First game review of the new year, & given that I’ve had to work overtime this New Years Eve, I’m probably gonna have to go home & play it some more just to relieve some stress. (Seriously people, don’t start the new year being drunk.) Now, I’ve never played any of the Grand Theft Auto games, but given what I’ve heard of the fourth one, it seems to me that Saints Row: The Third is a reaction to it. Where GTA4 sought to add more realism, SR3 went in the completely opposite direction. But was it for the better?
Saints Row 3 picks up a few years after SR2. With Stillwater & the Ultor Corp. under their control, the Saints have risen to the level of pop culture stardom. No longer having to worry about fighting off rival gangs, they’ve focused on TV shows, product placement & comic books. However, things take a turn for the worst when they tick off a criminal organization by attempting to rob one of their banks. Jailed & abducted, the gang winds up in Steelport. Now they have to start over by taking over this new city while dealing with three more rival gangs: Morning Star, Luchadores & Deckers. And of course, this isn’t helped by the fact that halfway through a paramilitary group decides to try to wipe out all gangs in the city.
Mechanically, gameplay is similar to the previous titles. The main difference is Respect. You still earn Respect by completing activities & generally messing about in the world. Power slides, head shots & barnstorming all gain you Respect. However, respect isn’t used to access missions. Instead, Respect acts more like XP. As you gain more, you increase in level. This subsequently unlocks new upgrades for you character. Upgrades include taking less damage from specific sources, increasing the amount of ammo you can carry & improving your health regeneration. At the highest levels, you pretty much become God, taking no damage & having unlimited ammo. But you’ll need cash to unlock these upgrades. You can earn cash by completing missions & increasing your control on the city, which nets you hourly pay. You gain control of areas differently than in SR2; instead of gaining control as a reward for completing mission, you control chunks of neighborhoods by buying stores, completing activities & unlocking cribs. Respect is no longer required to access missions. You can play them whenever you want.
Story: I have to admit, at times the story seems to skip around, or at least assume I knew things that I didn’t. Like, who is this senator lady that just showed up during the cutscene between Acts 1 & 2 & who was her dead husband? I don’t recall seeing them before. That being said, I did find the story incredibly fun. I’m not sure whether to put this here or in the Gameplay section, but this is one of the most “fun” games I’ve played in a while. Each of the major missions had some part in it that made me smile. Some of the more memorable moments include jumping out a helicopter to literally crash a party, riding a falling chandelier while shooting brutes off it, changing my appearance to look like an enemy commander to sneak aboard his aircraft carrier only to blow it up, fighting zombies, shooting a tank while falling through the sky, shooting rockets at boats that are shooting at a helicopter carrying a cargo container full of hookers & running through cyberspace to take on a dragon avatar (which included a hilarious text adventure segment). A big part of what makes these sections so enjoyable are the characters. Each of the main characters have interesting, quirky personalities & the running dialogue between them & the boss gives the game a feeling of “realness.” I also like that the boss seems more likable this time around. I was using Female Voice 1, but fame seems to have mellowed her out. She seems less psychotic. My only complaint about the characters are that some of them seem to just disappear later in the game. They play a semi-important role early but then don’t have anything to do with the game. When each of the characters are so fun to be around, it really is a shame. Also, at a few points in the game you get to choose between two different options on how to finish the mission. With the exception of the final mission, this doesn’t affect the story or gameplay. Essentially it’s only a choice between getting more respect or cash, or maybe a new homie, but it’s sort of nice. Score: 4
Gameplay: Although most of the gameplay is the same, I really like the change to the Respect system. At first this makes it seem like you don’t need to do any of the activities, but you’ll find that the upgrades really help in the later missions, & to gain the money & respect you need you have to do some of the activities. I finished the game at level 45 with all shops bought, most gang operations shut down & roughly 1/3 of the activities done. But it’s nice that the activities aren’t required. That way you don’t have to keep struggling through a frustrating activity just to get enough respect for the next mission. That being said, there are fewer activities this time around. Instead of two hubs with increasingly difficult levels, each activity has three or four locations marked as easy, medium & hard. I was a little disappointed that there are no diversions this time. I liked the ambulance & taxi diversions in SR2. Instead, there are many challenges to complete for money & respect, like holding up stores or beating up mascots. They’re still fun, but not quite the same. I also wish they’d included the ability to replay missions. Be warned that there are a few bugs in the game still. I also came across two that nearly broke my game. One was the game constantly reloading a checkpoint (fixed by restarting the 360) & another where in the Professor Genki activity a red X covered my screen so I couldn’t complete it. But for all my complaints about what’s not included, what’s actually in the game is very fun. The special weapons are a lot of fun to use, combat is fast-paced & the vehicles are fun to drive. There are some minor issues & things I wished they’d included, but nothing that really brings the experience down. I’ll conclude with just one word: hoverbike. Score: 4
Visual & Audio: The graphics do appear better than SR2. The city looks nice, especially downtown at night with all of the lights. Character models also look better. Character customization has improved, giving you more control over how your character looks. The audio is definitely my favorite part of this game. First of all, the voiceacting is great. Again, I can only speak for Female Voice 1, but from what I’ve heard of the other voices they all sound good as well. And I love the music in this game. The radio channels are back, & they actually have some good music. I was very happy to see a proper rock channel. But the music during missions can also be very good. Two in particular really stick out in my mind: the first is during “Party Time” & it’s the same song that plays in the “Power” trailer. The second is during the final mission “Three Way” when “I Need A Hero” starts playing. It fit the moment so perfectly. Score: 4
Replayability: Very high. Because there’s no mission replay, to re-experience the missions you have to play the whole thing over again. And given that there’s no respect requirements, this really isn’t a problem. The game should stand up to several replays. Score: 5
Overall Score: 4
Final Word: While not a perfect game, Saints Row: The Third is a heck of a lot of fun. Be aware, that if you’re easily offended to stay away from this game. Language, alcohol, semi-nudity & other warnings make this not for the faint of heart. But if you like having fun in a sandbox world & creating havoc, I highly recommend this game.
– GamerDameTitle: Saints Row: The Third
Console: 360, PC & PS3
Developer: Volition, Inc.
Release Date: November 15, 2011