Reviewed: November 11, 2011
Released: November 15, 2011
With no GTA or other major sandbox title out this year, THQ has the perfect window to launch their third installment in the Saints Row series, thusly named, Saints Row: The Third. Everything you loved from the previous Saints Row games is back, bigger, better, and more over-the-top than you can possibly imagine. In fact, if I had to sum up this game in two words it would be ďexcessive insanityĒ. |
This third installment in the Saints franchise flies off the rails mere moments after the opening Star Wars text crawl when your tutorial mission has you robbing a bank while wearing plastic masks (yes, just like that movie). Then itís off to the character creation process that most RPG titles could only dream of. Seriously, this is the most comprehensive character creation system of any game to date. Assuming you havenít already downloaded and created your character using the Initiation Station, you can literally spend hours creating and tweaking your character, both physically and in their wardrobe and accessories, all of which can be customized later in the game at various clothing outlets and plastic surgeons. Or you can just hit the randomize button for each attribute and cobble together some freakish monstrosity.
There are billions of possibilities, so you will never see two of the same character in any online game. It would be like stumbling onto your identical twin in real life. The new taunts and celebrations are also a nice touch Ė just another impossible decision you have to make before actually starting the game. While the temptation to create some crazy character with blue skin and orange hair is overwhelming, those kinds of characters do get a bit distracting when they are placed into a more realistic game world. I do have to give props to some of the wonderful characters others have taken the time to create, especially the perfect recreation of Harley Quinn from the new Batman game.
With your new identity established youíll find you and your gang guests of the new power in town onboard their private jumbo jet, and the next minute you are freefalling out of that jet, engaged in serious high-altitude combat while dodging debris, and then you smash through the cockpit of the jetís windshield as it tries to ram you and free-fall through the core body of the plane and back out the rear end. Thatís just a taste of the insanity, and it will grow exponentially over the course of this 15-20 hour story and the hundreds of multiplayer co-op hours waiting for you.
Not that Saints Row: The Third is overly realistic. The world is still comprised of highly vibrant colors and exaggerated architecture, but you never lose connection with reality, even when slutty girls in G-strings are walking down Main Street waving 3-foot purple dildos. The car models are fantastic and include many past favorites, and while the names of real makes and models aren't used, you can easily identify the various vehicles when you are tooling around town in one of the best physics and driving engines of any open-world game to date. The steering and braking and powerslides are arcade perfection.
The story is solid, taking place years after the events of Saints Row 2, and the Saints are sort of celebrities, being asked for autographs and the occasional photo op (actual secrets in the game). There are 47 core story missions that tell the overall story, but there is an entire cityís worth of adventure out there with countless side-missions and 56 activities to check off. As in previous games, you can always repeat activities for extra cash but you only get respect for your first run, and respect is what itís all about, since that is the fuel for your experience and level progression which will open up new items and areas of the game.
Your cell phone serves as the hub of all activity, giving you instant mobile access to new missions and previously established contacts that can help you on your adventures. Once again, youíll start to build your crew, and this time you can customize each member individually as well as assign gang-related features to the entire group. Everything about the game is bigger and more intricate including new upgrades for weapons and vehicles that allow for unprecedented customization.
Saints Row: The Third allows for all 47 missions to be played cooperatively, but oddly enough the game doesnít take any measures to keep the two players together. You can literally be on opposite ends of the city doing your own thing, and believe me; itís easy to get distracted in this open-world game. You really have to commit to sticking together and completing the objectives. And if you happen to complete a mission in co-op that you havenít done in your own personal solo mode, it will still count the mission as complete and give you the option of skipping it when you get there in your own story. This style of drop-in/out co-op is perfect for a game as large as this since you donít have to maintain dual game experiences. Sadly, there is no split-screen, so youíll have to team up online or via system link.
The game looks outstanding; the best open-world city game to date, with so much unique architecture and varied design that keeps the entire massive game fresh and new. Water looks great and there are random weather effects and night and day modes, so you might do one mission at night with all the cool lighting and neon effects, die, and then replay and it will be in daylight. There is a good mix of indoor and outdoor activities and an incredibly diverse amount of missions with multiple objectives that are extremely rewarding. One minute you are driving a sports car, the next, a garbage truck, and then youíre in a speedboat or a chopper or even a military VTOL fighter. There is even a Japanese-style reality game show you get to appear on with crazy rules and prizes. Donít shoot the Panda!
As with past Saints Row games, the music is phenomenal from the ongoing score during gameplay to the hours of licensed music and original programming you can hear on the numerous radio stations while driving around. As always, I would get caught up in some news broadcast or funny commercial and find myself sitting in my car at my destination until it was over. Another nice touch is that the radio news often reflects the current state of the city with frequent mentions of your "activities", so you actually feel like your actions are being noticed.
Saints Row: The Third is the ultimate sandbox, and Volition has given gamers a massive playground and the biggest and best set of toys possible to carve their own unique destiny in Steelport, both in the engaging single player story and the limitless fun waiting to be shared in the co-op game. Strap-in and strap-on for the ride of your life when you rejoin the gang from Stilwater and take on the Syndicate. Steelport is ripe for the taking, and itís up to you to make the city your own.