At last, Saints Row is not a GTA knock-off anymore.
In an era where video games are all about realism, immersion and emotion, this title is a breath of fresh air.
If GTA: San Andreas, Just Cause and Bootsie Collins had a retarded albino child, his name would be Saints Row: The Third. The game doesn't take itself seriously and it makes it pretty clear from the get-go. It pokes fun at itself, other games, movies and pop culture as a whole.
You are the boss of The Saints. In the last few years, the gang has become something of an international multimedia phenomenon but things go south when The Syndicate, a rival crime ring, appears in the picture. Your job is to lead the Saints into conquering the city of Steelport and take revenge on the Syndicate.
There's not much to tell about the story. For all intents and purposes, the plot in this game is just secondary. It's an excuse to let you blow stuff up and pimp your ride. This, however, doesn't feel like a flaw at all. It works because it's understood that the game is just about having a good time.
The signature feature of the game is the pure wackiness of it. Almost everything in this strange world is extremely exaggerated, quirky and bizarre. You'll be meleeing with dildos, riding gimp-drawn carriages, flying planes, engaging into gunfights while free-falling from said planes and customizing your character to look like an indigo-skinned, psychotic, murderous, pimp-hat-wearing Asian clown with a British accent to boot.
The gameplay itself is very arcade-ish, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Combat and driving are both easy to pick up and not frustrating at all, even if they may feel a bit unchallenging at times. The main mission is not very long and it has two endings that you can see one after the other if you so choose. Like with most sandbox games, most of the content is in the form of numerous side-missions, challenges and free-roaming events. These are plentiful, if a bit repetitive, and involve different mini-games, some more entertaining than others (insurance fraud is the best thing ever!).
Aesthetically, the game has a very distinct style which reflects the whole weirder-than-weird theme. Everything is over-the-top, from clothing to haircuts to weapons. The amount of customization you can mess around with is big. I don't think I've seen another game with so many sliders at character creation screen and that's always a plus in my book. The graphics look just a tiny bit dated, but if you run with everything in high (which doesn't take too much of a rig at all) you get to see some pretty landscapes and details. Worth noting, the voice acting is more than decent. There's a variety of voices for your main character, three female and three male, if I recall, all with fully-scripted acting, which really takes customization to a whole new level. If everything else fails, you can even be a toilet. Yes. A toilet.
The maxim that's written all over Saints Row: The Third is that games are supposed to be fun. That's it. There's no pretense to shock you, make you connect with the characters or come out of it a better person through a meaningful message. This is about shooting hookers in the face and laughing at the pimp that only speaks through auto-tune.
While pure in its premise, a game exclusively focused on self-indulgent fun, ironically enough, might leave some people with a bitter aftertaste.
After a couple of hours, I had a hard time playing through it. A game being 100% about amusement is great. I'm all for it, and, on paper, it sounds delicious. Sadly, I'm so used to games like GTA, L.A. Noire or Monkey Island (!) that it's hard to just forget about the more serious aspects of playing video games and enjoy the ride. It just feels *too* random. I like the compelling plot and the deep characters. I like the challenging and innovative gameplay. I like the unique setting and creative mechanics. Saints Row: The Third doesn't have any of these because it doesn't have to. It's not what the game is about. All of these elements would detract from the simple, mindless joy that tries to sell.
Overall, it's an honest, decent open-world action game. At the very least, it has some pretty fun missions and unique moments that will put a smile on your face and that's enough to warrant a playthrough. If you're able to approach it loosely, you'll have heaps of fun with its action-packed sequences and quirky humor. However, if you're looking for a 'serious' game that's deep in plot or rich in innovation, better keep shopping.
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