Reviewed: November 14, 2011
Released: November 15, 2011
Crude racial stereotyping...check.
To an educated professional, a loving husband, and a proud father of three wonderful children, Saints Row: The Third is the embodiment of all that is wrong in the world today. Pushing the envelope of its own “M” rating, Saints Row: The Third makes light of all sorts of social and moral decadence, and does absolutely nothing to help validate the idea of gaming as art. It single-handedly exemplifies everything that the infamous anti-gaming activist Jack Thompson prophesied would become of gaming as a result of games like Grand Theft Auto, Bully, and Mortal Kombat.
But while I should be rendering Saints Row: The Third into the great “circular file of gaming,” there’s one thing that holds me back – the fact that it is so damn fun! Yes, Saints Row: The Third is my newest guilty pleasure. I mean, where else on Earth can you be walking down a street, and with a quick click of a button, drop the nearest passerby with a right jab to his junk and commence to an all-out sidewalk beat down? What’s that? In Liberty City, you say? Well, not like this.
I try to stay away from the GTA comparisons, but it is inevitable when discussing a sandbox style game like Saints Row. Yes – the similarities between the two are many. But while GTA IV definitely wins in terms of storyline and presentation, Saints Row has the gaming mechanics down pat. Whether it’s in the car or on foot, fighting hand-to-hand or in an all-out shootout, Saints Row plays like a dream. Think of it as a solid racing game combined with an impressive third-person shooter that just happens to be set as a sandbox free-for all.
The Third opens with a bang as the Saints pull a bank heist in their hometown of Stilwater – the bank robbery goes bad and the Saints end up having to flee their hometown to the nearby metropolis of Steelport where they fight to make a name for themselves. And when I say that the game starts with a bang, I mean it. In the first 20 minutes, gamers will go from performing a high-adrenaline bank robbery to an on-rails helicopter shooting scenario, to flying a high speed hover-jet, to hand-to-hand fighting while free-falling at 20,000 feet. Those 20 minutes deliver more action than most Bond movies do in an hour and a half, and they are only the start.
Like I said, it all controls fantastically; whether driving through the Steelport’s busy streets, or taking up arms against a SWAT team, the controls are tuned to perfection. There is little-to-no learning curve, and it always feels like the gamer is in complete control of what is happening onscreen, and there is just the right amount of auto-targeting.
As for the presentation value, Saints Row: The Third delivers an experience that expertly balances detail and performance, resulting in a package that looks great and clips along without a hitch. The framerate seldom drops, and pop-up (generally a problem with sandbox titles) is all but nonexistent – even when flying the high speed VTOL jets through Steelport’s superbly rendered skyline.
No surprise, the scripting is a bit over the top, but definitely seems authentic when being delivered by a professional wrestler and a porn star. Hulk Hogan plays the role of The Luchadores’ leader Angel De LaMuerte, and adult film star Sasha Grey voices The Syndicate’s Viola DeWynter. Television character actor and Saints Row veteran Daniel Dae Kim returns to voice Saints’ leader Johnny Gat.
Saints Row: The Third eschews serious and dramatic storytelling in lieu of a more comedic and entertaining experience. Even in comparison to the prior Saints titles, The Third is decidedly more off-the-wall, with gamers often wielding novelty weapons like a giant double-ended dildo bat (did I actually just type that), a Mega-Man style arm launcher, and even a remote control drone bomber. While the premise of some might seem a bit cheesy, these weapons are incredible tools to completing missions efficiently, quickly becoming a necessity.
Saints Row: The Third is naturally centered around the Campaign mode – which can be played cooperatively online via the PlayStation Network. As is the current trend in online gaming, The Third requires a one-time-use code to access the online mode. This code is included with the new game packages, so second-hand (preowned) buyers will most likely have to purchase an additional code to play online.
Sadly, the online experience stops at co-op, as the planned competitive multiplayer mode was scrapped late in the development cycle. Instead, The Third includes a unique experience called “Whored Mode” – a tongue-in-cheek nod to the Xbox 360’s exclusive franchise Gears of War’s Hoarde Mode (yes that is Hoarde with an “e”). In Whored, gamers are faced with 30 waves of enemies, each with a different weapon or vehicle and a timed requirement. Whored is an absolute blast, and the fact that it also can be played cooperatively over PSN is a bonus.
Saints Row: The Third released during the biggest gaming week of 2011 – and is sure to be overshadowed.by the simultaneous releases of Skyrim, HALO Anniversary, and previous games like Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3. But gamers would be remiss in overlooking this fantastic experience, because all morality aside – Saints Row: The Third offers dozens of hours of unbridled and entertaining sandbox gameplay, the challenging and humorous Whored Mode, and some of the best weapons and vehicles available.