- Publisher: THQ
- Developer: Volition
- ESRB Rating: “M" for Mature
- Genre: Third-Person Sandbox
- Pros: Over the top set-pieces; great voice acting (Laura Bailey!); awesome weapons; lots to do; co-op; steady stream of new stuff to play with
- Cons: Some bland side missions; not enough songs on radio; kind of easy
The story in Saints Row: The Third has the Third Street Saints as more than just a gang from Stillwater. They are a media empire who are now rich and famous, but they still like to play the villain every once in a while. You know, to keep in practice. When a bank robbery attempt goes wrong, the Saints end up stuck in a new town, Steelport, and instead of heading home they decide to take over this new city. Standing in their way are rival gangs and a frightening anti-gang military force. At least they have the support of Steelport's mayor.
Your character is the leader of the Saints, and is literally whoever you want them to be. You can customize characters however you like and are even encouraged to change them entirely in the middle of the story. It frankly doesn't matter what your character looks or sounds like. Change from man to woman, completely change their face, give a woman a beard, make them talk in a zombie voice - you can do whatever you want. There are several clothing stores around the city that have everything from Saints-branded gear to costumes to emo clothes and even lingerie. You can even walk around naked (censored, though) if you want.
That is a good thing, though, because it lets you goof off without really worrying too much. You are free to kill and steal and do whatever you want without really worrying about whether the cops are going to mow you down. Oh, they'll still show up, you just don't have to worry about them.
While the gameplay mechanics don't exactly stand out, the weapons you use and the missions you play through are what make SR3 so fun and interesting. Weapons range from normal pistols, SMGs, shotguns, and rifles on up to brain controlling octopi, Fart in a Jar grenades, dildo bats, chainsaws, the ability to remote control A.I. vehicles, and more. Vehicles go from standard cars and trucks on up to hover bikes, VTOL aircraft, a Mars Rover, laser firing tanks, and more. Causing mayhem is fun here.
The missions you use all of these neat toys in are part of the fun as well. One of the first missions has you jumping out of a plane and then having to somehow get back in while it is falling. Crazy. You'll rescue an ally from a S&M hotel, fight off a zombie invasion, hack a computer from the inside Tron-style, and more. Not all of the 47 main missions are super exciting - quite a few of them are just introducing the side missions - but for the most part the missions are awesome.
The side missions aren't quite as consistently good, unfortunately. There aren't any police or ambulance or delivery missions, and instead you do things like steal hookers from rival pimps, drive around with a tiger in the passenger seat, protect an ally while they make a deal on the street (Saint's merch, not drugs), and dive in front of oncoming traffic in Insurance Fraud, among other things. Some side missions are pretty bland (Mayhem, Insurance Fraud) but some are pretty good like Professor Genki's Super Ethical Reality Climax reality show. There are also vehicle theft missions where you find a specific vehicle as well as assassination missions (where you have to perform specific actions to make your target appear) that are pretty good as well. Overall, though, the side-missions are kind of boring.
Cash is used to buy properties, buy upgrades for your character, customize and upgrade vehicles, upgrade weapons, buy new outfits, and upgrade your strongholds to help you earn even more cash and respect. Properties you own all make you even more money that is deposited in your account every in-game hour (10-15 minutes). You always have a constant stream of income, and pretty much everything you do builds up Respect even if it is just a few points at a time, so you level up quickly and usually have plenty of cash and lots of fun things to spend it on. A nice thing about SR3 is that it is all open from the start. The entire city is there for you to play in. You can drive to the airport and steal a plane and fly around before jumping out and parachuting to the ground within 5 minutes of arriving in Steelport, something locked away for much later in most open world games. Or go to the military base and steal a tank and blow crap up right from the start of the game. It is nice that they don't lock away the fun stuff. With that said, you do have to complete missions in order to unlock the really crazy weapons and vehicles and stuff, but it is fun right from the start if you just goof off and don't really do missions. I played for 10 hours just exploring and finding hidden stuff and doing side missions before I really seriously started doing story missions. To finish the game 100%, it takes a solid 25+ hours or so.
Saints Row The Third isn't just a single-player game, though. It is also features co-op where you and a friend can cause havoc and have fun and complete missions. Goofing off in open world games by yourself is only so fun. Playing with a partner, especially in a crazy world like SR3, makes everything better.
SR3 also has its own version of Horde Mode, titled Whored Mode. It is really the same as horde mode in other games - waves of enemies attack you and you have to kill them all - but fending off waves of S&M freaks, psychos wielding dildo bats, zombies, giant brutes, and more makes it much more interesting here. Again, play with co-op friend to make it more fun.
Graphics & Sound
Visuals are one area where Saints Row: The Third is lacking a bit. It isn't exactly a pretty game. It doesn't look awful or anything, but environmental objects pop in and out constantly and there are generally pretty bland textures everywhere. The character designs are exaggerated and sort of twisted and the NPCs and enemies only have a handful of different models so you see the same people everywhere. At least the explosions and other special effects are nice.
The sound is pretty good overall. The voice work is solid no matter which voice you choose. I chose the female voice played by one of my favorite anime / VG voice actresses, Laura Bailey, who did a particularly good job. Or you can make your character grunt and groan like a zombie, One complaint I do have about the sound is that there isn't really very much music on the radio. There are multiple radio stations to choose from, all with licensed music of course, but you'll end up hearing the same songs over and over and over just because there isn't a huge tracklist. The Adult Swim radio channel is pretty good though, I have to admit.
All in all, Saints Row: The Third is a big, goofy, over the top experience that never forgets that videogames are supposed to be fun. It doesn't have genre redefining gameplay, or top of the line visuals, and not all of the side missions are the greatest, but it offers up fun and hilarious dialogue and funny situations by the truckload. It is an absolute blast to play because it doesn't make you hold back. You can do whatever you want, however you want, and it is pretty much always fun. If you like the freedom of open world games but don't always appreciate how stiff and realistic some of them try to be, Saints Row: The Third is for you. We highly recommend it for a purchase.