First Impressions: Saints Row 3

Christmas is now over, & I hope everyone had a good one.  I hope you both gave & received some good gifts.  I know I certainly did.  In particular, I’m happy that I finally got my copy of Saints Row: The Third.  I’ve been looking forward to this game since before it came out.  But since I don’t have unlimited resources, I was forced to choose between it & Skyrim while leaving the other for my Christmas list.  And since I knew I’d be playing Skyrim for a long, long time, I chose to buy that & wait for the Saints.

Not that it was easy.  Saints Row 2 was a bit of a guilty pleasure for me.  Not in the sense that it was a bad game (because it most certainly wasn’t) but because it wasn’t exactly a nice game.  Between the language, violence & prostitutes, I found myself having to pause every time someone came in my room just so they wouldn’t look at me funny.  So when developers announced — very proudly, I might add — that the third game would be even more over-the-top, like most gamers I found myself wondering what they were planning.

At this point I’ve played through all of Act 1, which is more or less a big tutorial, but I believe I can safely say I’ve never played anything like Saints Row 3.  I think it was about the time I was in a getaway chase in a rickshaw being pulled by a saddled up pimp that I realized that the people at Volition had lost their minds… but in a good way.

The game picks up a few years after SR2 with the Saints at the top of the world.  No longer just a street gang, they’re now celebrities, with their own TV shows, books & even an energy drink.  But as common wisdom tells us, when you’re at the top the only direction to go is down.  And sure enough, the gang finds themselves under attack from a rival syndicate (which is actually called “the Syndicate” since they couldn’t think of anything better) & end up in Steelport.  A new city with new areas to control & new gangs to dominate.

I have to admit, the story strikes me as a little disjointed.  This has always been the case, since in SR2 you started missions by finding icons around the city, but it really struck me between Act 1 & 2 when I was watching the cutscene with the bridge blowing up & wondered what just happened.  The Activities are especially guilty of this.  I do miss how in the second game there was a short scene with the Boss talking to someone explaining the point of the Activites, like Insurance Fraud or whatnot.  For some reason this has been removed.  It’s not a vital thing, but it does spoil some of my enjoyment.

Those complaints aside, there’s a lot about the game I like so far.  I think the best change from the previous game is how Respect works.  In SR2, Respect was used to unlock more story missions.  You earned Respect by completing missions, Activities, & generally just messing about.  In SR3, you still gain Respect by the same methods, but instead of unlocking missions, you use it to earn upgrades.  There are a wide range of upgrades, from taking less damage via the various forms of danger in Steelport to being able to recruit more homies to help you.  These upgrades are unlocked at various Respect levels, & are purchased with cash.  There seem to be no requirements for doing missions, aside from some Activities that require you to complete an easy level to unlock harder ones.  I think this is a much better system.

I have been having a lot of fun in Steelport.  That’s really where this game excels: it’s just a lot of fun.  Pure, shameful, unadulterated fun.  And I think that’s the draw of Saints Row as a series; it lets you get away with things you can’t do in real life.  In real life, I can’t drive 100 MPH down the interstate while smashing into every car that gets in my way, or beat a mascot up with a baseball bat, or steal a plane for the sole purpose of crashing it.  Well, I could, but I’m pretty sure those all come with jail time.

SR3 is even more over the top then the previous games.  I think I remember in an interview one of the developers saying that they tried to put something new in each of the main missions.  They certainly succeeded in that respect.  Here’s a rundown of some of the things I’ve done so far:

  • Shot guards while standing on a vault suspended by a helicopter
  • Fought gangsters while free-falling from a plane before smashing through said plane’s windshield
  • Used a tactical missile strike to blow up tanks
  • Parachuted (is that a term?) from a helicopter into a penthouse pool
  • Sniped while hanging off the side of a building
  • Completed a psycho obstacle course
  • Saved a giant, naked, Russian man (thankfully the obscene bits are blurred) who was used for cloning super soldiers
  • Beat people with a giant… well, I think I’d have to up my blog’s rating if I say what it actually is, so I’ll just say it’s purple & I’m sure everyone who’s seen the game will know what I’m talking about

It’s definitely not for the faint of heart, but you have to respect a game that’s so devoted to over-the-top fun in a market that’s saturated with “realism.”  Because after all, we already live in the real world.  We play games to escape.

I’m not sure if I’ll wait until I’ve completed all of the story missions before I review SR3, but it’ll be a few weeks at least.  In the meantime, the city is my plaything.

– GamerDame

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