The Saints Row series has been one of my favorite series on next-gen consoles since the first installment; being late to the GTA party, I got my first taste of the fun antics one could do in an open-world. While it was admittedly extremely derivative of GTA, the second installment differentiated itself from the first one in a huge way, playing up some of the wacky antics that were somewhat obscured in the first. Now with Saints Row the Third, Volition has finally transformed the series into a completely bombastic, no holds barred experience that everyone should experience if they’re looking for a fun time.
From the outset, it’s clear that the game has worked out somewhat of a legacy issue; while the side activities and crazy things you could do in the games were fun, the story missions tended to be somewhat bland outside of some good dialogue. That changes in a huge way in Saints Row the Third; the story missions are some of the most memorable I’ve played in any game in a long time. Whether you’re robbing a bank disguised as yourself, or playing a text adventure game, the fun and laughs don’t stop coming. The story and characters have also been upgraded to be much more amusing and off the wall, and its packed with some hilarious dialogue. The story structure also follows a much more linear path, which helps the game remain more focused and fun. The decision to remove the system of only allowing players to participate in missions when they’ve done enough side activities also helps here.
However, the story is just the cusp of the game’s content. The game has a fairly robust selection of side activities and property acquisition to keep you busy for a fairly long time. Like previous games, the game has several side activities that are normally ridiculous in nature. These include such activities as a crazy japanese game show, causing the most amount of property damage with a tank as you can, and the ol’ favorite insurance fraud. However, some activities like Trafficking and Snatch are still in the game to my confusion, as these are a far cry from the off the wall tone of the rest of the game. The property acquisition is also a delightfully fun money game, as you’re sometimes stuck between buying a property to receive a large amount of cash gradually, or immediately upgrading your character and purchasing more guns.
Which leads into my next point. The sheer amount of customization cannot be understated; the character creator in particular is pretty fascinating. The amount of clothing options, tattoos, vehicle, and weapon options are also astounding. It helps that you can completely change your character from a scrawny man with a business attire to a musclebound female in dominatrix clothing in a matter of minutes and for a nominal amount of in-game money. The weapon selection in this game is also a strong point; I can’t remember the last game I played with this robust and fun a selection of weapons. While many will talk about the penetrator (a giant purple dildo with hilarious physics), my personal favorite happens to be a gun that literally explodes enemies with sonic waves.
The music selection is fairly robust as well, with music stations ranging from classical all the way to dubstep. While I was normally a fan of the music as a whole, Volition has still not fixed the personal radio station system. This allows you to select any of the tracks in the game and play them in a separate music station; however, this station does not shuffle, meaning you’ll have to constantly reorganize your tracks if you want to hear all the songs you’ve selected. Still, I have to give the game props for using songs extremely well in order to make missions seem more awesome; the use of Kanye West’s “Power” in one level actually made me like a genre of music I typically abhor. Voice acting is also solid all around, considering the amount of voice work in the game, and celebrity voices are surprisingly well done.
There are a few things that get in the way of the fun in Saints Row. While the story missions are a lot of fun normally, far too many are spent with a warm up mission of some of the side activities you will encounter. The lack of the ability to replay missions was also disappointing to me. And while Saints Row the Third is by and large a much smoother experience then its predecessor, I was occasionally forced to restart missions due to bugs with the game (I also warn people to do all of the photo-op collectables before the third act, as an event in the game makes one of these permanently inaccessible). And while explosions look awesome, the game engine is starting to show its age, especially with some character models.
Overlooking these small issues, Saints Row the Third is a game I cannot recommend enough. It’s simply one of the most flat-out fun games I’ve played this holiday season. Add on the fact that this game can be played through completely in co-op, and you’ve got one hell of a must buy game.
The Good: Hilarity abounds, Story missions are much more focused, A staggering amount of customization, One of the strongest weapon arsenals I’ve come across in a game in a long time
The Bad: A more efficient music selection system would have been welcome, Some activities don’t fit with the games tone
The Ugly: The occasional bug
The Score: 9.25/10