Xbox 360
4.5 stars
Amazon
14.99
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Overall Grade
4.5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Game Itself
4.5 Stars
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
3.5 Stars
The Audio: Rating the Sound
4 Stars
Replay Factor
4.5 Stars

Saints Row: The Third

Street Date:
November 15th, 2011
Reviewed by:
Chad Goodmurphy
Review Date:1
December 31st, 2011
Game Release Year:
2011
Platform:
Xbox 360
Publisher:
THQ
Developer:
Volition Inc.
ESRB Rating:
M (Mature)

Editor's Notes

This review assumes that the reader is familiar with the Saints Row franchise, and its titular gang.

Introduction

If there’s one thing we know about the Third Street Saints, it’s that they aren’t shy. In fact, the purple clad gang is about as shy as a good salesperson. Criminals, they may be, but they aren’t going to hide and keep their names out of the limelight. No, that certainly won’t do.

After running rampant through their gang-filled hometown of Stilwater, the group is riding high. Actually, high might be an understatement. You see; the Saints have become celebrities, known all over the area for their over-the-top antics and unadulterated humour. Constantly being treated like rock stars and followed by autograph-seeking fanatics, they’re living the life that they once dreamed of having. However, getting rich off of clothing stores, energy drinks and movie licenses, just isn’t enough.

The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

With the release of its latest digital crime adventure, the team at Volition Inc. has attempted to create the craziest sandbox game in existence. Unlike the Grand Theft Auto franchise, this one has never been known for its in-depth attention to realism, which is even more evident in Saints Row: The Third. To say that you’ve never played a game like this would certainly not be a fib. It’s hard to think of a more outlandish and insanely ridiculous game. In this instance, that’s a very good thing.

Upon choosing to begin this game’s incredibly adult campaign, players are given the opportunity to create a feared criminal tycoon. Now, whether that avatar is good-looking and wholesome is left up to choice. There are a plethora of visual options, sliders, colours, voices and the like. Mixed in with some not safe for work taunt and compliment animations, those elements help create the best character customization mechanic around.

Now that the Saints have reached prominence, players get to insert their created avatar into a high-ranking role within the once small-time gang. Right from the get-go, the fact that things have changed is made very evident. Unfortunately for our demoralized digital friends, their high status is fleeting. Things quickly change again, for the worse.

Right from the get-go, Saints Row: The Third has its action knob turned up well past ten. The game opens as three of the group’s main members (including Johnny Gat and the player,) are attempting to rob a seemingly regular bank. Though, what seems normal is actually a criminal enterprise, run collaboratively by three gangs. Once the tellers start to pull out shotguns from behind their tills, it becomes obvious that this latest heist was a terrible idea.

Proving how arrogant and jovial they really are, that aforementioned group has decided to use gigantic Johnny Gat masks as their disguises, or lack thereof. As a result, the three-gang enterprise (referred to as The Syndicate,) has no questions as to who has invaded their money printing operation. Acting fast, they capture the anti-heroes and kill their leader. Luckily, the other three escape to a new city, through rather unconventional means. That second mission provides a great preview of just how creative the experience will become.

Finding themselves in the unfamiliar city of Steelport without a leader, the trio bands together to do what they do best: fight back against oppression. Of course, that means taking over yet another seemingly innocent city, through the use of incredibly zany weaponry and shrewd tactics. Phallic objects, car controlling remotes and fart jars are just an example. Of course, the requisite bullet-based weapons are also there in full force.

Throughout this zany and impossible to forget campaign, players must complete a robust selection of missions. Each one is different from the last, usually employing unconventional and adult designs, which would make wholesome churchgoers cringe. If you’re not easily offended and don’t mind line-crossing fiction, then the outlandish content may be right up your alley. Conversely, it must be noted that some gamers may become offended quickly.

If you’ve played a Saints Row or Grand Theft Auto game before, then you’ll be familiar with how things work. You steal cars, cause chaos and take out those who stand in your way. The basic formula is the same in Saints Row: The Third, although there’s more emphasis on taking over businesses and earning profit. Its unique quirks also help to add colour to the experience.

The main campaign seemed to end a bit quickly, but it was a heck of a lot of fun while it lasted. Even then, there’s still more length here than there is in your average game. You’re looking at twelve or more hours of story-focused content. Then, once the credits have finished rolling, there’s at least that many hours of extra content. How much is left depends on each gamer’s individual play style, considering a lot of the secondary challenges are available relatively early on.

On the extra content front, Saints Row: The Third delivers in spades, with new and returning challenges. To start off, there are a total of sixty-six Saints Book assassination and vehicle theft missions. Those are relatively standard fare, although they do become rather insane at times. Some of the vehicles are incredibly well guarded, and quite a few of the human targets happen to have interesting interests.

