Ah, Steelport. Where else can I jump out of a helicopter to parachute down to a nice penthouse and take it over? Where else could I go vehicle surfing naked and shoot energy drink mascots along the way? As a Saint the world is my oyster and I can do anything I want. A few days ago I robbed a bank disguised as myself and even stopped to sign an autograph during the fire fight. Just now I survived an ambush outside my front door. The Syndicate thought they could take back their penthouse with that sneak attack, however, after my crew and I dispatched everyone, our control over Steelport is now stronger than ever. Now I think I’ll go jump into my helicopter and rain death down upon any enemy vehicles I see out on the road. The Syndicate will never see it coming.
In Saints Row The Third you can pretty much do whatever you want to do, whenever you want to do it. This is a game where the development team simply wants you to have fun and it shows. Unlike similar titles in this genre that tend to take themselves too seriously, Saints Row is all about creating a totally unique and insane experience and being able to do it with a friend. In addition to being able to go through this game by yourself, you can also go through it with a friend with the campaign co-op. I had a tremendous amount of fun going through this game with one of my friends as we wreaked havoc all over Steelport. There are, of course, the main storyline missions to go through but there is so much more. By using your cell phone to log in to “Saints Book” you can take jobs that are offered, such as assassinating someone or stealing a particular vehicle and delivering it to a chop shop. The vehicle theft missions were a lot of fun with a friend because you can work together. Once you have stolen the vehicle you will have the police coming at you full force trying to prevent you from making it to the chop shop. While my friend concentrated on driving and getting us to our destination in one piece I leaned out the window and attempted to take out our pursuers. I shot out their tires to slow them down and then tossed a grenade behind us which exploded as they were driving over it. It was a pretty amazing moment and just one out of many that we experienced during our time in Steelport.
Saints Row The Third begins in Stillwater, however, it isn’t long before you find yourself in Steelport. Much like in Stillwater, Steelport has a number of factions that are vying for control of the city. The main story has you dealing with these factions as you try to assert the Saints dominance. I enjoyed my experience with all of the different factions and I thought the writing was great for each one. The Syndicate is this big multi-national crime organization, the Luchadores are the Mexican wrestling gang, the Deckers are the cyber-punk gang and then you have Stag which is the military. My favorite faction was definitely the Luchadores. I know that there are some people over at Volition that are big wrestling fans and I am as well. As such, the writing for this group was really well done. If you are a wrestling fan you will appreciate all of the inside jokes such as the leader saying that they need to do a “Montreal screw job”. As a fan I definitely got a chuckle out of that and my friend (who isn’t a wrestling fan) seemed to enjoy the segment as well even though he didn’t get all of the references.
Just like in the previous games you will have different cribs for you to hide out in and a garage to keep all of your vehicles. The VTOL is one of my favorite vehicles in the game, however, it doesn’t get unlocked until you are a good part of the way through the story. The VTOL is basically a vertical lift jet and you can use it to hover and take out enemies on the ground or get across the map quickly if any of your fellow Saints are in trouble. The majority of the vehicles that you will have in your garage are customizable by going to Rim Jobs. This is where you can customize the performance of your vehicle as well as acquire body mods, different types of wheels and more.
In addition to the main story there is a bunch of stuff for you to do throughout the city. Popular missions such as Escort and Insurance Fraud have returned along with some new ones like Professor Genki. You are also able to buy property in Steelport which will help you control more territory as well as add to your hourly income in the game. As you progress through the game you will also acquire respect. As you level up and you get more respect you will get the opportunity to level up your character as well as your crew. There are even some of your cribs that you can level up which will net you more bonuses.
In addition to everything that you can do in the main part of the game, there is also the “Whored Mode”. This mode is essentially like other horde modes that you find in other titles although this one is a lot more insane and over the top. The first wave is titled “Tops and Bottoms” and you have to attack enemies with a purple dildo. On Wave eight you are in a jeep and firing your weapons upon mascots and stuffed bears to advance. On Wave 17 you have angels that are shrunken down in size and you have to snipe them to advance. The whole mode is very strange and very fun. The fun also increases exponentially if you have a friend to play it with. Experiencing that sort of madness with a friend is a lot of fun plus they can revive you if you get taken down by a group of enemies.
As much as I have enjoyed my time with this game there are some problems that need to be addressed. When there is a lot happening on the screen the frame rate seems to take a hit and it chugs for a couple seconds. It’s nothing major or game breaking, however, it can get pretty annoying at times. There are also times where your allies aren’t very smart. There was one specific instance where I was lining up my shot and right when I fired one of my fellow Saints walked right in front me. Since they walked right in front of me when I fired and since it was a big brute that ended up getting hit he spun around and killed me in one hit. This was one of my own guys that turned around and killed me. That really pissed me off as I was currently working through waves of enemies and I was getting close to the end until that happened. There are also some graphical glitches with the game. There is one area where one of the citizens of Steelport has collided with the geometry of the city and you can’t see half his body. Also, there are times when the city seems a little lifeless. Whenever I am casually driving through Steelport it looks great. When I choose to do an activity though then that is something different. There are mayhem activities to do in the game and the point of those activities is to cause a lot of damage in a short period of time. That can be really hard to do though if I don’t see anyone or anything that I can destroy. In some of them I am confined to a certain play space that I need to stay in. If I go out of the area designated for that activity to look for things to blow up then I am warned that I need to immediately return to that area. If I don’t then I will fail the task at hand which kind of goes against the whole open world concept.
As I have alluded to above customization is a key part to your experience in Saints Row The Third. You can customize your character as you see fit. You can pick what gender you are, how high their sex appeal is, whether or not they wear clothes, what weapons they carry around and much more. It should be noted that if you choose to go nude that certain parts of the anatomy are blurred out. There are also community features in the game and a pretty cool screenshot mode. You can take out your camera at any time in the game and take a screenshot of what is happening. Once you do that you can upload to SaintsRow.com so that other members of the community can see it. You’ll even get an achievement if you upload your created character. Another thing that you can customize is your audio experience. The licensed music in this game is fantastic and you have total control over what you hear. You have the standard radio stations that you can switch at any time, however, you also have a mix tape. If, for example, you have a favorite song on each station then you can put each song into your mix tape and listen to your own track list. There’s everything from Power by Kanye West to the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 Allegro by Bach to Drowning Pool by Feel Like I Do and much more. No matter what your musical taste is you should be able to find something here.
Saints Row The Third is a tremendous amount of fun. It is completely over the top and I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Steelport. Despite the problems that I mentioned above I will be back playing Saints Row within a few minutes of this review being posted. It is one of those games that seem to have struck a chord with me and is pushing me to do and see everything. Pretty much everything you do is incentivized whether you are drifting around a corner or streaking across the street. The Saints are back and wreaking havoc. Be sure not to miss out on one of the most fun titles of 2011.