A game that lives up to its own insane hype.
We live in a world that is so obsessed with fame that even the most talentless of people can become celebrities. However, Volition have taken this one step further in Saints Row The Third by taking the beloved Saints street gang and transforming them into household names, with all of the merchandise and recognition that comes with that status. But then, maybe turning criminals into celebrities is something we do already…
Whether or not you find the fact that an organised crime outfit can become so famous incredulous is perhaps the last thing that you will be thinking about when starting up the game. This near-future, open-world romp simply stretches the realms of possibility in so many ways, and for that we should be grateful. Being chased along the road by tethered gimps, taking part in a gameshow that awards cash prizes for shooting men in animal suits, and even wielding a four-foot long purple phallus with violent intent may all be highly unrealistic, but oh so much fun. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.
The over-the-top action begins with the Saints pulling a bank job. Why would they be doing this? They are now celebrities, household names. They have their own clothing line and energy drinks. What would possess them to rob a bank? Simple answer – research.
They have with them a tag-along actor who is researching his role in the upcoming Saints movie and what better way to research being a member of the Saints than to participate in a heist. So, in the outlandish manner found throughout the game, the gang decide to rob a bank dressed in giant Johnny Gat heads. The actual robbery is a bit more complex than that, as the Saints have to blow up half of the building and then get the entire vault removed by helicopter. But things go slightly wrong when it turns out that the bank is owned by The Syndicate.
A criminal organisation that is operating out of Steelport, The Syndicate consists of three gangs: The Capitalistic Morningstar gang, the violent Luchadores gang and the technologically advanced Deckers gang. The Syndicate declare that they want a sizeable cut of the Saints income otherwise they will shut the Saints down. This leads to one of the most impressive and memorable sequences that I have ever seen in a videogame.
Put simply, a shootout on a plane leads to the Boss leaping from said plane after Shaundi, who has no parachute. Shooting rival gang members on the way down, Boss caught Shaundi only to realise that the plane is now heading straight for them. Dropping Shaundi, Boss crashes through the windscreen and tumbles through the entire plane, only to grab a parachute before exiting and freefall to catch Shaundi again. It is all mighty impressive, and that is before the game even starts properly.
Because then the gang make their way to Steelport to establish a foothold and slowly build there influence whilst taking care of the three gangs that make up The Syndicate. This is accomplished not just by following the crazy story, but also by completing side objectives and buying up property or businesses to take control of Steelport one district at a time.
The story itself will see the player facing off against each of the gangs and taking control of their interests, ultimately taking down the bosses themselves. The story missions are perhaps the highlight of the game, as they are so far out there and incredibly entertaining that everything else seems like filler. Of course, the player will not only be dealing with the gangs, who by the way have access to some pretty impressive weaponry, but also against the local authorities who seem to take a dim, and slightly violent, view of gang crime.
The player will be taking on all manner of grunts and elite enemies. Although already possessing superior strength and endurance at the beginning of the game, he is the boss after all, the player character will still be challenged by the sheer number of enemies that they will have to face. That and a couple of slightly irritating mechanics that I shall call “explosions and allies”. These are pretty much the only two faults in the game, so listen carefully. If the players character is involved in some kind of explosion, they are generally flung through the air like a ragdoll, causing a couple of seconds of inability and thus increasing the threat of death for no good reason. The other fault is that the allies, members of the Saints for the most part, keep getting shot and the have to be revived to prevent failure of the mission. This fact makes many of the missions feel like extended baby-sitting sessions, which is also rather annoying.
To aid in the taking over of Steelport, the player will need a mighty fine arsenal of cool weapons and gadgets, which is one of the first things that they get down to upon reaching Steelport. Raiding an army warehouse, the gang manages to “tool up” and as the game progresses they will have access to a nice range of weapons, from the standard shotguns and assault rifles, to the more quirky mini octopus firing gun that transforms enemies into allies. The vehicles too are varied and enjoyable, with cars and trucks right through to hover-bikes and helicopters. The great thing with SR3 is that the mechanics for both combat and vehicle control are solid, perhaps the only sensible thing in a world that is madder than a bag of ferrets.
Being an open-world game, the player is free to do what they choose in Steelport, be that following the story missions, wandering the streets causing trouble, or indulging in some of the numerous activities found in the city. These activities come in many different shapes and sizes, from controlling a tank and causing a set amount of damage, or committing insurance fraud by leaping in front of traffic and trying to get the highest payout possible. Perhaps the most notable side activity involves a game show run by the cat-headed Professor Genki. It is here that the player must work their way through the levels of the given episode and make it to the exit before time runs out, shooting animal suit-wearing lackeys and bonus cash signs along the way. It is all absolutely mental, but a whole lot of fun.
Saints Row The Third is like playing naked rugby, liberating and enjoyable, but infinitely more fun with a friend. This is obviously something that the developers were already aware of, as they have included co-op for the entire campaign. That’s right folks, you can enjoy all of this madness with a friend. What’s more, there is even the addition of “Whore mode”, a typically Saints Row take on horde mode, in which the players have to fight off wave after wave of whores or gimps.
With all of the seriousness of war, assassins, batmen and Dovahkiin just lately, a game that doesn’t take itself seriously at all and trades on the fact that it is just daft is a welcome break. But just because the game isn’t serious, it doesn’t mean that it is not a serious contender for game of the year. Volition have hit the nail on the head, probably with a four-foot phallus, with Saints Row The Third and provides more politically incorrect entertainment than should be allowed. Not for children, they don’t deserve this much fun.