Saints Row: The Third - 2 Years Later ReviewGuest_Jim_* - August 6, 2013
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As I said before, Saints Row: The Third is ridiculous with all the mayhem it allows you to cause, and fairly often requires you to cause. The campaign missions only took me about ten hours to complete, on this, my third, playthrough (I have owned the game for some time) but that is with very little deviation. The myriad of side missions can greatly extend the playtime if you just play them for completion. Replay them for money and respect, the game's equivalent to experience, and even more time will be invested. My complete playthroughs, meaning 100% of missions done and collectibles found, currently rest at about 36 hours, including DLC gameplay. Further extending the game time are challenges, such as driving on the wrong side of the road for so long and having so many near-misses.
Almost every mission in the campaign take just minutes to complete, and while such short missions may not seem very interesting to you, you may still want to give it a chance. The shorter missions also mean there is less time until you are awarded with money, respect, and other items, such as vehicles and weapons. It also leads you to explore the map outside of missions (or on your way to a mission), when you are free to explore and do what you will, and there are benefits to exploring. For one, exploring can lead you to find collectibles and new stores to purchase different items, but you may also find GPS shortcuts.
Being an open world game, you naturally have a map at your disposal, and the ability to place markers on it. When you do large arrows will appear at intersections and forks to lead you to your destination. The arrows will always take you along the shortest path the map knows, but sometimes that is not the shortest path available. Ignoring the arrows and turning down back alleys to shorten your trip can cause them to be recorded by the map, so the next time you mark a location, the GPS will tell you to take the shortcut. Of course shortcuts that involve driving off of cliffs will not be recorded.
Coming back to those collectibles briefly, there are 60 hidden in the game, and once you reach level 20 you can purchase a 'Collectible Finder' bonus that will identify them on your minimap, not the world map. So when you drive by one you know, but if does not help you know where to look in the first place. As some of these are hidden on top of buildings, having a helicopter or other flying vehicle capable of hovering is useful.
I am not actually sure just how many bonuses there are, but there are a lot. Some unlock naturally, such as strongholds you take over after a mission, but others require you to purchase them. With a high enough level and enough money you can purchase bonuses to give you unlimited ammo and infinite reload speed, which combine to allow you to just hold the triggers of your weapons, as well as bonuses to reduce any damage you take to zero, making you an invincible killing machine. All of the bonuses can be unlocked just by playing the game, and if you want, you could theoretically unlock them all before beating the campaign, just by running side missions and challenges. In this playthrough I refrained from those bonuses that may give me a definite advantage over the enemies, though I did purchase the dual handgun and SMG bonuses. I also upgraded my weapons, which is separate from the bonus system, but otherwise was no stronger than you are when you first land in Steelport.
By the way, every side mission (for the base game) is based on a campaign mission, as it is completing the campaign mission that unlocks them. So the first Tank Mayhem mission you are able to complete is actually required, and after that you are able to play harder versions for greater rewards. Completing side missions gets you money, respect, and, equally important, control. Remember, you are trying to take over a city already run by the Syndicate, and that requires completing missions and operations. Taking over a neighborhood makes it somewhat safer for you there, as fewer enemies will spawn, but also your own crew will be there, ready to help out. The more areas under your control, the more money you also collect in your bank account.
Before moving on to the next section, I have to discuss the cars and driving in Saints Row: The Third. I do not know the vehicle count, but there are a lot of cars populating the streets, and each one you can hijack and store in your garage (unless it is part of a DLC and just there to tease you into purchasing that content). Once stored in your garage, almost every vehicle can be modified to give it the body modifications, paint job, and wheels you want it to have, along with improved performance and kneecapers. (The kneecapers create a very satisfying pop when you puncture another car's tires.) Some vehicles have limited customization options, but most cars and trucks you come across can be tricked out to your desire. Also while in cars you can listen to a selection of radio stations, or create a mix tape of their favorite music from your in-game cellphone.
Personally I believe that Saints Row: The Third offers one of the best gameplay experiences for its genre. This is partly because of how much fun it is, but also because of how well designed it is. The collectible finder is a good example of this good design (in my opinion), as the tedium of hunting collectibles is often too boring to be worth it for me. Also the fact that continued play can reward you by making you an immortal, heavily armed, angel of death is just awesome. Coupled with the customization powers you have for your cars, guns, and your character, and this game becomes an example of a game meant to be played and enjoyed. The only complaint I could possibly lob at it is that you cannot replay campaign missions. Side missions can be replayed as much as you want, but not campaign missions.