Unreal Game Review: Saints Row: The Third

Laser jets might be a *touch* overpowered.

Though much is the same from the last title, one big difference is that graphically, the series has stepped it up a notch. The lines are much smoother, and there’s a cartoony sensibility to everything that has just enough realism infused to work. No, the landscapes and city aren’t exactly GTA IV stunning, but it’s a big improvement over the last game, and definitely an upgrade from other sandbox titles like Infamous or Prototype.

One of my favorite aspects of the Saints Row series is the ability to create your own hero. The character creator here is both simple but deep, and it’s probably the best experience I’ve had with such a system to date. I managed to recreate a far better looking version of my tough talking Asian chick from the last game, and you really do connect more with your hero when it’s something you’ve created and furthermore, is not a mute protagonist. I call it the Mass Effect effect.

Saints Row is great because it sees flaws with its own genre and goes out of its way to fix practically all of them. Screw up something in the character creator and want to start all over? Plastic surgery offices are everywhere where you can revamp everything about yourself after the game starts. Like collecting fancy cars and upgrading them to max level, but don’t dare take them out for fear of their destruction? Keep a running list of cars at your garage that will always be there with all your investments attached. Want that same car at your current location, but don’t want to drive home to get it? Call your homie and have him deliver it to you in seconds. It’s little details like this that make the series fantastic.

We’re only a few color changes away from Buzz Lightyear.

I really enjoyed the smartphone menu system, which even if it is somewhat stolen from GTA IV, is more modern as it uses an iPhone-like phone complete with tile icons and numeric notifications for things like the map, missions, upgrades and a contact list. It’s one of the best menu systems I’ve seen in a game like this, and my only issue is that half the time when I’d call my homies to come help me out the phone would be busy half the time. I never did figure that one out.

Saints Row: The Third’s most impressive achievement might be solving one of the most prominent problems in modern video games: the money pile. The money pile occurs when a game gives you a lot of income, either from questing or buying property which gives you a recurring cash payment, but then by the end of the game you find yourself sitting on half a million dollars with nothing to do with it. I’ve seen this happen in games from Fable to Mass Effect to even Skyrim, and it’s amazing to see Saints Row solve it there.  Even though I’m a property whore in games like this, where I buy anywhere I know will increase my hourly income whenever I can afford it, Saints Row still had me spending my cash right up until the very end, even after I’d completed ever side mission, busted up every gang and beaten the main plotline. Even with 50K an hour coming in, there is STILL stuff to buy.

The reason being is that there are a TON of upgrades in this game. Every car has about 20 upgrades you can buy for it. Each gun has four levels of quality to upgrade. You can increase your gang’s health, decrease the damage done to you, increase your ammo capacity and a million other helpful things that will make sure you’re always spending your cash. By the end of the game however, the upgrades go a little overboard with ones that make you literally never have to reload or run out of ammo, and the final upgrade I just bought made me immune to all bullet damage completely. Where’s the fun in that? Even before the straight up invincibility upgrades, the others did make the game feel a bit easy, and I can count on one hand the number of times I actually died, which would seem to be unusual give than you’re facing explosions and gunfire at every turn.

It’s a guaranteed 20 hours of entertainment, and though I wish the story was a little more coherent, the missions a little more diverse and a bit more was changed from the previous game, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy myself. A lot of little improvements do make the game mechanically superior to its predecessor, and it’s a breather from most games out these days which all take themselves very seriously. As I’m running naked through the streets, beating down police officers with a giant dildo bat before I hope into my laser spewing jet and fly away, it’s readily apparent that Saints Row is truly one of a kind.

16 Comments

  1. Mandy December 8, 2011
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