Saints Row: The Third – The PS3 Attitude Review
Saints Row 2 was released just over three years ago, and since then the development team at Volition Inc. has had one question on its mind; how can we make the series even crazier? It turns out the answer is Saints Row: The Third, which defies realism in pretty much every way, and is perfectly happy with its status as a video game.
Since the events of Saints Row 2, the Saints gang has become famous, with its own energy drink, clothing line and upcoming movie. However, at the beginning of The Third, they find themselves penniless in the unwelcoming city of Steelport. The only way to restore their former Stilwater glory is to defeat a criminal organisation known as the Syndicate, and claim Steelport as their own.
Saints Row is a little different to similar open-world crime games like Grand Theft Auto and Mafia. In those games, you start as a nobody and eventually rise up the ranks to become someone important. At the start of Saints Row: The Third, you’re already the Boss of the Third Street Saints, which allows Volition to skip the usual boring early missions, and jump straight to the good stuff.
Case in point: just a couple of missions in, you bail out of a plane and have a gun fight in midair, as the plane’s cargo falls around you. The story somehow gets even more ridiculous the further you play (in a good way), until eventually you find yourself in the middle of a zombie outbreak, and taking on the military in an all-out war on the city.
At first, the Boss’s only companions are Shaundi and Pierce, who both return from Saints Row 2. However, you’ll soon have an entire crew to call on for backup, including Kinzie, a paranoid hacker who spends most of her time hiding under tables, and Zimos, a pimp who can only speak (or, rather, sing) through an auto-tuned voice box. Only in Saints Row.
As always, customisation is a huge part of the Saints Row experience. To kick off, there’s an incredible range of options for your character. Want to play as a bikini-clad woman with enormous breasts? Volition has you covered. Prefer to play as an obese middle-aged man? That’s fine too. What about a zombie? Again, you won’t be disappointed. The possibilities aren’t far off being limitless.
Pretty much every aspect of Saints Row: The Third is customisable or upgradeable in some way; not only your own character, but also your vehicles, weapons, houses, and even your gang. The experience you have with the game will genuinely be your own, so the chances are your version of Steelport will be very different to everyone else’s.
This level of variety also extends to the gameplay, with some of the most inventive side missions we’ve ever seen in a video game. Steelport is big place, and it’s positively crammed full of stuff to do on pretty much every street. There are a whopping ten different types of side mission dotted around the map, and they’re all brilliant fun to play.
Some of our favourites are; Insurance Fraud, in which you throw yourself into traffic and must cause as much damage to yourself as possible; Trail Blazing, a time trial in which you get extra time by destroying vehicles along your path; and Professor Genki’s Super Ethical Reality Climax, an arena-like mode in which you must defeat opponents while avoiding deadly obstacles.
As well as regular side missions, there are also two endings to unlock, sex doll collectibles to find (seriously), assassination targets to kill, challenges to complete, territory to take over, and much, much more. If you want to do everything the game has to offer, you’re play time will easily reach 40 hours, and that’s not including the hours of fun you can have just driving around and blowing stuff up.
However, whilst the side missions are terrific fun, some of the main story missions can get a little repetitive. There are a lot of absolutely awesome missions, but most are basically just large-scale shootouts. The shooting mechanics work extremely well and are very satisfying to use, but a bit more variety in the campaign would have been welcome.
Something that definitely brightens up the campaign, however, is the ability to play through in two-player online co-op. Tearing up the streets of Steelport with a friend is somehow even more fun than it is on your own. Split-screen co-op definitely would have been very welcome, but regretfully it isn’t included, so if you want to play in the same room then LAN is your only option.
Saints Row: The Third also features a separate horde-style mode, called, er… Whored Mode. You choose a map and a character, and are tasked with fighting off waves of enemies. It gets more challenging as you play, and you’re given a new weapon (or vehicle) every wave, keeping it from getting boring. It’s really quite addictive, and is also playable in online co-op.
As entertaining as the gameplay is, the visuals are a mixed bag. Character models, particularly movement and animations, constantly impress, but elsewhere the series is showing its age, with very few improvements over the previous title. It’s not a bad looking game by any means, and Steelport still has its charms, but a new engine would definitely be a decent investment for the next Saints Row.
This is also supported by the number of glitches we encountered throughout the game. For example, some enemies and vehicles would occasionally disappear, or appear out of nowhere, and once or twice an NPC got stuck in a wall. None of the issues we found are game-breaking, but they’re noticeable enough to be worth mentioning here.
If the visuals are slightly underwhelming, the way the game sounds easily makes up for it. The effects and voice-acting are consistently top-notch, especially from the playable character. This is particularly impressive considering that every line of dialogue has been recorded seven times – you have a choice of seven voices to choose between for the Boss.
However, the biggest triumph of the sound design is undoubtedly the licensed soundtrack, as the radio is always a joy to listen to. Whether you’re into modern rock, hip hop, metal, or even classical, you’re bound to find something you like. Volition has even included a mix tape feature, which allows you to only listen to your favourite songs, and ignore everything else.
Even though the Third Street Saints are basically homicidal maniacs, we somehow still found ourselves rooting for them, mainly because they’re simply so likeable, and the script is often laugh-out-loud funny. Like Bulletstorm earlier in the year, Saints Row: The Third features a lot of crass humour and extreme violence, but it gets away with it by being so damn entertaining.
Saints Row: The Third isn’t the best game of the year, but it’s definitely one of the most fun, mainly because the team at Volition has given players the freedom to do literally whatever they want. Some gamers will simply find it all too crazy, but if you can get past, or even better, embrace the game’s incessant wackiness, then we guarantee you’ll have a great time in Steelport.