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Saints Row: The Third Review

by William Schwartz

The Saints Row franchise spawned to life to fill somewhat of a demand for sandbox games that Rockstar created with the Grand Theft Auto series.  While the original Saints Row saw some criticisms thrown its way for emulating Rockstar’s magnificent open-world formula, it’s sequel, Saints Row 2 began to forge its own path.  Now with Saints Row: The Third upon us, Volition has moved even further away from it’s roots, into a world full of outrageousness.  Forget questionable moments, Saints Row: The Third is just questionable. Period.

The Saints have moved from mere street gang,  to international media sensations.  Since your rise to power in Saints Row 2, the group has become recognized and has capitalized on this recognition.  Saints merchandising is everywhere, from the Saints Flow energy drinks, right down to your tighty whitey’s, the Saints have their hands in everything.  A corporate entanglement with a group called The Syndicate leaves The Saints penniless, and your mission is to build back your reputation and extract revenge.  A simple enough premise really, but how they get there is half the fun.

It’s a wild ride full of bigger than life moments in Saints Row: The Third.

The game is set up similar to previous iterations, as well as other sandbox titles.  You’ll use your mobile phone to set up missions, but it’s very clear that the main storyline is more linear than in previous games.  Sure you can take just about any path to get there, but it does keep you on target for the better part of the game.  It’s a wild ride full of bigger than life moments in Saints Row: The Third.  From rappelling from the side of a building,  providing cover for your “homies” with a sniper rifle,  to riding shotgun in a chopper with an RPG, there’s plenty of mission variety in Saints Row: The Third.  Within that variety there’s plenty of strangeness and attitude involved as well.  You’ll visit sex-houses, crash parties, play a tron like mini-game, run professor genki’s gauntlet, and a bevy of strange things that makes what could have felt very mundane,  into a game that feels pretty fresh from start to finish.

The game does stay true to its roots though.  Saints Row: The Third will still have you scrapping for turf.  You’ll still have plenty of side missions and activities to accomplish, and all of them will be in the name of earning cash and reputation.  Escort missions, helicopter assaults, insurance fraud, tank mayhem, and trafficking are a few of those available, and they’re all pretty fun if you get tired of grinding your way through the main story.  It’s also a game that has a high level of customization,  so you’ll be able to put that cash to good use.    You can purchase buildings or businesses that will generate income for The Saints’ cause.  You can purchase vehicle customizations that rival even the most intricate racing games, and your character can be completely customized as you see fit.  Alongside the aesthetic, there are also a ton of powerups to explore, which will give you a load of character improvements in many of the key areas that can affect your abilities, health, damage, combat, vehicles, and more.

When you aren’t on any specific task in Saints Row: The Third, and as in all sandbox titles, sometimes it just plain fun to get out there and cause havok.  Saints Row: The Third excels pretty well here.  Between the nice list of weapons to choose from, and the melee moves that you can learn, it can be quite pleasing to beat someone into submission with the giant Saints themed dildo, or roundhouse kicking a pedestrian in the family jewels.  In causing havok, you will establish a wanted level. This should be familiar to either Saints or GTA enthusiasts, and before long you will have the heat after you.  Pressure intesifies as they’ll bring out the big guns to stop you, which include S.W.A.T. Team trucks and snipers in helicopters.

The gameplay is bogged down a bit by A.I. issues.

As much fun as all this sounds, it is. However,  the gameplay is bogged down a bit by A.I. issues.  When drivers see a disturbance in an area they’ll definitely cause a commotion in trying to flee the scene, this can result in vehicles on top of one another and it can look like a downright mess at times.  In missions where the Syndicate or other gang members approach your position by vehicle, you commonly find that they very rarely just pull up to an optimal position and stop.  They’ll pull up, back up, turn around, drive forward, go backward, then stop, get out of the car and look at you.  It can be a bit awkward, but this same A.I. problem also occurs in the gunplay as well.  It is not uncommon to find these same habits by gun toting enemies on any given mission.  It can definitely take some of the levity out of any given scenario.  It’s hard to assume that a game as audacious as Saints Row: The Third strives for levity, but because of these habits some of the shooting portions of the game feel a bit off.

The Verdict

At the end of the day, Saints Row: The Third is an extremely fun game that doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously.  It’s pretty shameless in it’s over-the-top antics, but for fans of the open world sandbox, think the improvements of Saints Row 2, plus hallucinogenics, and you’ve got Saints Row: The Third.

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  • Available On: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
  • Published By: THQ
  • Developed By: Volition
  • Genre: Open World
  • US Release Date: November 2011
  • Reviewed On: Xbox 360
  • Quote: "Saints Row: The Third is an extremely fun game that doesn't seem to take itself too seriously.  It's pretty shameless in it's over-the-top antics, but for fans of the open world sandbox, think the improvements of Saints Row 2, plus hallucinogenics, and you've got Saints Row: The Third."
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