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Saints Row: The Third (Windows)

80
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.4
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Pixelspeech (955)
Written on  :  Jan 20, 2013
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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Summary

Third-person Dildo Adventure

The Good

A perfect amount of content that does not overwhelm or leave you bored.

Insane action.

Colorful visuals.

The Bad

Story discards a lot of established plot-points.

A few other plot-points are downright copy&paste work.

Not a lot else...

The Bottom Line

story

Saints Row: The Third picks up some years after the events of Saints Row 2. The Saints are the only gang left after their previous exploits and have used their newfound powers to release a brand of gang-themed products. They have essentially sold out and gone soft, but they quickly get back in touch with their roots when a robbery goes wrong and a series of events gets the crew stuck in the city of Steelport. To make matters worse: the Saints lose access to all their money and are thus forced to gain it back by defeating the three local gangs.

A lot of people complained about the story’s pacing, often citing how strange it is that you quickly gain access to all kinds of powerful tools. I however thought this was somewhat fitting, since the game wants you to feel like an overpowered one-man-army. What I will complaint about is that the story has a very “been there, done that” feel to it, with which I mean to say that it’s a little too familiar. Fighting three rival gangs is fine by me, but when a rich organization starts funding a PMC to take down all of the gangs simultaneously, then the plot starts to feel an uncomfortable lot like copy/paste-work.

What also bothers me is that the game retcons a few facts from the previous entries for relatively weak reasons. The most obvious one is that Shaundi – the once dreadlocked and reckless gangster – has been transformed into a much cleaner and generic version of herself. The game wanted to have a sexier appearance, so they just threw it out and made her a lot less interesting in the process. “The boss” also says at one point that his name is secret and tells an ally who found it to keep it for herself, but the player-character was a regular citizen before all of this and thus registered. Overall the story isn’t fantastic, but for a game that just wants to be extreme, it is somewhat fitting and doesn’t get in the way of the fun.

Gameplay

This game is a sandbox that a lot of Grand Theft Auto fans will find immediately recognizable, but with a few twists. All the regular stuff is here: driving, shooting, flying and beating up people, but it all flows a lot better. All your missions and menus are stored in a smartphone, which you can access with the tab-key. From there you can quickly set everything up before heading out on your next adventure, for example: calling up a few homies to help out in an upcoming battle or transferring the money from your stores to your bank account before going shopping. The phone has been a major feature since the first game, but never has it had so many useful functions that were as easy to access.

Missions are the most important part of the game and one nice change is that you no longer need to get “respect” before starting them. Previous games in the series would force players to fill a bar before they could start another mission, but here you can start any mission at any time. Respect instead serves as a means of unlocking new skills that you can then purchase with in-game money. The upgrades are very varied and allow you to specialize in specific fighting-styles. I invested a lot of cash in melee with rifles as a fall-back strategy, which worked very well. Later on you might acquire enough money to get pretty much everything, but by then the game is probably reaching a climax already.

One final way in which Saints Row differs from other games in the genre are the specialists, which are the strongest units in the game. These vary from subtle snipers to the not-so-subtle brutes and just generally serve to make combat a lot tougher. All in all the gameplay will feel familiar to most people, but it does a very good job at introducing improvements and especially the removal of the respect-barrier between missions helps the game feel like a more enjoyable whole.

Presentation

Most modern games go with a realistic setting and thus choose to use gray and brown colors a lot, but Saints Row instead uses a lot of purple. Purple is the color of the Saints, so as you move through the city of Steelport, you’ll see plenty of neon-signs that emit bright, purple lights on the screen. It makes the game a little more colorful, but it’s far from the only visual wonder. As you progress through the story certain events will cause permanent damage to the city, such as a green gas hanging above part of the city or the bridges been raised. These changes are best observed from the sky and luckily there are plenty of chances to do so. When driving a car, though, the city feels a little generic.

Voice-acting is also a big part of the series, as it has always been. The series is especially fond of having celebrities voice characters and they are also present in this title: Burt Reynolds voices the mayor of Steelport, Hulk Hogan voices ally “Angel de la Muerte” and former pornography star Sasha Grey (don’t ask me how I know this) voices a character as well. All of the actors, both well-known and obscure, manage to make their characters come to life and I easily found myself been pulled into the story by them.

The graphics are also very nice and colorful, which caused a GTA-loving friend of mine to constantly comment on it been “fake”. This aesthetic nicely compliments the surreal gameplay and it almost becomes a firework display when the laser-spewing jets join the fray. A little more could have been done with it, but I am not disappointed overall.

End-game content

After the story, which will take about 10 hours to complete, there is still a lot to be done in Steelport. There are several events that the player can complete (which have been cut down to 3 levels per series), gang operations to be cleared out and property to be claimed. Doing all of this will eventually give the players a 100% City Takeover score, which pretty much means they own it all. Afterwards the player can still entertain themselves with some of the vehicle theft and assassination missions, as well as the challenges, but these will offer very little incentive to keep playing.

The sad fact is that after clearing out the gangs, Steelport becomes rather lifeless and the player is left with very little to play with. You can pick fights with the police if you please, but by that point you are ridiculously overpowered, so picking fights with the pistol-wielding authority offers very little challenge. There is plenty of DLC sold separately, but the content in these varies and is a little pricey if you want all of it.

Verdict

Saints Row: The Third is a game all about driving the player from amazing set-piece to amazing set-piece, but it forgets to string these events together with a story the player wishes to explore. It’s a shame to see a series with a once interesting plot discard it in favor of showing off, but at least the gameplay is solid enough to make playing through it enjoyable. There is also a genuinely good sense of humor and everything is well-presented, so you are likely to find yourself replaying this game from time to time. I recommend getting this game for a maximum of 40 euros, preferably 30 or lower. This item goes on sales often, so be sure to check that out!