Saints Row: The Third is an over the top, open world over the shoulder third person shooter with strong action, good controls and some over sexualized comedy. There are plenty of giant purple bats, leather clad dancers, and awkward situations all done for the sake of comedy. You play as the head of a gang from the start, but really its a group of three tight friends that grows bigger to include a giant powerhouse, an ex FBI tech geek, a pretensions actor, a serious turncoat twin and an auto tuned pimp. These aren’t just quest givers, you can call on them to help you on missions. When they’re with you, they’re smart enough to find cover in gun fights, take hostages and even steal a car to follow you when you drive off without them. When your “homies” fall, you need to pick them back up or lose the mission. There are frequent checkpoints, but with a game so fun, I don’t mind if I die.
The franchise really took a step away from being just a lesser version of Grand Theft Auto. They upped the gameplay and the comedy. Where GTA 4 turned gritty and real, Saints Row went the silly fun route. You can take hostages to use them as human shields. Improve your aim by crouching down. Head shot any enemy for an instant kill. Otherwise the enemies will spin around hoping to find cover and forcing your aim to follow them. There are multiple flying take downs and the animation seems outstanding for something that has so many of them.
There is so much customization too. Everything from customizing your own look, to creating how your gang looks. If you want all thugs, go for it. If you want all space men or strippers. That’s up to you. Their stats aren’t affected. Its all just a look. Having your crew around makes an interesting mission even more fun. The whole thing is streamlined. Go to your PDA that will get a phone call sending you to a location on your GPS to start the mission. You’ll find a wide variety in missions, fly to this location, take out a bunch of gang members, hop in a turret, drive through hostile territory, jump out of a plane ….. in a tank and shoot at people and other tanks as you fall. Then hop in a virtual world with a new weapon. Its always interesting and a few missions take place outside of the city in their own unique environments.
Some missions end with a choice that really adds replay value. Do you get a one time sum of cash, or do you want a constantly generating smaller sum of cash. Do you want the aide of someone new or keep someone old? Even down to trivial things like discounts on car upgrades vs discounts on weapon upgrades or who you let live.
The city of Steelport is a bright, beautiful, vibrant and gritty city. It all depends what area you’re in. The industrial zone has no lights, while the tourist part has beautiful neon lights. The city really lights up at night and looks amazing while flying. As the game progresses, the sights change. You’ll see a sunken aircraft carrier, a plane tail up and much more to remind you of just how you’ve affected the city.
Since this is a new city, you’ll need to take it over. How do you do that? Participating in side quests like racing cars or a turf war with one of the three rival gangs in the city. You can buy stores that count to the take over percentage. There are even score based games like insurance fraud and mayhem that have you rag dolling into cars or destroying property. When you own a percentage of the city, you’ll make money for it every real life hour you play. Outside of controlling the city, you can participate in assassinations, car thefts and hijackings with a passenger, then hold them until you get a ransom.
Money for weapons becomes irrelevant. You’ll always have more than enough ammo even if you never visit a gun store. What the money really goes to are upgrades. In the PDA menu you’ll upgrade how much ammo you can have, what guns your crew has, your total health, how fast it regenerates, how much stamina you have and so much more. This is the expensive part of the game. Each gun has four levels of upgrade. The fourth level is always something silly like explosive bullets from a pistol.
There are plenty of weapons in six major types, melee, small, sub machine guns, shot guns, assault rifles, misc (rockets), sniper rifles and four types of throwable things like grenades. You can only have one of each weapon type equipped at a time, but that’s more than enough. Some missions require you to use a rocket launcher and it won’t just give you a launcher, it gives you unlimited rockets. Its one of the joys of this game. High powered weapons with big effects. Once the STAG army shows up, there are some even more creative weapons like a force rifle that when used it pushes away enemies and fully charged obliterates them. There’s just so much variety here, even a tactical missile strike, but that’s not nearly as fun as everything else.
Bosses are big brutes that can run right through you. They are pretty simple to take down though. Shoot them enough times and a quick button prompt will finish them off. The ones without guns will throw cars and benches around. The ones with guns carry flame throwers or heavy machine guns that thankfully jam. With them gone you can pick up their heavy weapons to use as your own, but the bigger the weapon, the slower you move. These weapons are worth the time for the power and fun they bring, especially the sticky bomb launcher.
On top of that, you can climb into vehicles, cars, motor cycles, trucks, but better than that are tanks, armored SUVs, helicopters and some futuristic hover jets and cycles. The hover jets and cycles have two modes, jet and hover. Its perfect from a gameplay standpoint, go fast or hover so you can easily take out slow moving ground units and land on a dime. The vehicles with weapons are a lot of fun to shoot with unlimited ammo, but there are cool downs. Tanks that pancake cars. Missiles that lock onto things and follow them. Its very enjoyable.
The characters in your crew are excellently voiced and your chemistry together really shines through. Sure they poke fun at one another, but they have some memorably fun times beyond just shooting things. Silly happy moments like singing to Sublime on the radio and Oleg revealing how he has met his intellectual equal while in a firefight. The bosses of the gangs are worthy characters in their own right. They really make cut scenes interesting.
With you playing a criminal and all, there is notoriety in stars. The cops won’t just chase after you, but the gangs and STAG army will too. Police will send helicopters with snipers. Enemy gangs will even setup roadblocks to stop you. It gets to a chaotic level sometimes when a gang and an army are after you. All three factions including your own start to fight in giant wars that can have dozens of people. Its amazing to be a part of. The game makes good use of big environments so you can flank your enemies and they can flank you.
Saints Row: The Third is an amazing and fun game with enough DLC to choke Godzilla. Its mostly all just cosmetic stuff. The Complete Pack has been $5, there’s no reason not to pick it up, but with its comedy, its just not for kids.