Saints Row: The Third - 2 Years Later Review
Reviewed by: Guest_Jim_*
Reviewed on: August 6, 2013
I recently had what I think is an interesting idea worth exploring. That idea is to review games that have been out for some time. My reasoning behind this idea is that these are the games that are most often on sale at very good prices and some have sequels coming out soon. As either of these conditions can increase someone's awareness of a game, why not have a detailed review for them to read, instead of a one line recommendation in a forum thread?
One title that is both a common sale item in Steam Sales and has a sequel releasing soon is Saints Row: The Third. As it happens, the Humble Deep Silver Bundle is also going on right now so you can get it and its DLC for under $5 (as of the time of my writing this), potentially making this review more valuable than I originally expected, though, as always, the bundle is only available for a limited time.
Saints Row: The Third is an open world action adventure game with a great deal of ridiculousness contained within. It also has an M rating from the ESRB for strong language, violence, and sexual content, amongst other things. The screenshots in this review have not been censored and may include some of that potentially objectionable content, so if you should not be reading or seeing that kind of stuff, then you probably should also not be looking at a review for this game. Anyway, the silliness starts almost immediately with text blocks floating through space as Also Sprach Zarathustra plays. What does the text say? In part, "Since time immemorial, great leaders have risen from humble beginnings to… do shit."
To be honest, I can think of no better prelude for this game, which has you diving through an airplane, in flight, within the first half hour of gameplay. While the antics do eventually simmer down, you are left heavily armed in an open world with numerous vehicles at your disposal. Then you start playing the campaign and unlock more weapons, land vehicles, air vehicles, 'homies' to aid you, and bonuses that can make you like a god by the end of it all. As leader of the Saints gang, you do not care much about the laws in the game, and you care only a little more for the laws of physics.
Should you care about Saints Row: The Third, or let it pass you by? Time to find out.
Being an open world game, the graphics are not going to be as spectacular as a more linear title, but they are not lacking in quality, even after almost two years. Detailed textures make the road look real, along with the curve to its model, but apparently the town of Steelport has an amazing team of road workers as you will never find an unpatched pothole. After some rainfall an attentive eye will notice that the wet pavement is reflecting the light of nearby buildings and cars. The cars themselves will reflect buildings too, at least with their windows if not their paint.
Take to the air and you will find the city rendered out beneath you, mostly. The more major landmarks will be loaded, but other, less contextually important models will not be visible, such as cars and houses. While on the ground you may also notice cars just appearing not only within your camera's view, but very near the vehicles. During missions these cars may actually be enemies coming to kill you, so stay on your toes.
Explosions are quite beautiful and large, which makes causing them all the more fun! They will even cause the screen to blur from the shock, which I feel adds a nice touch. Of course not all the damage you cause results in an explosion (immediately). Cars are made of multiple parts, so they can become progressively more damaged over time. Tires can be shot out, wheels completely broken, panels caved in, and, with the help of a tank, everything can be crushed. If they were just a little faster, I would very happily drive around in a tank, leaving a trail of car-pancakes behind.
Cutscenes in the game are all rendered in the game engine, which is useful because this allows it to put the character you have designed and customized into the scenes. Whether you are playing as an obese black man in a business suit or a rail-thin white woman in a suit of armor, your character is in the scene. Also, because you can control the voice and personality of your character (zombie is one of the selections, by the way) the audio of the cutscenes will be different to reflect your choices.
Time to talk about performance, so here are my specs:
- Processor: AMD A10-5800K @4.50 GHz (45.0x100)
- Cooling: Corsair H110
- Motherboard: ASUS F2A85-M PRO
- GPU: EVGA GTX 570 1280 MB
- PhysX: MSI GTS 250 1 GB
- G.Skill Ripjaws 4x8 GB (32 GB total) at 1866 MHz 10-10-10-27
- PSU: OCZ Fata1ty 750 W
- OS: Windows 7- Professional 64-bit
With this configuration I was able to run Saints Row: The Third at maximum settings without any performance issues, under normal playing conditions. If I enabled the video-record mode, the performance would drop some, but not to an unplayable level. Of course I had that set to the highest quality, so maybe the performance hit could be removed entirely by changing a single setting.
Two years of age have not hurt the looks of this game. In one respect it may have helped, as the hardware to run it at max settings is now more available than at release. Flame, sparks, debris, blood, bullets, and more all look great and are definitely satisfying, which is important for this game. If the explosion did not look as good as it did, then where was the fun in causing it?
You are the leader of the notorious gang, the Saints, from the city of Stillwater. Events of previous games have led your crew to become superstars, which has also caused you to forget your roots as a gang. Now a rival coalition of gangs called the Syndicate has decided to take your territory, and in the process you have been stranded in the town of Steelport. Your goal is to take down the Syndicate and take over the city. Pretty simple and straightforward, though the arrival of the military complicates matters, as more advanced weapons enter the field, and they are all aimed at you.
Being in a new, unfamiliar city, with an enemy you have never dealt with before, you eventually go after potential friends who want to destroy the Syndicate for their own reasons. These reasons include taking away one character's honor to making a science experiment out of another, and completing missions will reveal more about your new friends to you. Typically what more is revealed is just how insane the people are, but really you have to be insane to be part of the Saints' family. Otherwise you would know better than to jump out of a plane without a parachute, relying on a tank to save you.
