Ah, there is nothing better that loading up a game, watching a half naked woman dressed in fishnets, high heels and pasties over her nipples carrying twin heavy pistols and having her unload clip after clip into rival gang members. I watch as exploding bullet after exploding bullet tears through enemy gang members as fire and explosions light up the area around them. And after my little S&M warrior has depleted her ammo, I pull out my trusty penetrator bat and unleash purple dildo whacking action sending them flying across the screen and then pummeling them into the ground with said purple phallic symbol. You can’t do that in just any game - and I don’t think many games would like it if you did do that in their games - but in THQ’s Saints Row: The Third you are more than encouraged to revel in the zany madness that is Steelport as a member of the Third Street Saints.
As a Saint, you’ve done about as much as you can in the city of Stilwater, and after events lead to you being transposed in the city of Steelwater at the hands of the Syndicate, it is time to make your presense known in your new home town. To do this, you have an open world envioment to explore the entire city of Steelport almost immediately from the get go. No need to unlock any areas, as soon as you are free to act in Steelport you can explore the whole city. Well, except for the restricted military base - you walk your ass in there and you will know just how ready you are to take on the Syndicate and their loyal gangs. But we’ll get back to that later…
With this open world ready for you to explore, you will need an array of weapons and allies to help you survive the rough streets of Steelport considering the Syndicate controls the city and has everyone under their control set to kill you on sight. As the leader of the Saints, it is up to you to kill rival gangs, increase the Saints’ membership, buy property and increase the influence of the Saints to show your enemies who rules Steelport. This adds a surprsing amount of RPG elements to this third person action game; and it works beautifully. If you do it corretly, or if you are even consistent with your upgrades, you will soon go from meager human gang member to an unstopable killing machine with weapons strong enough to take down whole gang squads on your own.
Which brings me back to the whole military thing. Once you “level up” certain aspects of your character you can take on the military almost on your own in the restricted area. I bring this up because almost entorely from the moment I received Saints Row: The Third, I had almost completely ignored the main storyline of the game in favor of exploring the city and trying to power up my character to avenge an early death I suffered in the restrited area.
For two whole days, I ignored the main quest of the game and did everything that I could to power up what I had just to take on the military and unleash a level of carnage that you don’t see in many other games. I bought stores and other property, I amassed a collection of weapons, vehicles, and allies… I even did photo ops with random citizens aware of the Saints’ popularity, collected drug crates and money hidden around the city and found some sex dolls for some odd reason. Hey, it is Saints Row afterall.
Finally, after making a symbolic stand against the military in which I thuroughly humiliated them for several minutes, I finally decided to tackle the main quest of Saints Row. And if you know me, a game could be solid gold everywhere else but if the story doesn’t gel right, then the game really won’t hold much water for me. Now, the story in Saints Row is sophomorish at best, but that is the best part of the story - the game is so over the top, so outlandish that you can’t help but laugh along with it and roll with everything that goes with it.
Whether you are rescuing a huge, naked man escape the Syndicate driving around a pimp with a voice box who sings all his lines or helping out a hacker by lightcycling through a virtual world, Saints Row’s story is a hodge podge of meaningless crap that somehow manages to come together in something I would expect from the Farrelly brothers.
Moving the story along, the voice acting in Saints Row: The Third is pretty damn top notch. From the six possible voice characterizations you can choose for your self created avatar to the allies, villains, and random voices throughout the city, the actors and actresses in the game do their job perfectly. The voice acting is so damn good I barely recognized Hulk Hogan as the voice of Saints ally Angel del la Muerte. He actually takes this role seriously and sounds amazing in the role. Likewise, Sasha Grey (drool) is wonderful as the Syndicate associate Viola DeWynter. Other amazing actors in the game are Daniel Dae Kim, Natalie Lander, Danielle Nicolette, and Arif Kinchen. Whether they are playing members of the Saints or the Syndicate and their respective allies, the voice acting in the game is amongst some of the best I have heard this year. And don’t even get me started on the soundtrack for Saints Row: The Third. with so many radio and playlist options to choose from, fans of every music genre should be extremely happy with the track selections in the game. Personally, I have been favoring K12 FM (Electronica), Kabron 104.2 (Reggeaton), 106.66 The Blood (Metal) and my own created playlist… I could drive for hours listening to the great music in the game.
Really quick, I also want to get back to the created character you will use in the game. At the start of the game, you will be asked to choose a base model and style for your character, but don’t worry about that. Like most other aspects of the game, you can customize almost every aspect of them as your progress. From clothes to mannerisms to a sex change (if you can afford it), you can mold and create your character like a skillful Beverly Hills plastic surgeon and stylist. Personally, and because I am a bit of a perv in some respects, my in game character is what you would describe as an S&M bondage specialist wearing as little as possible and acting like she owns the streets with her taunts and calls. I also have a second character and game going where I play as a hulking strongman in full cosplay attire. Yeah, you heard that - he is a hulk in a furry costume. Where else can you do that?
Now let me speak about the “elephant in the room” for a bit before someone brings it up - how does Saints Row: The Third compare to Grand Theft Auto IV? Honestly, there is so much to compare yet it is all so unique in Saints Row that you really can’t. If that makes any sense… You see, while they are both sandbox type action and crime oriented games that feature gangs and cars, the way that Saints Row goes about the style is so much more outlandish and unbelieaveable that Saints Row really does not compare to GTA IV in many respects. The first Saints Row game was really a lot like the GTA games and did a lot to distance themselves from GTA with Saints Row 2. Now with Saints Row: The Third, they really are standing on their own as they are doing everything that made GTA great correctly while adding in elements that make this game unforgettable.
My only gripe with the game, my only misgiving with Saints Row: The Third, is that when it gets busy on the screen, the game tends to get buggy and slow down for a second as it tries to catch up with the action. This happens a lot during the Survival missions you will participate in during the course of the game. Mostly when you survive one wave of enemies and a banner at the top of the screen appears, the actions slows down and sometimes you will lose some chains you have going if you can’t back into the action quick eneough when the game recovers. Other than that complaint, the game is a freak of nature and really comes at you like a summer blockbuster.
Saints Row: The Third is an amazing game. It is much better than I ever expected it to be. When I first heard of the game, I was dismissive since I liked the series but knew that a third game had to be on the way. When I saw the game at E3 I still thought to myself “no big deal” and barely spent time at the display. Even when I learned that my good buddy aliased Jerome Chance was working on an official song and music video for the game I was still barely excited for the game.
How wrong have I been? After playing the game for a week now and not being anywhere near completion, I wish I would have paid more attention to the game than I did. There is so much to do in Saints Row: The Third, even after five days of playing the story and completing other challenges I am just over 50% done with the game. Saints Row: The Third has so much to offer, it is ridiculous to ponder. With the exception of that one bug, the game is perhaps the best sandbox, open world game out there right now - topping GTA IV. All that gaming goodness, and I haven’t even talked about the multiplayer aspect of the game - but that is a whole other story all together.