Saints Row first arrived at a time when gamers were begging for a Grand Theft Auto experience.
Though it fit the need admirably it still wasn’t considered in the same league as Rockstar’s epics. That didn’t stop the developers at Volition who through that game’s sequels began finding their own direction through humor and outlandishness.
Now with game number three, Saints Row: The Third, they deliver in spades. It’s a game that revels in its crazy situations and goes out of its way to allow players the freedom to keep it that way.
You play as the leader of the 3rd Street Saints, a gang that has over the course of the previous two games transformed from a gang into a massive crime syndicate. New enemies have arrived to take the Saints down and so its time to assert some authority.
When a game’s opening includes a bank heist followed by a mid air battle and skydiving escape you know that the tone is not going to be all that serious or stay within the realms of reality. It’s a bold beginning that creates a great first impression. This is the first sequence that comes to my mind when thinking about the game; the madness is incredibly entertaining.
Like most sandbox games in the genre, the world is yours to explore as you see fit. There are some restrictions which are to keep some surprises within the narrative in terms of gear and in-game bonuses but what you see if often what you can take.
In my own game what best summarized it for me was an early mission that brought in a SWAT team; during the battle I stole their armored vehicle and claimed it as my own by driving it to my crib’s garage. I would later use that same vehicle for most of my campaign. Continuing on I found a fighter jet at the airport; buying a hanger allowed me to keep that too. The game has no qualms about this at all… if you can get it, why not use it?
For those wanting to compare it to the GTA goliath I’d say its not really a fair fight. The staggering depth in the systems that make a city in GTA come alive are not present here but then no one else has come as close to that. If anything it compares more to Watch Dogs where the city is more like a stage for the act to take place and not another character. However the scenarios here are way more fun than anything Ubisoft’s game could muster. If GTA is the biggest sandbox you can find, Saints Row is the biggest one you’ll enjoy kicking over.
The humor goes a long way to making it stand out with its multitude of pop culture and gaming references scattered throughout the game and some of the characters have to be seen (or heard!) to be believed. Driving my SWAT vehicle dressed as Neo from The Matrix while listening to my passenger whose voice is stuck on permanent auto-tune is not something that happens every day.
References to TRON, The Matrix, Hitman and even a nod in the end to their own Red Faction franchise show that nothing is sacred if it will elicit laughs and smiles. If anything it ensures that you are not going to be bored playing through the campaign.
The controls within the game are highly accessible and make easy work of most situations. Even flying is made simple but I feel that is helped by the inclusion of enough VTOL vehicles to allow players to quickly avoid the quirks of using planes. The only complaint I have at all with the controls is that grenade switching requires use of the B button and D-Pad at the same time; in the middle of a fight it’s not an easy task.
Checkpoints during missions are well placed and go a long way in allowing players to get through some of the more extensive parts of the campaign. That combined with a level of difficulty that remains surprisingly constant should hopefully mean few players will be stuck.
On a question of value I cannot really comment on that seeing as I am playing this courtesy of Xbox’s Games with Gold program. However in terms of time, I spent well over twelve hours playing through the campaign and barely reached 60% completion of the game. The crazy variety in the side missions should at least convince you to spend a little more time in it past the endgame.
Saints Row: The Third is the perfect advertisement for the next game in the series (the already released Saints Row IV). If you feel other sandbox games take themselves too seriously then this is a great introduction for you. And with SRIV scheduled to make a return in enhanced form on Xbox One in the New Year, I know I am keen to revisit Steelport again.