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Saints Row the Third

Saints Row the Third
Game Name: Saints Row the Third
Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
Publisher(s): THQ
Developer(s): Volition, Inc.
Genre(s): Action-Adventure, Third-Person Shooter, Open World
Release Date: November 15, 2011
ESRB Rating: M
Big Ups: Fun Gameplay, Awesome Action Sequences, Good Cooperative Multiplayer, Lots Customization Options
Big Downs: Weak Narrative, Repetitive Side Missions and Activities

As the gaming industry grows and attempts to take itself a bit more seriously, there are fewer games that embrace absurdity, mischief, and violence. Close to the top of the game titles that don’t take themselves very seriously is THQ and Volition’s Saints Row series. The latest iteration of this series, Saints Row the Third, continues the trend of just pure absurd fun. The series continues to embrace it’s goofy side and gives players a huge city to engage in all sorts of debauchery. The game isn’t all gunshots and phallic shaped bats though. Saints Row the Third has a storyline full of epic moments of action movie awesomness, as well as some cooperative multiplayer features that add to the game’s overall fun experience.

The core gameplay mechanics of Saints Row the Third are pretty much exactly like a Grand Theft Auto or similar title. It is a fast-paced, third-person shooter set in a large open city where players can go around and pretty much do whatever the hell they want.  Shooting and movement are all very fluid and have an appropriate feel to them. Vehicle gameplay is also very good, with a wide variety of vehicles with different speeds and power as well as tons of vehicle customization options.

Speaking of customization, Saints Row the Third has quite a few ways to customize characters. The game opens with a full featured character customization tool. During the course of the game, character appearance can be altered by purchasing clothing or visiting a plastic surgeon. Additionally, there are a variety of weapon loadout choices that are all ultimately player preference, as each weapon is about equal with all other weapons of the same type as far as power is concerned. Players will also be able to purchase upgrades for weapons and their character, adding RPG elements to the customization options. Furthering the RPG elements is the fact that characters level up by gaining respect, Saints Row the Third’s take on experience points. Respect can be earned for pretty much any little thing in the game, so leveling up is pretty easy. Players will need to level up in order to unlock more powerful character upgrades.

Players will purchase all of these upgrades using money, obtained by completing story missions, beating peasants on the streets, engaging in city takeover missions, or purchasing stores. The best way of making money early would be to invest every bit of money obtained into stores and do as many city takeover missions as possible. As players gain more control of an area through those two activities they’ll gain increased income. This income comes in the form a cash deliveries by phone every 20 minutes. That cash can then be invested in more stores or weapon and character upgrades.

However, the game does suffer the occasional oddity that is expected from a GTA-like game. The game actually has counter-measures to deal with the worst of them, such as getting stuck in terrain or underneath a vehicle. If something like that occurs, you’ll get a quick load screen and will place you a few feet away. However, occasionally there are still occurrences of vehicles randomly disappearing, an invisible enemy shooting at you, or a vehicle getting stuck in a pole or similar object.

Saints Row the Third’s single player campaign is pretty much packed with over-the-top action movie like moments. The narrative is a little weak, but the amount of fun to be had from the pure absurdity of it all is immense. It basically starts off with players sitting in the shoes of an unnamed character going into a bank with the 3rd Street Saints (the gang the series revolves around) robbing a bank. The whole thing goes bad when tellers fight back and the Stillwater (where Saints Row 2 took place) Police show up and arrest the Saints. The Saints are released from jail after a rival gang, the Syndicate, bribe the police into handing the Saints over to them. The Saints are taken into a plane and after a bit of an incident they crash land into Steelport, a Syndicate controlled city. There starts the player’s adventure in Steelport, where the Saints fight for control of the city from the Syndicate. The narrative is fairly well put together, though not the best or most original story in the world.

Aside from the single-player story missions, players can engage in a vast amount of random missions called city takeover missions. Insurance Fraud, Trail Blazing, Heli Assault, Escort, Snatch, and Mayhem are activities returning from previous entries in the series, while Professor Genki’s Super Ethical Reality Climax, Tank Mayhem, Guardian Angel, and Trafficking are new ones in Saints Row the Third. These activities all have introductory missions in the single-player that unlock them and give a tutorial on how they work, and each independent mission has various degrees of difficulty. They’re all pretty much really fun and fairly ridiculous though some of the higher difficulty ones can be somewhat frustrating.

The series’ rather disliked competitive multiplayer feature was removed from the game for Saints Row the Third. It was replaced by cooperative multplayer features in two different forms. The first form is pretty simple, players can jump into each other’s game world and assist each other with missions in the game turning the single player experience into a cooperative multiplayer one instantly. The second cooperative feature is Saints Row the Third’s “Whored Mode,” which is Saints Row’s play on wave based killfests such as Gears of War’s “Horde Mode” or Halo’s “Firefight.” It is nothing more than slaughtering enemies in waves with friends and provides an interesting, challenging murderfest with friends. Nothing extremely innovative, but still pure violent fun.

Saints Row the Third is an extremely chaotic, absurd, and action packed ride. Players will engage in all sorts of ridiculous debauchery throughout the game’s rather unique experience, and with multiple ways to complete certain quests in the main story line Saints Row the Third has a good bit of replayability. The game runs very well, and the overall experience is super fun. Though there are a few glitches and frustrations with some of the more difficult missions, Saints Row the Third is still one of the most purely entertaining titles of the Fall season.

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