Saints Row The Third
Since the series inception in 2006, Saint’s Row has been unfairly dismissed as the underdog of it’s genre; especially compared Grand Theft Auto. Although both remain as open-world action-adventure, Saints Row The Third takes this to a dizzying new level of customisation and expansive activities. Unlike Grand Theft Auto IV, there are no dull ‘realistic’ missions like taking girls for dates and delivering pizzas – you’re more likely to take escort a tiger around Steelport. It is here that we see a definitive break in the connection between the two titles – Saints Row offers the player much more in its hilarious characters and cutting humour. This is perfectly characterised by voice actors bringing them to life.
When the player left Saints Row Two, The Saints were on top, which is only fair considering the amount of hard graft you put in to get there in previous titles. They are the rulers of Stilwater, as the first cut scene shows they have their own brand of energy drink, the aptly named ‘Saints Flow’ along with a status of global celebrities. This is when the player may start noticing the critiques on modern day society, ever so inherent in this game, even the radio stations hint at it. Inevitably when the player starts this game they are on top of the world, nothing can harm them – there is seemingly no hard graft or hustling a fraught civilian for your first weapon. Until you meet the Syndicate.
At which point, you’re dropped into an entirely new city: Steelport, consisting of eight islands, where there is plenty to explore. This sets the scene for the story – unfortunately hinting at the same formula. So, like Hercules, the player is taken from hero to zero. The Syndicate reduce the Saints to nothing. So, naturally the player has to go through the motions of Gang recruitment and bringing the noise to the neighbourhood gangs again – the Deckers, Morningstar, and Luchadores.
Saints Row The Third begins with the mission to escape the Syndicate who have taken the Saints hostage; this is where the fun begins. The player is immediately immersed in the game by robbing a bank with a helicopter and skydiving a la no parachute to the ground where the uphill struggle for respect and money begins. It satisfies the need to introduce characters and game-play instructions for those who haven’t played before but it also displays ambitious action sequence footage, something the Developers have obviously worked on.
Ironically, this is the only thing that lets Saints down. The in-game aesthetics haven’t matured, the cracks haven’t been smoothed over, scenery still becomes snagged and vehicles still seemingly become ghosts around solid objects. Although Saints provides an open-world, it doesn’t produce a living world. The scenery is dark, apart from the neon lighting, and coupled with the jerky movements could almost lead players to believe they are in a zombie apocalypse.
From the start, it is easy to say that the game-play is very similar to Saints One and Two. Veterans to the series will pick up the controls very easily; however, there is still no lock-in firing for seamless combat. You’re going to need skill in this department unless your last name happens to be Bond. That is unless your player happens to have a rocket launcher, perhaps with exploding bullets – just for funsies – this makes enemies easier to wipe out, until the game progresses and its begins to challenge the contender equally; all dependent on the choices players make.
This allows the pace of the game to be stepped up significantly, especially in times of heavy combat with rivals. However, there are tutorials in between the missions introducing the basics, those who’ve played before will soon wish there was an eliminate function. The phone menu also helps both veterans and virgins alike providing a street map to find activities, a place to ring your homies to help out in a brawl with their individual special perks or simply finding stores.
The hard-earned cash that’s been stolen, earned and bled for can be spent in a variety of places across Steelport. Places like Let’s Pretend, the fancy dress shop or Rusty’s Needles, the local tattoo parlour for upgrades, there are upgrades weapons, strongholds and indestructible vehicles. Whilst to start with, these upgrades will make the game a breeze, the difficulty soon jumps up a notch and the Police, gangs and The Saints need to be taken seriously.
Respect is another form of currency in Saints Row The Third. The old respect system has died, alongside the various story progress options, to gain more respect, the activities need to be completed. Respect unlocks new upgrades in different categories, all listed in the phone menu. This ranges from a blow up doll outfit to nitrous for all vehicles to Professor Genki’s Super Ethical Reality Climax.
As soon as you begin, Saints comes into its own through the first character customisation. In Image as Designed, you become the person you’ve always dreamed of being and with remarks you’ve only wished to say in reality. The middle fingers still a casual favourite. Unfortunately, characterisation is still plagued by texture faults, although never fails to produce the sexiest mohawked prostitute or hulking green caped crusader that can be set loose to roam the streets of Steelport.
Creating outlandish characters and keeping them hidden is a thing of the past, with Initiation Station. Friends can create, share and download into game-play each other’s characters. This is only one of the co-op features in Saints. The Saintsbook, found in the phone menu, offers players the chance to drop-in and drop-out of assassination contracts, vehicle thefts and challenges like Vehicle surfing and Cat and Mouse – aerial hunting friends on the ground. This game was perfected for multiplayer and can all be caught on camera too to share online.
The last new feature produced for Saints Row The Third is as crude as you can get – Whored Mode. In a nutshell, you kill whores with a giant purple dildo bat. There are three maps, 30 waves and is all playable in co-op. Never has there been so much ‘throw your head back’ laughing whilst playing a game. You have to question just how society got here.
Never has a game been so over-the-top and presented so much jaw dropping madness as Saints Row The Third. From the off the game doesn’t take itself seriously and this becomes apparent the more time that is spent with the title. Anyone looking for a decent buy containing mindless violence, sexual depravity and juvenile perversion will adore this title.