Review: Saint’s Row: The Third

Review: Saint’s Row: The Third

It’s not often you find yourself in the minority when your in-game character is well-dressed and wielding the most appropriate weapon for the job. Far too often gamers are forced to squeeze themselves into a mold and repress any urges to be unique, absurd, and just downright obscene. Thankfully the folks at Volition are here to help and have provided what may just be the most satisfying outlet for whatever it is you may have pent up.

Saint's Row: The Third

The Saint’s Row series has had a bit of a shadowed background, having grown up around the likes of Grand Theft Auto and all. The first in the series was largely considered to be the first open-world sandbox game of the next generation and those who played it will probably tell you just how massively satisfying it was. Unfortunately, Saint’s Row 2 flew almost entirely under the radar and many may forgotten about the series entirely… until now.

If you managed to miss all of the hype surrounding this game you may very well have either been living under a massive, all-encompassing rock or suffering from an acute case of downright obliviousness. Volition was dead set on making sure that Saint’s Row: The Third got the attention it deserved by painting the most out-of-this-world, nonsensical picture possible. And since no other game of its type was anywhere to be seen at the time, it worked.

As one who saw all of the ads and bought into 100% of the hype, I actually began to doubt this game was truly as absurd and ridiculous as the hype made it out to be. That was, until I played it.

Since merging with the Ultor Corporation, the Saint’s have gained what can only be described as a global celebrity status. They have become a household name across the world, complete with their very own energy drink. In a word, everyone wants to see them, meet them, and be them.

Saint's Row: The Third

Having outgrown Stilwater, the Saint’s have taken their operation to the bustling metropolis of Steelport, where business is booming. However, during a routine bank robbery, with a Hollywood understudy in tow, things go very wrong when the tellers retaliate with military grade weapons. In the end S.W.A.T. shows up, and the Saint’s land in prison. Johnny Gat openly expresses his disdain for where the Saint’s have ended up shortly before an international crime organization known as The Syndicate bribes the police to release the Saint’s to them.

It may not sound like much, but the open 45 minutes of this game are nothing short of brilliant. If you don’t mind having the experience sullied for you, Dan Curtis and I posted an official ManaTank press start which runs right up through the end of the game’s introduction.

From there, the story just escalates into one high octane mission after another as the Saint’s attempt to regain control of Steelport and re-establish themselves as the city’s true authority.

As far as stories go, this one is far from memorable, aside from the sheer absurdity of it. I’m reluctant to reveal anything specific because the surprises are just so absolutely unexpected that I want to avoid even the most remote chance of spoiling them. But I will say that you need to go into this game at the very least knowing that this game is not about to take itself seriously… at all.

If you’ve played any open world sandbox style game before you are going to feel right at home. But what sets Saint’s Row: The Third apart is just how unique and customizable it is. I’ve always been a fan of the GTA series, but my largest gripe is that I am told who to be and forced into that mold for the entirety of the game. SR3 tells that idea to get stuffed.

Almost from the very beginning, as with all the Saint’s Row titles, you have the option to create the most generically boring or impossibly hideous character imaginable. Most games that offer up a full character creation system rarely make it worth your while. Hours of time can be spent tweaking those floppy jowls and sculpting the perfect butt chin only to never see them again. Thankfully, SR3 places your disgusting creation directly in the limelight and makes you feel as though the character you have created is the one the game was designed for. Additionally, if you get bored with your human concoction midway through, you can simply take it to a nearby plastic surgeon and redo the entire process as many times as you please. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Saint's Row: The Third

Space is so nifty!

Aside from crafting the most picturesque golden transvestite, you have the freedom to choose from six different voices. Now, you may be rolling yours eye and sighing ‘So what? That’s been done before!’ and you would be correct, but never to this extent. Each voice effectively changes the entire dialogue tree within the game as well as changing how characters interact with each other. A detail this small may go largely unnoticed as many people will find a character they like and stick with it throughout, but I figured ‘Hey, I have the opportunity to be as stupid as possible as many times as I want! Let’s take advantage of that.’ Only then did I notice this and let me tell you, it’s worth playing through several parts with different voices just to hear the inane dialogue changes.

As far as mechanics go, this game is about as cookie cutter as it gets. The third person run and gun gameplay is pretty standard here, but again, that isn’t really the point of the game. Saint’s Row: The Third isn’t out to reinvent any wheels. Rather, its whole objective is to say “Alright, here’s the wheel. Go be as utterly stupid as possible with it.” And that you do.

You’ll find yourself with an easy to use radial wheel filled with your basic weapons including pistols, machine guns, rocket launchers, grenades, fart jars, dildos… wait… what? Yea, you read that right. Perhaps the most entertaining weapon in the whole of the game has to be the aptly named Penetrator; a gigantic, wiggling, purple dildo with a baseball bat shoved inside of it.  It really is as awesome as it sounds.

Saint's Row: The Third

Words just aren’t enough.

What truly makes this title entertaining though is the leveling system and how seamlessly it integrates into the game. As a gang member, only two things in life matter: money and respect. Everything you do earns you a bit of money and a bit of respect. The higher your Respect level, the more perks and abilities you are able to purchase. Available to you is perhaps the widest variety of perks and abilities I have ever seen in a game of this type. Everything from faster reloading, higher ammo counts, additional homies, and personal valet services (including jets and helicopters) all the way to increasing the distance you can throw people, improved health regeneration, and the ability to remove all cop and gang notoriety on a whim is available for you to customize your experience. I was a solid 45 hours into the game before I was even close to acquiring all of the perks, so there is certainly plenty to do here.

