Ahh the gang from Stillwater is back again – how much we’ve been through together during the last five years. We’ve seen them take control of their not so fair city from the likes of the Vice Kings, the Los Carnales, and the Westside Rollerz. We’ve seen them Ultor Corporation to become the only dominant force left in Stillwater. We’ve seen the highs and the lows of the stories of Shaundi, Pierce, Johnny Gat, and your own character – the Boss. Throughout the previous two games, we’ve be exposed to a treasure trove of comedy gold both through random things happening in the game world, and through the scripted events and dialogue. Everyone knew there was going to be a third, and it’s finally here – but does it live up to the standards that the first two set?
In Saint’s Row the Third, players again take on the role of “The Boss”, with plenty of backup from his comical crew – however this time the story departs the familiar city of Stillwater, and goes to the New York stylized city of Steelport (it even has its own Statue of Liberty-esqe monument). From the very start of the game, you feel like a total bad-ass. You’re thrown in the middle of a bank heist gone wrong, and you’re mowing people down like they were made of paper. In short, you feel like “The Boss” should feel. Throughout the next few minutes, you end up in prison with Johnny Gat and Shaundi (where Johnny waxes poetic about what the Saints have turned in to), and that’s where the Syndicate finds you.
The Syndicate bribes the cops to let you out, and then tries to get The Boss to turn over two thirds of the Saint’s territory in order to live. Well if you’ve played the previous two games you know that the Saints won’t have any of that and a mid-air fight breaks out. This leads to one of the craziest intro scenes I’ve played on a game in a long time (free fall gun battles for the win), and drops you off in said town of Steelport. Now this all happens in the first twenty or so minutes of the game, so that should tell you how action packed it’s going to be right there.
I won’t get into any more plot, because while some of it you can see coming for miles, there are little twists here and there that are true joys to find out as they come. What I can talk about though, is just how much fun this game really is. If you’re not too worried about the realism of a game, and more about the fun factor – this is for you. What other game has a special mode called “Whored Mode”, where you can be chased around by prostitutes in leather “geek suits” wielding long purple dildos. Yes, it’s that kind of over the top fun that has been a staple of this entire series.
It’s not just the physical or graphical gags that get you though – there are some dialogue areas in Saint’s Row the Third that are true comedic gold – for example during one mission your character is driving with Pierce. Pierce then proceeds to change the radio station to play Sublime’s “What I Got”, and both your character and Pierce engage in an impromptu karaoke. Now the voice that I picked for my character was one that sounded much like Jason Statham, so you can imagine how that sounded (especially when he tried to beat box). That’s just ONE specific instance – these things literally happen every few minutes though.
Another real big thing is the character creator, where you can literally change every part of your avatar – which can lead to some pretty crazy looking people running the gang. You can also upload your created character to the community site, and download ones that others have made. I’m sure before long we’ll see a lot of celebrity look a likes because of how much control you really have in the creator. I’m sure if I was more creative I would have come up with one on my own, but I unfortunately don’t have an artistic eye for that sort of thing.
Inside the game itself, there are lots of fun activities for you to partake in while wasting time between missions. For starters there’s a “Tank Mayhem” activity that’s brand new. In tank mayhem you’re placed inside a tank, and then tasked with causing a certain amount of damage to things before the time runs out. It’s pure bliss to sit there and just continually blow things up with no fear of death. Then there’s “Guardian Angel”, where you have to drive around with a tiger in the back seat (The Boss’s reaction to this is saying: A fucking tiger?) – drive safe and you’re safe – hit something and the tiger mauls you; fun times. Trafficking is another new activity where you ride shotgun with Pierce and protect him while he distributes “things” to buyers. Old activities like Heli Assault also make a return. In it (for those un-initiated) you’re placed in an attack chopper protecting Pierce as he makes some stops (at one point he stops at a gas station for food, and the dialogue that follows made me spit out my beer from laughing so hard).
While all of those activities are fun, it’s Professor Genki’s Super Ethical Reality Climax is probably the best of the best. In this “game show”, the player has to run from room to room while avoiding traps, killing mascots, and hitting correct targets to earn money. Once enough money is earned, the final door opens, and a Hunter (a super powerful hulkish brute) charges out to beat the crap out of you. You can try and kill him for a mega cash bonus, or run like a scared little girl to the exit and escape with the cash you have collected. All the while, two announcers spit our random commentary about your performance like you hear watching Wipeout or Takeshi’s Castle. The whole experience is just surreal.
Unfortunately, with all of these positives, a few negatives must fall. For one, there were plenty of times where the frame rate just chugged. I was playing on a new 360, with the game installed to the hard drive, and while it only happened when driving a fast car on the highways, it was extremely noticeable. I was literally skipping every two seconds. Now if I slowed down or changed where I was driving it stopped, so it was more than likely a loading issue – but still it shouldn’t have been happening. Also, while you have to activate an online pass with the game, there’s only two player co-op modes. Even the Whored Mode is only two players. I was hoping to get in a game of Strong Arm – but alas there are no competitive multiplayer modes at all in Saint’s Row the Third. I understand the reasons for removing it, and that they felt like it would just be “shoe horned” in, but I would still have loved to give it a shot – especially with all of the different looking characters that could have been in it.
My final complaint comes with something extremely annoying in the game. I would like to find whoever it was that thought it would be a good idea to give every enemy in a helicopter a laser sighted sniper rifle, and kick them right in the genitals. Over, and over again. I can’t tell you how many times I died to these cheap bastards. What’s bad, is that when you’re clearing out a gang holdout, and one flies in because you’ve built up too much notoriety – then it shoots you in the back and kills you when you only have one guy left to take out.
The Bottom Line: Saint’s Row the Third is an extremely fun game that is a welcome distraction from the ultra-realistic titles like Call of Duty or Battlefield – as long as you can get past the few annoyances, you’ll see just how wonderful of an experience this game offers.
- EXTREMELY fun – you’ll be laughing your ass off through half the game at least
- Professor Genki is the ultimate mascot for a game – he should be plastered everywhere
- The voice acting and script work is all top notch
- Frame rate can take a serious hit at times
- No competitive multiplayer options
- One hit kill snipers in helicopters? Why not just give them RPGs while you’re at it