The combination of slick imagery, new interface, collectibles, features and classic humour make Saints Row: The Third a whole new experience, different from its predecessor while still managing to keep the elements that worked.
If you’re reading this, then you’re probably familiar with Saints Row/Saints Row 2 (admittedly I’ve never played the first one). You may also be aware of or even well acquainted with the Grand Theft Auto, Tony Hawk and Amped skateboarding/snowboarding/generally being a nuisance and committing crime series. My first point is, you’ll be accustomed to extreme character customization. My second point is, take everything you know and throw it in the garbage. Then, set the garbage on fire, throw it at a homeless person, and run. You won’t need that knowledge – or the squatting hobo – anymore. Saints Row 3 takes character customization and gives it steroids. As an example, if one were so inclined, the menu for developing the look of the head and face alone will provide half an hour(or more) of entertainment, tweaking it to look just right. It’s hard core. That’s just the beginning.
You enter the world during a bank robbery that just so happens to involve a vault owned by the most important and collected Belgian I’ve ever seen in my life. He manages to keep his cool while you, Johnny Gat, Shaundi, and this actor douche Birk try to take what turns out to be probably 1% of his net worth. While trying to dodge security officers and SWAT cops, you have the opportunity to do things like sign autographs and listen to the pilot talk about how much his daughter wants to meet you. We’re off to a good start.
One of things I thought was the most faulty in Saints Row 2 was the psychics engine for driving. I appreciate lack of realism, but when you’re speeding at 100,000mph and you make a handbrake turn, it’s certainly not going to be on a dime. Saints Row 2 made sure it was on a grain of sand instead. It was too easy. You stuck to the road like you had super glue tires. In the third installment, driving is more realistic without being gritty or annoying. Handbrake turns aren’t as responsive, but in a good way, and they still do the job. They managed to do this without ruining the rest of the driving specs, like flying through the air like you’re on the moon and scooping other cars up and over you like you’re a big ugly shovel with a grudge against everything.
The activities have also been revamped. There’s drug trafficking missions where you have to protect the dealer, “Guardian Angel” where you literally blow things up from a helicopter, then rappel down a building and pick off enemies with a sniper. Speaking of heights, base jumping is, for me, much more fun in this edition. Jumping over a ledge means you actually dive instead of this awkward transition between the stock animations. It’s the same with climbing, and fighting (which, by the way, is awesome. Ever wanted to run up on someone and slam their head into the dirt, roll over and strike a sexy pose? Well, you’re in luck.) Everything just looks much more fluid, even the graphics are sleek and smooth.
Volition seems to have an expert formula concocted for failing to iron out glitches while managing to make them funny enough not to worry about. There have been several instances where one of my “homies” has tried to “Bo-Duke-En” into my vehicle (essentially, jumping through a window) while 20 feet from it. The subsequent animation is hilarious; my main man Pierce shot forward into the passenger seat as if he were a heat-seeking missile. Sometimes, pedestrian passengers will get stuck trying to exit a vehicle, leaving them hanging on by a leg or foot, bouncing up and down on the pavement or roof while you’re driving along, trying to shake them off. Wonderful.
One issue so far: I was on a mission where I had to eliminate gang members at drug deals. After failing the mission for accidentally leaving the area (I swear I didn’t die or anything…that would just be retarded of me) I returned to the area. The gang members I was supposed to kill had been marked off above their heads. Waves of other enemies would fall in around them. Only this time, they weren’t marked off anymore. I had no idea who I was supposed to kill to advance. I ran around, killing maybe 50 or 60 people before realizing I’d never be able to tell, and they just kept coming. So I blew myself up. The problem was fixed, but it shouldn’t have been a problem in the first place. That’s a moderately large issue, and I hope it doesn’t present itself further on in the game.
Overall, Saints Row: The Third is worth every penny spent on it. It was even worth the dick-face back-order I had to sit through. The smartphone menu is convenient idea without being annoying like in GTA 4. The graphics are smooth and streamlined, and the animations work well together. The new and extra content is very different from its predecessors. The character customization is just a big orgy of fun. There’s even an achievement for being transsexual for two hours. If you like manipulating the size of your genitalia, this game is pretty much entirely for you.