The main story is quite lengthy, but certainly doesn’t take long to beat; especially if you have a friend join you. Thankfully, this game is bursting at the seams with other things to do. The infamous Activities are back and even better than ever. All your favorites including insurance fraud and mayhem are joined by a plethora of new ones such as tank mayhem, heli assault, and the strangely addicting Prof. Genki’s ethical Panda murder fun time. Completing some, or possibly even most, of these missions is going to take a vast majority of skill with a dollop of luck and perhaps a hefty side order of co-op assistance as they can be mind bogglingly difficult at times. But these activities are generally so entertaining that doing them over and over again really isn’t much of an inconvenience. I’m sure I’ve done each insurance fraud mission 10 times by now. They’re that much fun.

As is par for the course with this type of game, you have a nearly infinite amount of cars at your disposal with some of them being the most entertaining ones I’ve had the pleasure of using in a game like this. Everything from sports cars, town cars, hummers, dump trucks, motorcycles, and mopeds all the way to private jets, apache attack choppers, hover bikes, and VTOL jets are yours for the taking. As an added bonus, most of these vehicles can be taken to a local Rim Jobs and customized to your heart’s content. Nothing screams personality like a pimped out hearse with a hood scoop, nitrous, and knee cappers driven by a 400 pound gold transvestite wearing a shark on his head.

Saint's Row: The Third

Prof. Genki’s Ethical Panda Murder Fun Time Vehicle

Unfortunately, if you are looking for something unlike anything you’ve ever played before, I’m afraid you aren’t going to find it here because this is your basic open world action game. Saint’s Row was essentially founded on the whole concept of parodying the Grand Theft Auto series and doing everything that GTA wasn’t doing; and pretty much everyone has played at least one GTA game. However, the basic formula is just the foundation on which Saint’s Row is built and it’s up to you to make it as exciting as you want.

For as over the top and exciting as this game is, it’s far from perfect. Next to flawless gun play is plagued by a myriad of stupid AI issues. For one, Pierce, your right hand man, should probably be wearing a helmet and have adult supervision at all times. The guy can’t seem to do anything productive whatsoever, and when you put him in a hectic situation, you can pretty much count on him dying. Often times you need to pick him up and take him somewhere, but even when he’s standing directly next to the passenger door he walks around in circles and absorbs bullets like they’re going out of style. In a word, he’s useless.

Pierce isn’t the only Saint who could be done without. For a game that’s entirely founded on the concept of building and customizing your gang, I never once felt compelled to actually use my gang. An absurd amount of customization is available for your posse, but at the end, I hadn’t spent a single dollar on upgrading my homies, acquiring more followers, or anything of the sort. It would have been nice to see some missions that actually encouraged /required the use of your homies, but no such luck.

Saint's Row: The Third
So what if I don’t look like a ravaged sex slave! You got a problem??

The soundtrack to this game is absolutely stellar with an incredibly wide variety of music stations to choose from and even the ability to create a custom playlist based on songs found in the game. Unfortunately, not all audio is created equal. Each car is given a unique or semi-unique engine sound that naturally changes as you accelerate and climb through the gears. However, it would appear that these cars have an infinite amount of gears as they never stop shifting. Regardless of fast you get going, the engines never top out. Rather, they just keep shifting again, and again, and again, and again. I managed to crest more than 25 shifts while barreling around the interstate. This may sound like a minor issue, but for as much time as you spend in a car, it’s really quite unforgivable.

The icing on this gigantic perverted cake has to be the game’s co-op multiplayer modes. You could very easily treat this game as if it was never meant to be played alone since absolutely everything is available for you and a friend to tackle in tandem. Plowing through the campaign doesn’t have to be the end of your adventure, though. Teaming up to undertake the challenges will result in an altered goal or even an additional objective to complete, which adds a nice touch and doesn’t allow multiplayer to serve as a simple way to beat the harder challenges.

Perhaps the most entertaining feature that is sure to see a lot of play time is the game’s aptly named Whored Mode. Yes, it is a spinoff of the Gears of War Horde Mode where you and a pal team up to battle 30 waves of the most obscene waves of enemies imaginable. There’s just something special about watching 50 gimps with flailing penetrators charge out of a door and onto the field of battle. Each wave presents different and exceedingly more ridiculous enemies along while at the same time challenging you to survive using a variety of different weapons.

Whored mode could have very easily been released as an entirely separate DLC and it would have been totally worth it.

My only complaint with the multiplayer is that you are limited to two players. Offering the option for an open world free roam with four or more characters would have made for some of the most insane and hilarious adventures imaginable.

In all, Saint’s Row: The Third more than lived up to the hype. In fact, I don’t think they hyped it enough because everyone is sure to find at least one thing they like in this game. Where else can you lead the world’s most notorious gang into the field of battle wearing nothing but a pair nipple tassels, stiletto heels, booty shorts, and medieval knight’s helmet while wielding a giant purple dildo and tossing fart jars from the bay door of a Black Hawk helicopter?

Yea, it’s that awesome.

Score: 8.5/10

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