Fans will also be happy to note that each of the popular activity types return, including insurance fraud and escort challenges. The returnees are very fun, but the highlights come from the new tasks, especially Professor Genki’s Super Ethical Reality Climax. A mouthful to name, the activity puts players in a maniacal game show, where they must unlock an exit door by shooting enemies and targets, all while avoiding traps. It’s a heck of a lot of fun, and is run by a gigantic pink cat.

Rounding out the package is a separate game mode known as Whored Mode. Yes, that’s exactly how it’s spelled. It’s built around the wave surviving principles of Gears of War’s Horde Mode, which has been copied quite a few times. However, it’s never been done like this. The game will change enemies’ sizes, weapons, abilities and morality, making each wave a uniquely original treat.

When you combine all of that insanely addictive and outrageously weird content, you get what is one of the best games of 2011. Saints Row: The Third is chock-full of madcap adventures, and happens to be an incredibly addicting and extremely fun game. It’s not perfect, suffering from the odd glitch and an occasional frame rate issue, but those problems are easy to overlook when you’re having fun. It’s incredibly difficult to not have a blast playing this game, especially since it features full co-op.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

The brand new city of Steelport would be a picturesque place to live if it weren’t for the out-of-control crime within its streets. Featuring varied regions and some solid detail work, it provides some quality scenery to look at as you kick motorcyclists off of their rides. Plus, it’s located near the water, with a stocked airport. Land, sea and air are all pretty well designed and detailed within.

Those who inhabit the city come in all shapes, sizes and colours. Of course, the latter description is in relation to mascots who freely roam the streets. You’ll come across all sorts of characters throughout this game, each one weirder than the next. They’re all quite well designed, with unique traits and comedic details. There are a good variety of models used for the area’s everyday inhabitants, meaning that you won’t see the same one too often. It helps add immersion that way.

For the most part, Saints Row: The Third looks pretty good. It’s colourful and intricately designed, with the small touches added in. Its visual aesthetic occasionally changes during missions, giving players a nice change of pace. However, there are graphical glitches that will pop-up on occasion. Screen tearing is one of them. Environmental pop in and a clarity issue while driving, were the other two prominent visual issues that I noticed. None of them are anywhere close to game breaking or debilitating though.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

As those familiar with the series would expect, the included dialogue is of the not safe for kids variety. It’s well written and humorous, while incredibly adult. The utilized voice cast does a great job of portraying each character and his or her outrageous lines, without making things too campy. Also impressive, is the fact that your created avatar has a few different (and fully-featured) voice options. The three I tried out were impressive, unique and well recorded.

What really stood out most was the game’s soundtrack design. Unlike most games, Saints Row: The Third incorporates its licensed soundtrack into some of its missions, adding extra character and emphasis. This works very well. Of course, having boisterous audio and solid sound effects, also helps.

One of the only genres missing on the featured track list is country. Almost every other major genre of music is included. The list features rock, metal, rap and classical, among others. There’s something for just about everyone. What’s great is that you can create your own mix tape for use while driving, to customize your listening experience. Volition gets high marks for that idea.

Replay Factor

While playing through this title’s campaign, gamers will be forced to make act-concluding choices. They usually deal with whether you would like to keep something for yourself, or get rid of it. However, morality comes into play later on. Each choice has its own pros and cons, with a noted benefit, such as added respect or cash. This promotes a second play through, but you can save and re-play those specific missions to get their related achievements.

When it comes to replay value, this genre is one of the forerunners. This release continues that trend, with tons of stuff to do, including all of the aforementioned side activities and contracts. Added on top of those and Whored Mode, are 41 stat-based challenges and the ability to take over the city by buying businesses and defeating gang groups. Add-in the co-op option, and you won’t be done for quite a while.

Saints Row: The Third is a game that doesn’t get old fast. Its lengthy amount of content is one thing, but its outrageous humour is another. Many gamers will find themselves wanting to take a trip back to Steelport, just to visit with some of its inhabitants. Plus, this is the type of experience that is a blast to show friends.

Final Thoughts

In a time where gamers are complaining about not having enough unique content to play, Saints Row: The Third is a perfect option. It’s crass and unique, delivering an experience unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. This outing turns the knob up to eleven and never looks back, without fear or repercussions. For that, as well as its incredibly addicting and fun content, I applaud Volition Inc. Great job, guys. This is easily one of the best games of the year.

Tech Specs:

  • DVD Disc

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 720p
  • 1080p

Audio Formats

  • Dolby Digital 5.1

Multiplayer Mode(s)

  • Online Co-op

Motion Controls

  • No

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Amazon
14.99
In Stock. Buy Now»