GTAV will have to wait its turn. We’ve been looking forward to Saints Row: The Third for a while now and after the dirty delights of SR2, we can’t wait to get stuck in again with the current console generation’s most enjoyable open world crime series.
After pissing off The Syndicate, the Saints are forced out of Stillwater despite being the world’s most famous street gang. Instead, they’re dumped into Steelport and have to start from square one again. Their rise to power pits them against The Syndicate and the gangs of Morning Star, The Deckers and The Luchadores, the latter of whom are led by Killbane, voiced by Hulk Hogan. With this fresh start, the series is welcoming to old and new players.
The game starts in spectacular fashion with a daring bank raid and chopper escape, followed by skydiving out of a plane and having an insane gunfight mid-air. You know things have gone extra crazy when you re-enter the plane by smashing feet first through the cockpit window, grabbing a spare parachute and flying out the back of the plane again without stopping. Saints Row wants to thrill while you kill. It’s easily one of the finest opening thirty minutes to a game this year.
Story missions have really stepped up the pace. Sure, there are a few fetch and escort missions, but generally the game tries to entertain the pants off you with big set pieces and wild scenarios. Turret sections are insanely fun and just as you think the game’s calmed down, you’ll find yourself running around the Tron-esque insides of the internet, or taking on a zombie horde. Missions can be handled with different approaches. For example, when attacking a river barge you could pull up at the back and fight way to the front. Or just hit the back at full speed and fly past the guards straight to the bridge deck on an exploding jet ski.
My only genuine complaint about the missions is that the ability to phone for backup is almost completely pointless, as they won’t answer the call during any type of mission. When else would you need them?
Respect points are earned for different kill types, extreme driving and for mission completion. This is essentially how you level up and unlock different upgrade tiers for damage reduction, gang abilities and so on. Story missions no longer require certain Respect levels to play; you can ignore most of the side-missions and just plough through if you want. It's similar to the difference in structure between the first two Assassin's Creed games. Not that you’d want to skip the side-missions in Saints Row 3 The Third.
The newer modes include the Doctor Genki challenges, where you run through a gauntlet of gun-toting mascots and eliminate them with skill shots in order to reach the score target. Add in the ability to thrown them into fire and electrical barriers and you can see how it’s a welcome addition to the series. Using a powerful attack chopper to support friends while they make deals is also new.
Most of the other side-missions will be very familiar to series fans. Insurance Fraud has you bouncing yourself off traffic for points, Mayhem and Tank Mayhem just want as much destruction as possible, and Escort involves driving someone around and keeping them safe while they go about their dirty business. There are a few more modes and while I wouldn’t say any of these tasks are boring, I’m a bit disappointed the list hasn’t been further expanded since SR2. It would seem that most of the creativity went on the story missions.
The ‘Violent Sexness’
Yes, Saints Row: The Third certainly isn’t shy. Streaking side-missions, giant purple dildos that are more effective than machine guns, and infiltrating a sex slave club as a doped up naked girl are just a selection of horrors you’ll never be able to wipe from your soul.
If the game has a chance to be nasty, it’ll take it. The amount of f-bombs dropped everywhere is surely ludicrous, but it somehow remains funny throughout. You know it’s childish, but compared to the po-faced misery of most gaming scripts, you can’t help but adore the potty-mouthed swines. The Saints are a strangely likeable bunch (although Shandi still bitches constantly), you and a friend will sing along to a track on the car’s radio or you’ll find the lead character gushing over the sudden real-life celebrity cameo.
Some of the lead’s lip-syncing is a little off, but considering the depth of the character creation suite, it must have been difficult accounting for the wildly different facial features every player has to choose from. The character creation in SR2 was great, but this surpasses it easily, I’ve never seen so many adjustable sliders.
The city of Steelport feels very similar to Stillwater, in that it’s just a city split up by a few islands. It’s all urban environments, which is a little disappointing as I hoped the game would have expanded like San Andreas by now. However, it’s still a great place to play. The amount of challenges -like driving into oncoming traffic, hitting pedestrians, shooting mascots and so- on will keep you entertained and level you up.
The map is so packed with side-missions, shops and buyable properties; you can’t help but be distracted from the story missions. Generous amounts of cash are thrown your way and using some for investing in property will up your income even more. Unlike the last game, you don’t have to return to your crib to collect your earnings as you can do it with your mobile phone instead. Little touches like that and subtle improvements are everywhere in this game. No huge changes to the formula then, but enough to make your experience more enjoyable.
The new driving model is exceptional, mainly thanks to the excellent drift button that allows precise control as you swing around corners between traffic. It’s easily the best driving experience I’ve ever had in an open-world game. The sprint button can be used to inject extra awesome when you steal a car too, as you can now dive in through the windows feet-first. Awesome.
Volition have made the gunplay smoother, without going down the lock-on route, despite doing a great job with that in Red Faction: Armageddon. The weapons are upgradable and have some new friends like the COD-style drone missiles to go along with mind-control octopus mollusc launchers.
I finished the story with half of the side missions completed in thirteen hours. With loads of challenges and other items to find, you’ll be able to squeeze at least twenty hours out of the game. Throw in co-op options for any of the story missions and you can extend that even further.
- Simply fun to play
- So much to do
- The driving is the best the genre has ever seen
- Not a lot of new side-mission types
- Homie backup calls are pointless
- Steelport very similar to Stillwater
The Short Version: A more polished experience than SR2 means that this is one of the most enjoyable open world games in ages. It’s massively immature, but it just wants you to have fun. Get ready to lose yourself for hours in this filthy funland.