Saints Row: The Third Xbox 360 Review

December 8, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

Publisher – THQ – Developer – Volition Games – Genre – Action – Players – 1-2 – Age Rating – 18+ – Other console/handheld formats – PS3

Saints Row has always been a counterpoint to the darker toned GTA IV and, with its sense of humour and action, is closer in nature to earlier iterations of Rockstar’s mega popular sandbox series. Saints Row: The Third is undoubtedly the first time that the series has truly found its own identity, being even more outlandish to the extent that drop kicking through a car window, for instance, becomes a common method of stealing vehicles.

You once again take charge of the leader of the Saints, a criminal group that are so successful that they have a film deal and merchandise, but things take a turn for the worse, when the gang are kicked out of their home of Stilwater rival gang, The Syndicate. They end up in the fresh setting of Steelport, losing everything in the process, leaving them to fight their way back to the top.

Steelport itself is a pretty ordinary setting, encompassing industrial, shopping and residential districts. It could really have done with more character, but the colourful cast of characters inhabiting it and the things you can get up to in this city more than makes up for this.

As has always been the case for the series, there’s an emphasis on leaving your own mark in the game with extensive customization options. So upon beginning the game, you’ll get the option of crafting your own character, with one of the best character creation tools in the business, allowing you to create everything from the normal to the truly freaky, and freaks are actually at home in the crazy universe for once. The customization theme extends to your gang, giving you the chance to choose the appearance of your lowly homies, as well as the cars they drive around in and such.

The driving component is accessible and enjoyable, with a handling model that is focussed on arcade style fun ahead of realism, whilst the shooting mechanics are similarly efficient, with solid targeting. As far as enemy AI goes, they prefer to attack with numbers rather than any degree of intelligence, but it fits the game well.

The mission themselves have few real surprises to offer in their structure. You’ll largely be doing all the usual killing people, blowing things up and stealing vehicles, though its crazy nature has granted the game a somewhat unique feel to now well worn mechanics. Story missions are always available, so you’ll never have to complete activities in order to unlock them. There’s also assassinations, vehicle thefts and gang strongholds to take over, and as is common for the genre, plenty of things to find, all of which will keep the completists busy for many an hour before they hit the lofty 100% complete mark.

Returning activities include, amongst others, Insurance Fraud, which amusingly allows you to throw yourself around the city, Mayhem which tasks you with causing as much chaos as possible within an allotted time limit, and Escort has become Tiger Escort and is essentially the same idea, save for the fact that it’s a huge tiger that you have to keep happy. Some of the fresh activities include Tank Mayhem, which gives you access to a tank and tasks you with blowing up as much things as possible within an allotted time limit. Professor Genki’s Super Ethical Reality Climax brings to mind The Club with its scoring and combo system, which rewards quick subsequent kills and such.

All this and everything else is pleasantly easy to find too, with a wonderful GPS system that allows you to select the location, and it not only places trails on your radar, but massive arrows will also appear around the city to point you in the right direction, too.

Almost everything you do in the game will earn you respect, and obtaining so much will level you up in an RPG like fashion, often unlocking upgrades for you to purchase that allows you to increase your health, reduce the damage you take in certain situations, and so on. There are also upgrades available that benefit your homies, allowing you for instance to unlock more proficient weapons for them.

Upgrading is just one method of spending your cash. You’re also able to purchase buildings, of which will not only reward you with discounts, but will also act as a useful hiding place to get the police or rival gangs off your back, as well as earning you income every in game hour. There are also weapons to buy and upgrade. Unlike some other games, you’ll never struggle to find something to spend your steady cash flow on, and money actually feels more rewarding and meaningful because of this.

As for the online component, like Saints Row 2 there’s an online co-op option that allows you to play through the entire game alongside another player. Bizarrely there’s no competitive options this time around, though there’s an all new two player Whored mode, which unsurprisingly functions much like horde, but with Saint Row: The Third’s crazy flavour that sees variations such as giant enemies or having to fight whilst in a drunken state.

Saints Row: The Third is easily one of this year’s best games. It’s fantastically absurd fun, with a sandbox environment that never feels empty, and the basics of the genre are executed to a high level. It isn’t the kind of game that advances the medium forward with its maturity – it’s a  juvenile game where explosions are frequent, the body count is high and humour is crass but, in this instance, that’s all part of the unhinged fun, and fun is something that the game is positively drowning in.