently dealing with.
Graphics and Sound:
Saints Row: The Third is a crisp and bright game which fits the over the top feel of the title. Blood sprays a sharp red while gangs represent themselves in bold blues and greens. Frame rate never becomes an issue even while the world blows up around the player in every direction with tons of characters filling the screen.
Players are given a fairly impressive level of depth, as to be expected, from the character customization screen allowing for a full unique character that fits perfect into this new world. Designers took lots of time to include wild costume options as well for the most whacked out combinations, with a frighteningly high level of Furry costumes as well. Though never called out, the city of Steelport has a frighteningly high level of kinky citizens considering the number of Furries you will see driving up and down the street in golf carts.
Music plays a great part in Saints Row: The Third. As we mentioned on the Bitcast podcast, music is well timed as to where it falls in with the game and story. After a tense start to the story, players need to lighten up and the game invites them to sing along with their character and one of their homies as “What I’ve Got” by Sublime comes on the stereo. To make it even better, the characters in the car react to the song as well, singing along with it as off key as the player does in real life. There are tons of moments where the music perfectly times in to the rest of the game whether its Kanye West or Butthole Surfers.
Saints Row: The Third takes the charm of the previous Saints Row titles, gives a big middle finger to reality and realistic crime drama and gives players the chance to sit back in a reality based world and say, “&#^( it, I’m playing a video game and it isn’t going to teach me something. It isn’t going to give me a new sense of moral values. And it isn’t going to make me a better person. But I’ll be damned if it doesn’t put a smile on my face.” What Saints Row: The Third does great is it takes a formula that has been done to death and satirizes the hell out of it to the point where it is impossible not to enjoy it.
Saints Row: The Third may be the last time Volition can continue with the current formula though. As whacky and as out there as the series has become, they do dance around a fine line of whether it has just gone zany for the sake of zany and ends up coming across as corny or campy than genuinely entertaining. But for now, this version of the Saints is one for any adult gamer to enjoy. (Notice that I said adult and not mature. It is pretty hard to use the word mature in reference to a game where irreverence, F words and hoes are the norm.) $#!+ yea!
XBox 360 (also available on PlayStation 3 and PC)
Developer: Volition Studios
Price: $59.99 (Platinum Pack available for $99.99)