I think I’m about a month late to the Saints Row party but, whatever, I was busy playing Skyrim! Anyway…
There’s a lot that could be said about Saints Row: The Third. Prior to playing the game, I always thought that the series was just a more “gangsta” version of Grand Theft Auto and nothing more. Sometimes it feels good to be wrong about some things, and I’m certainly glad that I was wrong about Saints Row: The Third. This game is so much more than just a GTA-esque sandbox game and it is, dare I say, better than Rockstar’s series.
Saints Row: The Third is, yes, an open world sandbox game set in a huge urban sprawl. Just like in Grand Theft Auto you can steal cars, have shootouts with cops that grow progressively more and more intense the longer you hold out, play dress up by buying clothes, or even just mucking around with the pedestrians and traffic by causing general mayhem. The difference between the two? Saints Row does it better than Grand Theft Auto and it’s mostly because this game is just so insane that you cannot take it seriously.
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to beat zombies with a big two foot long dildo? How about to pilot a bizarre ATARI-esque tank in city streets firing giant explosive blocks? Or have you ever wanted to take a Jet Moto bike into the open and run over dozens of people? While we’re at it, let’s set a casino full of gamblers on fire with molotov cocktails. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget about throwing ourselves into traffic and getting rewarded for it. This game is just completely balls to walls crazy.
The story isn’t the greatest there is simply because the game is so ridiculous. Missions have you getting plastic surgery (and possible a sex change) to impersonate an enemy, turning into a toilet, waging war with a computer geek in a virtual world, and driving around the city with a pissed off tiger in your vehicle for no apparent reason. There is an actual story and it deals with the 3rd Street Saints ending up in a city called Steelport after a bank heist goes terribly wrong in their home city of Stilwater. With Pierce and Shaundi, you (the leader of the Saints) must establish a presence in the city by battling rival gangs for control over districts to raise your reputation and power in the underground. The further you progress in the story the greater your hideouts and residences (cribs) will be, and the Saints will acquire access to things that seemed completely out of reach at the start of the game. The story is just all about building your power and reputation in Steelport while not letting the rival gangs walk all over you. Eventually a military group called STAG will arrive in Steelport to bring the gang wars under control, and that’s where things get really interesting.
There are a few surprises and twists in the story throughout the course of the game, but nothing that happens will really blow your mind or have you on the edge of your seat. Saints Row: The Third isn’t trying to give you an epic story, no. This game just wants you to have a lot of hilarious and over the top fun in a city where anything goes. Literally. As I said, your missions will bring you face to face with an angry tiger, virtual reality baddies in a Tron-like world, zombies, and more. Fun comes before story here and it’s blindingly apparent.
Your character’s cell phone is pretty much the most important thing in the game as it has a list of available missions for you to take on while playing. If progressing the story isn’t something you feel like doing, you can have your phone direct you to various locales throughout Steelport that counts as additional content. The most enjoyable form of additional content has to be acitivites. These are essentially minigames that you can find on the side of the street and triggering them will initiate the activity itself. Some have you thrusting yourself into open traffic in an attempt to collect insurance money while another kind throws you into what has to be the most violent game show ever where the objective is to gun down enemies dressed in cute animal mascot costumes while avoiding many electrical and flaming traps.
Other things to do outside of missions include purchasing properties and shops. By buying these locations, you will earn revenue from them hourly. The more expensive the location is, the more you’ll probably get from it in return. Purchasing shops will give you discounts such as lowering the cost of ammo and making clothing cheaper to buy. Another handy thing about buying shops it that, whenever gangs or police are after you, entering a shop will immediately clear you of any notoriety you have.
