Monday, January 2, 2012

I Guess Every Superhero Needs His Theme Music... The Saints Row: The Third Review

The Saints Row franchise has been viewed as being a Grand Theft Auto clone to many people, but personally it is keeping what GTA was in the beginning being a sandbox filled with fun toys to mess around with in a living city. There is enough insanity to make the Saints Row games feel separate from Rockstar's juggernaut that started with the second game, but now pushed into another level in this third entry. Saints Row: The Third is quite simply an open-ended sandbox game done right with the most memorable main storyline I experienced in the genre, enough variety in other activities to do, and toys that are actually are fun to play around with in the city of Steelport. From the beginning to the end, the game is at ten off the bat in terms of crazy stuff to do and honestly it is the best open world action game I have played this console generation.

The Saints are riding high off their success from Saints Row 2 as a bank heist goes wrong in the beginning of this game and an organization known as the Syndicate is out to get you while running things at Steelport. The story is simple as the customized boss character (either male or female), it is up to you to take out the Syndicate consist of three gangs, the Morningstar, Deckers, and Luchadores to take over Steelport for the Saints, but there are lots of crazy twists along the way and it becomes more than just a city takeover. I love the personalities of the three gangs even though the Morningstar are your typical rich gang, but the Deckers and Luchadores are indeed special. The Deckers are cyperpunks that would use technology to their advantage as they have telporting gang members at their disposal. Their mission arc is among some of my favorite moments in the game due to the variety they throw at you. The Luchadores are pretty self-explanatory being a gang full of guys wearing luchalibre masks. Personalities really stand out in games like this and Saints Row: The Third is filled with personality with the memorable characters you roll with to the gang's bosses. Its not everyday when you're blowing up the city with some pimp that only talks with autotune.

The main story is filled with memorable moments and some of the best missions I played in an open-ended action game ever. Some of the missions have just no words to describe perfectly how they are other than sheer insanity and absurdity that makes sense. From escaping from an airplane and skydiving down killing enemies along the way, crazy levels while in disguise, wandering around in cyberspace, wrestling, and tons of choices to the point another playthrough is needed because there are multiple endings, Saints Row: The Third throws a lot of crazy situations at you. The side missions/activities return as well as they're a good distraction if you need a break from doing story missions. Franchise standouts from mayhem, insurance fraud, escort, and snatch are back as some new ones are introduced even though there are just some of the other ones with a twist like tank mayhem, tiger escort, the Professor Genki game show (also with its wacky fun), and trail blazing, where you're a flaming ATV racing through the city running down pedestrians and destroying cars to increase time. After completing them once, they're not necessary to play again to progress through the story, but they are to 100% the game if you're that completionist type. Gang operations and properties are spread throughout the city too in order to take over the city 100% additionally. Other than those, the standard conventions seen in other sandboxes such as collectibles, jumps to drive through, assassinations, and vehicle thefts to do as well.

Gameplay-wise, nothing is significantly changed with the core combat in the latest Saints Row. It still controls like a third-person shooter when you're on foot, which feels fine. The awesome button, aka the sprint button, is cool to have to do rolls to dodge and takedowns that are mostly pro wrestling moves like DDTs, bulldogs, and flying lariats (cue to THQ's WWE games). Melee combat is solid as well with some quicktime sequences (there are some of those throughout the story missions) and your occasional guns of pistols, SMGs, rifles, and shotguns. I also like the leveling up and upgrade systems in this game as you gain respect/level up by completing missions, activities, and tons of things you normally do in games like this. Your hourly income increases with more properties owned and areas taken over as one main way to gain cash to buy upgrades for your character and your gang. Weapons can be upgraded as some can be dual-wielded and if you reached max respect, have infinite ammo with no reloading at all. Health/sprint increases are there as well along with decreasing damage taken from bullets, explosives, and so on. The driving mechanics are also great because of powersliding and you'll just find fast cars right away when you start off in the city. Cars and bikes can be customized cosmetically as well in Rim Jobs stores as if you're playing a Need for Speed game tricking out your ride. Character customization is through the roof with tons of options in terms of overall looks and clothes to wear. Your imagination is the limit when it comes to making your character stand out unless you try to make him as close to yourself as you can, which what I did in my main playthrough.

Besides the main campaign, which can also be played co-op with another person online, the other mode in Saints Row: The Third is the cleverly titled Whored Mode. If you have guessed, yes this is Saints Row's take on the wave-based survival mode that is in tons of shooters. That Saints Row twist though is filled with its craziness as you're not dealing with the same type of enemy in every wave. They'll throw a crazy stipulation as well as nut shots and headshots only in certain situations as well as become big or tiny when killing enemies. There aren't ton a maps to choose with, but the characters you can pick from are bascially a variety of costumes to play around with. Whored Mode can be played online as well with other people if you don't feel like playing alone. This is a nice side mode to have around after you're done with the campaign to play for a hour or two. Downloadable missions are coming down the line though if you're itching for more action as you can 100% the campaign in more than 20 hours as doing the story missions themselves are not that long to beat.

Graphically, Saints Row: The Third looks great as the city of Steelport feels like there are tons of things going on. Pedestrians are everywhere if you want to mess around with them. The downtown area is filled with skyscrapers and big electronic billboards of the Saints' products and themselves. The city seems big enough to me to explore and go nuts on the streets, on boat, or on the air with a VTOL jet. I also dig the game's ragdoll physics as surely crazy stuff regarding that in action will happen at some point. The framerate does hitch below 30 frames per second at times especially when things get hectic on screen and there are bound to be various glitches in an open world like this, but nothing I experienced was game breaking. The sounds in this game though are amazing. I really liked the voice acting in the storyline as the characters' personalities really shined there. Your character's main voice has six options, which are three male and three female, and most of them sound fine. The soundtrack though is special especially on how its used. The right songs get played during specific story missions and memorable moments like Kanye West's "Power" when jumping from a helicopter to a penthouse. Of course, you have your radio stations with various genres of music like hip-hop, reggaeton, electronic, and heavy metal. Then there's the 80/90s hits station, my personal favorite, as the characters sing out Sublime's "What I Got" at one point of the game.

Even though Saints Row: The Third doesn't offer anything new to the table in the open world action genre, but this does set a new bar on open world games in general by having a memorable story filled with unexpected twists, lovable characters and personalities, and enough crazy fun toys to play around with in a big city. I always thought that the Saints Row franchise kept what is now missing in the Grand Theft Auto series, which is the absurdity and insanity factor (shock value in general). As GTA continues to head on the serious direction, Saints Row keep things jolly and crazy, but it makes sense in terms of Volition's direction for the franchise. While not perfect with some technical issues, Saints Row: The Third is as good as its gets when it comes to open world games.

Score = 9/10

  • The best campaign I played in terms of open world games
  • Great use of the soundtrack especially in certain story missions
  • Lovable characters and personalities
  • Plenty of side missions/activities to get done for the 100%
  • Crazy fun toys to mess around with in Steelport
  • Whored Mode is a fun take on the wave-based survival mode
  • Various technical issues such as framerate hitches and open world glitches
  • Activities, vehicle thefts, and assassinations become too much a grind to 100%

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