As you deal with the Syndicate and the military, situations present themselves when you are given a choice, such as to blow up a building or to capture it. Blowing it up gives you a permanent respect boost, but keeping it gives you a permanent money boost, as well as a more intact skyline. The choices are almost always between two options, and all options are well labeled, so you know what the consequences are. As your decisions are permanent, you will have to play the game at least twice to experience every consequence (though the Unlockables DLC does give the bonuses associated with the choices).
Saints Row: The Third does not have the deepest story there is, but, to its credit, it is more than just an excuse for blowing stuff up and driving on the sidewalk. It gets you from mission to mission, wondering what insanity is next, and hoping the mission gives you unlimited rocket-launcher ammo.
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.
DLC: Genkibowl VII:
As with most AAA titles, Saints Row: The Third has DLC and all of it is out now for you to enjoy. Most of the DLC are small item packs that include guns, vehicles, and clothes, but three of them also add new missions to play. The first of these to release was Genkibowl VII.
One of the kinds of missions in the base game are Professor Genki's Super Ethical Reality Climax games. Basically they are lethal game shows that pit you against armed mascots and traps. The Genkibowl DLC adds more kinds of lethal challenges, such as one that places you in a giant ball of yarn, tasked with causing so much damage before time runs out. (I did not say it had to be lethal to you.)
The campaign missions can be completed in under half an hour, but like the base game, completing these missions unlock more, though the side missions are not necessarily limited to the campaign missions. A skydiving challenge, for example, is not included in the campaign but is one of the mission types added to the world. You are not able to replay this DLC's campaign, unlike the other DLC campaigns. To replay those, you just need to reload the game.
Unfortunately I am constrained from being able to play and time all of the side missions at this time. If I remember correctly they take between half an hour and an hour to complete, which is not very much. They are fun and get you money and respect, but add little to the game beyond some brief enjoyment. Of course if you get a copy of the DLC (which is included with the Humble Deep Silver Bundle if you beat the average) you should probably play them, unless you despise the Reality Climax challenges in the base game.
DLC: Gangstas in Space:
The second campaign DLC to be released is purely campaign and adds no side missions, but upon completion you get some new homies, vehicles, and clothes. Curiously the DLC's alien weapons are not made available to you outside of specific missions in the DLC.
Throughout the base game, references are made to a Gangstas in Space movie being made, featuring the Saints. The DLC is about you actually making the movie, alongside your costar Jenny, who plays the space princess, Kwilanna. Weapons, enemies, and vehicles are reintroduced to you with the appropriate alien-tech twists. Also, as you explore behind the movie's sets, you will find different Easter Eggs, such as references to other games and even the base game.
There are only three missions to this campaign, and it took me only about an hour to complete, including the time it took to travel to the mission starts. Potentially it would have taken me less time if I had played more of the base game. Instead of waiting though, I jumped into the DLC the first moment I could, which was about 35 minutes into the playthrough. Why did I do that? Because the two vehicles you unlock at the end of the DLC are both flying vehicles with the ability to switch between a hover and flight mode. The larger vehicle is fast, maneuverable, and very powerful, making it very valuable to have early-game.
While definitely fun, the real enjoyment I get out of this DLC comes from the two vehicles its completion unlocks. Though there are comparable vehicles within the base game, they are unlocked later in the story and I prefer the Gangstas in Space variants. You can decide how valuable such powerful vehicles are to you and your experience.
DLC: The Trouble with Clones:
The Trouble with Clones is the final campaign DLC Saints Row: The Third received, and does represent a very polished addition, but again is very short. I completed it in only 37 minutes, and doing so only gets me a new car, weapon, outfit, and new homies. Fortunately the missions themselves were pretty fun.
The story behind the DLC is that Johnny Gat, a member of your crew, has been cloned by the Saints' biggest fan. Unfortunately the clone is not perfect as it is actually a large brute that does not know where he is and what is going on, so you have to hunt him down before anyone tries to kill him. During the process, the cloner, Jimmy, provides a dramatic narration that embellishes a fair amount, but that is what makes it so enjoyable to listen to.
Along with having built a cloning machine, Jimmy has created other interesting items, including a drink that gives you superpowers. These powers include super speed, strength, and the ability to shoot fireballs from your hands. Along with the super strength, though, are pop-ups every time you punch an enemy, like what are in comic books to convey the sound of the strike. Eventually the powers wear off and you are left to using a rocket launcher with unlimited ammo.
Accompanying the missions is a dramatic musical score that does its job of juxtaposing the ridiculousness of the game.
While fun and entertaining, again, The Trouble with Clones offers little to the total gameplay. If it were longer, or just offered you the superpowers in the base game, the DLC would be valuable. As it is though, you really just get some laughs out of it.
Additional Gameplay Images:
So should you get and play this two-year-old game? If you enjoy open world action adventures that do not always take themselves seriously, then yes, I believe you should. As I said in the Gameplay section, Saints Row: The Third offers a high quality experience that rewards you for playing and avoids the tedium other games of the genre suffer. The only negatives that older games can truly suffer from are poorer graphics than modern titles, but this one has aged very well, and one could probably name some modern games that look worse. The campaign may be shorter than you would like, but the game has been designed with multiple other elements to invest time in to.
One feature I have not addressed in this review is the cooperative multiplayer. The reason why I have not brought it up until now is that I have not actually used it. By grabbing a friend you may not lengthen game time, but you will almost certainly have more fun as you and a friend cause as much chaos as you can, and maybe get around to the campaign missions.
It may be old, but be sure to play it if you have the chance.