Saints Row: The Third Review

Saints Row: The Third continues to develop the series, as fate would have it weeks after Grand Theft Auto V was announced. It’s not GTA. It’s nothing like GTA and The Third is out to prove that there’s room in your collection for a totally different open-world adventure, even in comparison to its predecessor. Only one thing matters in Saints Row: The Third: explosive fun.

That’s outrageous – Saints Row 2 broke the shackles and distanced the series from the unwanted tag of yet another GTA clone. The Third increases the heat by making the crazy, outrageous open-world game we’ve always wanted to play. Saints Row: The Third is like every GTA clone on crack.

The ludicrous adventure that knows no bounds of political correctness is summarised shortly after its opening mission. The Saints hierarchy find themselves plummeting from a passenger jet. Ignoring the terrifying plunge, you have to twist and dodge jettisoned cargo while shooting the trailing generic bad guys: clones of a man in suit, and stripper with enormous guns. There’s a timed to perfection moment of catching a foolish parachutless broad, dropping her to take care of business, diving through cockpits to finish the job, and rendezvousing ahead of the ground. That’s what the next 30 hours are all about (or 15 if you only want to follow the main campaign).

The level of absurdness continues to grow as the explosive narrative progresses; Saints Row: The Third revels in what makes it so entertaining. It knows it’s ridiculous. It knows the humour would have waned if the main quest dragged on. So it embraces its own philosophy and tops itself with each new mission right until the disappointing conclusion.

Range of vehicles – The range of vehicles is immensely impressive, with plenty to choose from on land, sea and air. Fast cars are plentiful around every corner, contrasted by some of the more astute modes of transport.

The driving mechanics are solid and easy to adapt to. The only issue is that some vehicles inexplicitly use the face buttons to accelerate when most use the triggers, and the camera is locked behind planes, but manually controlled with everything else, making crashing upon attempting to land a certainty.

Gone blowin’ shit up – Saints Row: The Third is at its best when you’re blowing shit up, and asking questions later. It’s a mindless game with a hilarious story that doesn’t matter. I still don’t really know what happened and why, but it was one of the funniest games I’ve ever played.

Saints Row: The Third is mindless action for all of the right reasons. You follow the marker on your map and blow up whatever it leads to. How you go about it is up to you, but spur of the moment boasts the highest success rate.

Then there are the weapons. They match the ridiculous nature of the story, headlined by that purple dildo bat. While hilarious, but perhaps a little soft, it’s one of the more tame weapons. The Annihilator needs no further explanation, nor does the Reaper Drone. Yes, almost immediately you get access to drones. It’s perhaps only superseded by the RC Possessor, which lets you take control of any vehicle in range. The possibilities are endless for humiliating the military.

Customise everything – As a notorious gang of international criminals turned celebrities – who are still criminals but it’s okay for celebs to do whatever they want – you’ll want to customise everything money can buy.

The customisation options are crazy. You can walk into a doctor’s office to change the look of our protagonist or any of the gang. I’ve always wanted to roam the streets with George Costanza. Customisation options expand to vehicles and weapons making you chief stylist of the Third Street Saints, and eventually their new domain of Steelport.

Side missions – The humour does start to run repetitive after a while, making that the perfect time to put the main quest on hold and explore the wealth of side jobs available to a gang boss who does all of his own legwork. From throwing yourself in-front of cars to commit insurance fraud to driving around business men who want to have a good time in the backseat while avoiding the paparazzi, it’s all here.

Any sexual occupation or illegal scam that results in grievous bodily harm to someone is probably a side mission in Saints Row: The Third. They get tiring after a while, but inject a solid five hours into the experience.

Basic RPG upgrades – “RPG” is probably the wrong acronym; however, the basic elements are present in what is a well-rounded and easy to use levelling up system.

Everything you do in Steelport earns respect and money. Cash can be exchanged for goods and services, or you can just rob cowards, but it is also used to improve your attributes. As your respect level increases, new abilities will become available to unlock. These range from dual welding to infinite stamina. The system is basic, but that’s exactly what you want in such a violent action game. As with aesthetic customisation, how you develop your character will be unique to your game. No two people will experience Saints Row: The Third in exactly the same way.

Pop-up loading – Characters in Saints Row: The Third don’t go about their business prettily. Everything’s a mess, and that otherwise intoxicating element in gameplay translates to some ugly visuals. There’s an abundance of pop-up loading and some issues with frame rate that can be hard to ignore at times.

Everything that matters is easy on the eye, but there is an ugly side of Steelport if you go looking for it. It lacks the polish of the other spectacular games of late and limited unnatural animations are overused.

Online modes – Saints Row: The Third is best kept as a single player game. The entire campaign can be taken online with co-op, but there’s really no need to. It’s fun if you and a friend just want to mess around, but the campaign itself is best enjoyed alone. Likewise “Whored Mode” – worthy of a faceplam – is decent once or twice, but isn’t worth going back to. In a game that gets its kicks from poking fun at overused gaming conventions, a bland horde mode takes things a little too far.

Saints Row: The Third is built on ludicrous foundations and that’s why I love. It does what any good game should aim to do, produce hours of fun, and leaves it at that. It becomes more absurd with each new mission, made even more entertaining by an outstanding selection of ambitious weapons and vehicles. It has its share of problems, but none of those really matter, as it’s meant to be crazy mindless fun. In that department, Saints Row: The Third delivers, and that’s exactly why you should play it.

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