One of my favourite aspects of Saints Row: The Third is the customization. The character customization process is pretty thorough (it has dozens of sliders for facial features) and can take you up to an hour to make your character if you’re really serious about getting them to look the way you want. Fortunately you can edit them again later by visiting plastic surgeons littered throughout Steelport. Many vehicles can also be customized by upgrading their brake, torque, and much more or buy giving them a new paint job, tossing some new rims on the wheels, or modifying the body of the car itself. Any vehicle that you modify will then be saved to your garage where you can access it whenever you’d like. The greatest part about this? If you blow up your highly customized car and then accidently blow it up, all you have to do is visit your garage again and presto! You can spawn the exact same car! It may be unrealistic, but it’s a fantastic feature which heavily endorses the whole “we just want you to have fun” aura that permeates this game.
Your character can also be customized via the upgrades menu from your phone. By selecting this you can increase your combat effectiveness (raises damage you inflict from guns, etc.), unlock gang bonuses, or just make life a lot easier for you by increasing your sprint speed or health regeneration. There are tons of upgrades available which will unlock over time by gaining respect which is a sort of experience point system. You’ll gain respect by completing missions, activities, and other various tasks. You can also acquire respect simply by performing stunts and such in the world like having several near misses in a row when you’re in a vehicle. There are tons of little things that award respect and you could literally decide to just grind respect and still have fun in this game since the things that grant respect are fun themselves.
One thing that I’m glad for in this game is how responsible the controls are. Traversing on foot is predictably easy to do, but I was pleasantly surprised when I realized how easy it is to drive the various automobiles, boats, and flying vehicles in the game. A few of them (mainly anything that flies) may take a few minutes to get used to but there’s little challenge involved and you’ll rarely ever find yourself blaming the controls for anything that happens.
The graphics in Saints Row: The Third are pretty impressive. Some districts of the city look really beautiful when you’re on foot, especially the downtown areas with huge neon displays. I haven’t found any areas of the game that look a little rough. Some locations may seem a little barren, but nothing actually looks bad in this game. Considering you can go into buildings as well (mostly just cribs, shops, and a select few others), there’s a lot to look at in the city itself. Characters also look pretty good in this game. Your homies (mostly Pierce and Shaundi) are quite detailed but other secondary characters such as Cyrus, Kilbane and Viola all look great as well.
The sound work in the game is also quite good. Sound effects are mostly pretty generic and standard stuff that we’ve already heard before, but the music and voices are something else. The soundtrack in this game has some truly great licensed songs that you’ll hear on the radio by Benny Benassi, Bush, Robert Tepper, and Sublime while the mission sequences also boast some good tunes. I never expected to enjoy anything by Kanye West, but there’s one song by him called “Power” which plays during some great moments ingame and it really fits wonderfully with the action on the screen.
About the voices, I love them all. All of your homies have excellent voice actors bringing them to life and the antagonists aren’t half bad either (especially Kilbane). The voices that you can select for your character are all very good as well. I was instantly won over by Female Voice 3 for my Hispanic chick and it fit like a glove. Another voice worth mentioning is one by the never-out-of-work Steve Blum who provides the lines for another selectable voice that is simply titled “Zombie Voice.” By choosing this for your character you are entering a land of non-stop laughs. The zombie voice is less moan and groan and more… Spastic weird noises and grumbles. It’s pretty funny stuff, especially during one sequence where your character sings “What I Got” by Sublime with Pierce. I literally burst out laughing when I heard it.
So how good is this game? Pretty freaking good. There are some details I left out such as the co-op (it works beautifully and is a lot of fun) and probably a few other little things, but they are worth discovering on your own. There’s a lot of fun to be had in Steelport and I think just about anyone will enjoy this game. Saints Row: The Third is perhaps the quirkiest and silliest game I have ever played and I absolutely loved every single second of it. This game is a winner and if you’re reading this review then you must be thinking about giving the game a try. Do it. Now.
+ Steelport is a blast to explore and has lots to do.
+ The voicing in the game is superb.
+ This game has customization coming out the wazoo!
– Later missions can become overwhelming with the amount of action happening at once.
– Loading times can infrequently spike at random.
– Unfocused storyline may deter those looking for a compelling quest.