Saints Row The Third or When the Saints running wild

If you start playing Saints Row The Third, it just feels like the ultimate rollercoaster: It starts off great with one of the best first missions ever. Afterwards, you get punched by the fact Volition took away tons of customization options. You will keep on playing nonetheless and enjoy some great missions again – only to get kicked in the nuts when you realise the activities are mandatory now (at least the introduction to each). And believe Rabidgames, they are a chore … but you will still keep playing!

Why? It’s the very missions. Imagine San Andreas on crack – yes, that’s your typical Saints Row The Third mission. So you thought Saints Row 2 was crazy? Well, let’s see: Free-falling with Shaundi and one parachute – or later on in a tank? Check. A city-wide full-blown three-way war? Check. A wild ride in cyberspace? Check. A deadly wrestling match? Check. And so on. The missions are hilarious, they greatly differ from another and they are full of wacky, immature humour – you gotta love it! Add in a new city named Steelport – which sadly lacks personality and exploration – and let chaos reign supreme in Saints Row The Third. And there’s even more: Wait until the middle of the game when a new faction enters the city – mayhem will be guaranteed!

Activities are back as well, but in a new form: Instead of building respect to gain access to new missions, they serve as milestones to take over Steelport. Unfortunately, Volition took out some of the best (Crowd Control, Demo Derby, Fight Club, FUZZ, Septic Avenger). Of course, the lame and annoying ones are still in: Escort is still tedious, Snatch is outright boring and Trafficking is a pain – mostly because in Saints Row The Third, the A.I. fucking sucks when it comes to driving  and especially when evading tiny obstacles like skyscrapers. There are some new activities, too: The reality game show “Professor Genki Super Ethical Reality Climax” is pure fun (and remember: killing human mascots is fine but shooting a cardboard with a panda painted on it is UNETHICAL). Guardian Angel is great as well and Eye of the Tiger is actually a good version of Escort – with a tiger in your passenger seat! And then, there’s Rabidgames‘ favourite – Tank Mayhem. Incredibly easy but even more satisfying: You sit in a tank and shoot everything in sight.

But activities come with a huge drawback – they are now embedded into the story. It means you have to play one instance of Snatch even if you fucking hate it! Plus, if you want to control all of Steelport, you have to do each and every activity. Good luck. And patience.

But what about more content outside missions and activities? If you’re tired of missions and activities, there are still tons of things to do in Steelport. You can find hidden gang operations and obliterate them, receive phone calls to fight waves of enemies (great fun but better call some reinforcements). Your phone also gives you some special activities to earn respect and money: There are dozens of cars to steal (which tends to become ridiculously hard) and dozens of people to eliminate – yes, Chop Shop and Hitman are back indeed! And believe Rabidgames, Hitman is still fun! There are also many challenges to master – mostly random stuff like “taunt gang members 50 times”, “kill 50 brutes” or “drive lots of kilometres” but it will keep you busy for quite some time. Saints Row The Third also features gamers’ favourite pastime: finding hidden stuff. Luckily, you don’t have to shoot fucking pigeons: You have to find sex dolls (ask Pierce why), money and tourists who like to have a picture with the Saints boss.

Sadly, not all is good in Steelport: The lack of customisation in Saints Row The Third is a big let down to some: You have less clothing to choose from (especially if you play with a woman), no more design choices to prettify them, no clothing layers anymore … in short: Disappointing character creation compared to Saints Row 2, still awesome compared to every other game. It gets worse for us veterans: You can’t customise your cribs any more. Hell, there aren’t that many cribs in the first place! The reason for this change allegedly is the new physics engine which looks really good compared to the predecessor (however, not that great compared to other games).

There are also less weapons than before, but you can now upgrade them. Some of the new ones are downright insane – we all know the purple wobbly “thing” and the fart in a jar (which actually is a level 4 upgrade of one grenade type). The best additions certainly are the military drone (which is available from early on for some strange reason), the RC car control device which lets you control any car (great tool for major mischief) and, last but not least, the hilarious shotgun that summons a shark.

Yes, Saints Row The Third is different from Saints Row 2. From what you realise in the beginning, it would not even be entirely wrong to assume the Saints Row series went the hated GTA IV way: Take away customisation and size, but freely give a new engine and better graphics and physics. But here’s the thing: this notion is mostly wrong.

Yes, Saints Row The Third lacks lots of stuff which we held dear in Saints Row 2 – but what we get is still a very good sandbox experience. Even more important, fighting cops and gangs randomly is still fun. Actually, it’s more fun than ever before. The new notoriety system works perfect: First, you fight ordinary grunts, then the gangs call specialists (the Deckers have the best one, wait till you see her) and later one, they call huge brutes to smash you. It works the same with the authorities: Beat cops are no match for the Saints, SWAT teams are harder to survive – and the military brings tanks. You could see tanks as a threat – or as your toy! Steelport becomes your playground of mayhem! It’s such a shame you can’t bring down buildings. Also, Rabidgames officially orders a nuke for use in Saints Row 4. Thanks, Volition.

Technically speaking, Saints Row The Third is far from perfect (we’ve been used to it by now, haven’t we?): There is lots of screen tearing on the 360, there are annoyingly late pop-ups which make you relive the old classic: crash into invisible cars. Also, the sound is somewhat broken: Sometimes, you hear no engine or braking, sometimes guns seem to have silencers attached. In coop, weird situations happen quite often – you drive off with your buddy in the passenger seat, then he tells you “hey, why did you leave without me!” However, it runs more stable and is a big improvement to the incredibly laggy Saints Row 2. But still – you don’t have to be a graphic whore to realise the graphics of Saints Row The Third could have done better. Also, consumers still expect to receive a finished game without any bugs or glitches. Call it naivety, but if you pay the full price, you should get a finished and full game.

Rabidgames says: Saints Row The Third definitely has its ups and downs – but at the end of the day, the fun outweighs the mandatory activities. While you sometimes struggle with motivation (especially during the activities), there is always the stress relief of killing bystanders, gang members or cops indiscriminately. Also, the big strength of Saints Row The Third are now the missions – there are tons of memorable ones – and every time you think “that’s it – it can’t become crazier” you’ll see the next mission and you learnt another lesson in insanity. However, despite all the fun and chaos, it is not the true masterpiece of sandbox gaming it could have been. The lack of customisation and exploration leave a desire for more content.

A word of advise for inexperienced Saints: If you prefer GTA IV’s gritty realism, be warned! Saints Row The Third might kick you in the balls very, very hard. There is neither a virtual friendship system nor fetching newspapers for Roman – it’s all about money, sex and mindless destruction. And laughs, of course. If you don’t laugh out loud at least 5 times during your adventure in Steelport, you’re probably dead – or you really enjoy bowling with your annoying cousin.

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