Rarely does a game nowadays decide it doesn’t want to be taken seriously. In a sea of titles that push the limits of the narrative potential of video games, Saints Row: The Third is busy peeing in said sea. SR3 doesn’t feature a heartfelt narrative or complex characters and it doesn’t want to. SR3 wants you to have fun, by any means necessary, and will bend the story’s non-existent rules to do so. Want to storm a party guns blazing while Kanye West’s “POWER” plays? How about shoot up a sex dungeon completely naked? Dive out of a plane in a tank? SR3 has this kind of stuff in spades.
Crude and vulgar to an animated level, SR3 keeps you entertained by throwing crazy situations at you or ridiculous solutions to more standard fare from other open world crime games. It’s not uncommon for one of the characters in the game to ask you if there’s a better way of doing what you’re doing. There may be but there usually isn’t a more fun way. The story will have you doing outlandish things in the name of taking over the city of Steelport and taking down the Syndicate, a collection of three gangs that rule the city and are determined to take out your gang, the 3rd Street Saints. The story itself is just a means to an end for the crazy stuff you do so if you want an engaging story or a follow up to the events of the last two Saints Row games, you won’t find it here. However, once the story missions kick in, you’ll have a blast.
It is too bad that SR3 insists on explaining how some of these tasks work before you can do it yourself. Part of the story missions has you unlocking the side missions by completing the first one as part of a tutorial like mission. The entire prologue, in fact, is nothing but missions like this aside from the first three or so and it goes on for WAY too long. I managed to enjoy myself regardless during the first few hours or so because the side missions I did already have access to were fun. Understand that it’s not that the side missions aren’t fun, it’s the way they are presented to you and how it impacts the story.
Side missions are the bulk of this game, as the campaign’s 40+ missions won’t last long. They range from running in front of traffic to gain more money from insurance fraud to trying to drive around with a tiger in the backseat. A lot of these side activities are a lot of fun, especially Insurance Fraud thanks to the sheer ridiculousness of the matter. However, some of them seem to just be slight variations on the same idea. Mayhem is you running around, causing as much chaos as you can. Tank Mayhem is the same thing but with you driving a tank. Finally, Professor Genki’s Super Ethical Reality Climax game show is also the same idea but in the context of a Smash-TV style game show. These are all fun but they definitely start to blend together and eventually get repetitive after awhile.
There’s also various collectables, including stacks of money, photo ops, and crates of blow up dolls, to collect and they are spread out on the map in a way so they aren’t too hard or most importantly annoying to find. There also aren’t too many of these to get. Add in assassination contracts, chop shop missions and various challenges to complete and Steelport is filled with things to do that you want to do. This is important because what SR3 does very well is give you an open world that isn’t tedious to explore. You are given side activities and collectables to get, like most open world games, but it doesn’t make that part of the game un-enjoyable.
SR3 has numerous RPG elements that help you want to strive towards completing everything in the game. Your respect level will unlock more perks for you to buy, which include everything from more health to more homies following you into battle. You can also take a car into a car shop and customize it or buy new clothes at a clothing store for more respect points. You can make life easier for yourself by going into a gun store and upgrading your weapons. There are also strongholds to upgrade and territories to take over that add points or multipliers to your respect level. SR3 does a lot to always make you feel like you’re getting better and that you can do it in your way.
Controls in this game is probably the most improved aspect of the game as this game controls way better than the first Saints Row game. Having played through the first game and tried the second game, the series prior had some unintuitive controls and the gunplay never felt accurate since aiming was so loose. SR3 tightens everything up and gives you more to do. Along with tighter aiming controls, the melee combat has been expanded to have sillier wrestling options, including DDTs, flying clotheslines, and face crunchers, complete with beach side poses. There’s also some changes to just the button layout based on previous games in the series that just makes the game play more naturally. It wouldn’t matter if you could do all these crazy things if it didn’t feel intuitive enough to do them, but SR3 bypasses this hurdle and fixes previous problems in the process.
So what’s bad here? I played SR3 on the Xbox 360 and as someone who actually owns both the PS3 and PC versions of the game, I would recommend those versions above the 360 one. The game always stutters when it’s saving or when there’s a lot of action happening on screen. It’s not uncommon for the game to freeze for a couple of seconds too. The game seems to have a hard time maintaining 30fps but rarely does it drop to something unplayable. Playing the game on the PC seems to be the best version, even though it suffers from some optimization issues. The 360 version is playable and you will have a good time but the 360 version just doesn’t run as well as the other versions.
It’s a little surprising since SR3 has a mostly cartoony graphical style and shouldn’t be too taxing on the 360. Steelport has a neon light sheen to everything in the city and it’s pleasing to the eye. However, there’s nothing here graphically that comes across as noticeably impressive, though as a side note, it does look noticeably better than previous Saints Row games. Character models are somewhat exaggerated models that remind me of early 3D games and it suits the tone of the game, if it doesn’t really come across as striking. Music suffers a similar fate as the original soundtrack mostly comprises of generic mid-2000s hip-hop and the license music aside from some standouts (Motley Crue, Bonnie Tyler, the aforementioned Kanye West) is mostly weak. The presentation is mostly adequate, which is surprising for a game that seems to be determined to be anything but.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to try out the co-op mode or Whored Mode so I cannot speak to those modes. However, I am to understand that co-op mode is mostly the same as the single player experience and Whored Mode is mostly a throwaway feature. With that in mind, Saints Row: The Third is an outstanding game. It’s incredibly fun and is the perfect game to pop in and unwind to. There’s nothing here to make you feel like you have to set some time to get immerse in a new world. You play Saints Row: The Third to have fun. Sure, some of the missions are great and some of the side activities are repetitive but above all else Saints Row: The Third succeeds in being fun. If you go back to gaming’s infancy, isn’t that what it’s really all about? This has been Esteban “Colorwind” Cuevas with your Celebrity Crime news.