Synyster Graves

Saints Row: The Third

by on Dec.09, 2011, under Xbox 360

So far with my “eagerly anticipated” tag has produced nothing but disappointment. I’m referring to the Rock Band 3 and Final Fantasy XIIIs of the world of which I was hyping up massively and turned out to be mediocre rubbish. I suppose the only exception to that was Earth Defence Force: Insect Armageddon, which was really good. But the Saints Row series has always been one I’ve loved. For me Saints Row 2 was excellent, and removed the shackles of being a “Grand Theft Auto” clone. For me Saints Row 2 was humourous and ultimately FUN, something which Grand Theft Auto had forgotten by the time it moved out of San Andreas. Unlike the two previous iterations of the Saints Row series, this whole game is set in the fictional city of Steelport, rather than Stilwater. The Saints have become a media conglomerate from taking over the Ultor Corporation in SR2 and have become celebrity media giants, sponsoring movies, energy drinks and commercials. As with all the Saints Row games, you can create your own character’s likeness, behaviour and traits, something which Grand Theft Auto still hasn’t realised makes the game much more immersive, rather than be quantum leaped into the role of a grossly unlikeable twat like Cole Phelps (L.A. Noire), Niko Bellic (GTA4) or Johnny Klebitz (GTA:Lost & The Damned).

The game starts with a bank heist reprising the player in the role the “Boss”, and the surviving members of Saints Row 2 return with Johnny Gat, Shaundi and Pierce still integral to the infrastructure of the Saints. Still bedecked in purple attire, the 3rd Street Saints still feel part of you as you seamlessly just back into the action straight from the off. The heist inevitably goes wrong and you are apprehended and find yourself captured by “The Syndicate”, the crime lords ruling Steelport. You escape and the game begins as you try to establish a foothold in Steelport. The opening sequence and initial first two missions slams you into the action without a moment’s notice and thrusts your attention into the story without giving you a chance to get bored! With bullets flying around your head before you’ve even had a chance to glance at the manual, you’re immersed straight from the off, much better than Grand Theft Auto’s rudimentary driving missions dragging you into the role slowly.

In general the gameplay hasn’t changed too much since Saints Row 2, to it’s credit I may add as Saints Row 2 was a great game. The missions come via the player’s smartphone as well as a huge bounty of side missions, including assassination missions, vehicle thefts and in game challenges. The diversions also return with Snatch, Escort, Mayhem, Insurance Fraud and Trafficking all returning for a third time. Unfortunately since SR2; FUZZ, Crowd Control, Fight Club and Septic Avenger have been axed. Trail Blazing and Heli Assault make a return since SR2 as well. There is a notable difference with the diversions in co-op mode, and that is that the host player will always be the driver in the driving diversions and you get a helicopter each on Heli Assault, which totally changes the dynamic of playing with a friend. It’s playable, just not as good. As far as new diversions are concerned, we now have Tank Mayhem (which entails annihilating the streets’ detritus using a tank) and Professor Genki’s Super Ethical Reality Climax…which is FANTASTIC. It’s a gameshow whereby you find yourself in a labyrinth being shot at by assailants dressed as comedy mascots. Think Running Man meets It’s a Knockout!

The story and character development are very good, with a robust storyline full of twists and turns, the beginning arc of the game acting like a tutorial, letting you get used to all the aspects of this game.  The game opens up into the sandbox you’d come to expect with a bigger city than before. But as far as the storyline goes, Saints Row has pushed the bar totally out the window and become insane. SR2 was fun, but this game is totally mad! Weapons include 2-metre long dildo swords, farts in jars, guns that can remote control vehicles, and if you have the promotional DLC, an octopus launching bazooka which causes mind control on NPCs. While the entirety of that list would cause the average person to exclaim WTF?, the vehicles have a WTF factor to them also with vertical take-off jets which fire lasers akin to a Martian Heat Ray from War of The Worlds, or Gears of War’s Hammer of Dawn. There is also tanks which fire the same arsenal as the VTOL, as well as swiftly spawning minigun wielding APCs, UN-style M60 mounted army vehicles and Blackhawk Helicopters. With the pre-order DLC, you also get the Genki Man-a-pault, which essentially hoovers up pedestrians when you drive over them, allowing them to be subsequently fired from a cannon on the back of the truck. This had me in hysterics for about five minutes as I was casually firing pedestrians all over the city with a trail of multi-coloured stars as a vapour trail.

The co-operative campaign is where this game shines like no other as with two players online, you can do all the diversions nad story missions together, or just sandbox and cause havoc if you so desire. You can approach each mission with tactical cunning or reckless abandon, the choice is yours but the fun is there either way. Certain Diversions such as Genki’s S.E.R.C. and Insurance Fraud are simply fantastic in co-op, making up for the disappointment of the Heli-Assault and Trailblazing co-op, which could have been so much better.

The controls have been pretty much left alone, the only major change being the removal of the health items on the inventory, in favour of having a grenade menu on the D-pad, allowing greater versitility when in combat. You can combine the sprint button with the car jacking button, allowing

"People once believed that when someone dies, a crow carries their soul to the land of the dead. But sometimes, something so bad happens that a terrible sadness is carried with it and the soul can't rest. Then sometimes, just sometimes, the crow can bring that soul back to put the wrong things right"

As a unit of organised crime, money makes the world go round and the generation of money is integral to boosting your chances of improving your situation by buy upgrades for weapons, vehicles and character perks. Completing missions and buying up property and shops increases your hourly income, which you have to manually transfer the money into your account. Income is quite low when you first start, but for me choosing to invest in property early paid financial dividends by the middle of the game enabling the purchase of many useful perks and abilities. By the end of the game if you play it smartly, you will have more cash that you will know what to do with which I suppose is testament to decent planning on the player’s part. However, some of the perks could be perceived as making the game too easy, namely the perks which make you invulnerable to bullets, and other perks make you invulnerable to fire, vehicle damage, falling and explosions, rendering you pretty much invincible. While this can be viewed as making it too simple I personally loved it! With that I changed my character’s appearance to that of The Crow and spent the remainder of the campaign quoting lines from the film. Anyone who criticises this should be calmy reminded that you don’t HAVE to buy these upgrades! These are optional but for me made the game even more fun than it already was!

In summation, Saints Row: The Third is probably THE most fun I have had playing a game. From start to finish it was a blast and a half, amusing me with the great dialogue, toilet humour and replayability. Even after completing the game, attaining 1000G due to not being able to put the game down for two weeks solid this game still maintains its majesty. To sum it up, it’s a game that gives you A LOT of toys to play in a very big playground. Arguably one of the best games I have ever played, and I don’t say this lightly! I thoroughly recommend this game to anyone who’s a fan of the open world sandbox genre and must have title for any gamer! It’s put the bar up for Grand Theft Auto 5 so I’m intrigued to see how Rockstar respond to this, because this game breaks the barriers of fun to a whole new level.

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