Review by SERiA_STAR
"A bittersweet symphony, preformed by an off-key orchestra"
Bittersweet. That's the first word that came to mind after about my first two hours in Steelport after touching down from that thrilling altercation that lands (haha!..) our anti-heroic-street-gang-turned-international-media-conglomerate into this new, and quite interesting city. Fast forward a solid 30 hours of gameplay, which was more than enough to discern the finest details of the game, and that word still lingers in my mind. So bittersweet.
"So what the heck do you even mean", you're probably wondering. What I mean is that this game amazes me, it awes me, but never without frustrating me, putting me down, or simply making me mutter "dude... why.?" It's really a lot to rant on about in a paragraph or two, so I'll be addressing the ups and downs of The Third as they fall under the categories of a traditional review. This is going to end up being a small essay basically, but if you're in need of an open-minded and discerning opinion, I'll tell you everything you need to know. So with that, I submit with the approval of the GameFaqs society, The Super Ethical Fun Time Review of Saints Row: The Third... *Sprinkles glitter into a campfire*
First off, I think it's fair to this game that I provide a summary of my history with its franchise. If you want this review to shed full light, then take a couple of extra minutes to read it. Otherwise, feel free to skip down to the actual judging.
I first set foot into the row in 2008, with the release of Saints Row 2. I've frankly never had interest in owning an XBOX360 (too many reasons, so we'll just leave it at that), but I always did want to play this amazing looking take on the GTA-dominant "open world/sandbox" genre, that since the days of Grand Theft Auto III I've highly affiliated myself with as a gamer. Now having the chance to play its successor, which had been reported to build tremendously on its first entry (and arguably some forms of its competition... arguably.), I was thrilled. I pre-ordered it, familiarized myself with the series through Wikipedia and YouTube, came home with it on day one, and I was instantly charmed by it. To spare derailing of the review, I'll recommend you to look around some reviews of 2 to get an idea of why I loved it, this of course regarding any newcomers to the series. Long story short, SR2 became my favorite video game. I consider it so, because it's the one video game in my life that I've been passionate about to play regularly for 3 years straight. The case is usually always on my desk as opposed to sitting on my game shelf. What I'll say about it in relevance to this review is that it's a diverse game, kind of on the ugly side visually, but with so much fun stuff to do, find, make up, customize and just experience... all in one modestly sized city, its a game that latched onto the creative/imaginative part of my mind, and will never let go.
So naturally, I'd await the next installment like a loyal dog. And wait I did, actively discussing hopes and thoughts for that next huge step up for the Saints. So far back as 8 months ago, developers enticed us with claims of customization that would dwarf the content of 2. So naturally, and with full confidence in Volition's creative prowess and fan receptivity, we all went wild, wishing for things we just KNEW they'd implement this time around. As the year went by, we started to see first looks of The Third in summer edition magazines, E3 presentation, and firsthand Volition dialogue (keep in mind, Volition is a developer that has a reputation for community interaction.) Sad as it seems in retrospect, people such as myself were convinced this was going to be a revolutionary game. If the proposed design would dwarf a megagame, it would be something we'd have to experience to believe. Well, as the Summer faded away and we approached 2011's massive holiday videogame season, more and more info started to be reported and released. Seemingly exciting things at first, making you think "Gee willikers! Another awesome something! Sooo much coolness!!" But then things got a little strange when they'd release entire late-game segment videos. Things that, no matter what context they were previewed it, you would have been much more entertained if they let it sneak up on you when you get to it. If you haven't guessed it by now, I'm talking about the anticipated "cyberspace" moments. Seeing this stuff, and gradually more things that often felt like THQ themselves were dumping out spoilers (a certain controversial plot twist, early in as the 2nd mission to give you an idea) made me start to wonder in the back of my mind "are they desperate?"
Then... the media hype came. I'll give the marketing team credit, they've done an amazing, if intentionally cheesy job of promoting the game. It was fun, comical, and appealing to whatever type of "gangsta/gangster" you fancy yourself. But it always seemed like it was trying to cover something up, or possibly trying to grab a new attentionbase all together. Finally, the final home stretch to a very anticipated game, by fan and newcomer alike. By this time, there was enough information out on the game to make the community question how valid the developer claims were. Had our most expressed wishes been granted? Was the customization really going to be far more engaging than the already overwhelming fashion designing and ride pimping? Volition wouldn't tell you, suddenly their proud lips were sealed.
Less than a week before the release date, the review embargo was lifted, and it received pure critical acclaim. The one reviewer to give it the same score that I do, did so for completely miscontextual reasons. Let's just say they "didn't get it." Yet like all the other reviewers, credited it for what it entertainment it definitely does offer.
Lastly, came the leaked footage, and the grim realization that many things were not only lacking, but downright misleading. I'll get into the most popular example of this in the actual reviewing, but we were all basically had. Empty developer claims were imminent, but even then would the SR:TT community know just how disappointing it was going to be until at long last, the release.
Now, having actually played the game for myself, experiencing what I love and loathe about it, one thing is clear to me. The appeal of the game seems to have shifted from the Saints Row fans, to the Saints Row newcomers. Seemingly every response in regards to a complaint is met with claims like "New engine wasn't able to accommodate that, but allows us to do this, this and this." OK, hold up.... now its about them and what they're able to do. Not to sound as if I feel entitled, but Saints Row has always been about what the PLAYER can do with it. This is especially true of 2. Volition's post-launch manifesto is now one of displaying their technical prowess to the current gen gaming community, and faintly appealing to its fans.
Is the true face of this title's ambition enough to ruin it though? Absolutely not.
If you've skipped down to this point without a single regard to my opening statements, I'm going to recommend this game to you as an 8/10. Honestly, if you have no concern for the things I expressed, you'll probably get a fair amount more enjoyment out of the game. If you took the time to read and consider my summary however, keep my 7 as the canon score. Right then, here we go!
I refer to the presentation of the game as its artistic appeal, its cinematic approach, and its atmosphere. The city of Steelport is awesome at face glance. A diverse skyline of multi-color illuminated buildings, with giant, surreal game-world billscreens adorning most. The feeling I get from being in the heart of the city is that this would be New York City if Time Square was the entirety of Manhattan. It's a sight to behold from afar as a whole, but within the area, you'll notice that many design elements are overused and are mildly cluttering the districts. Seemingly every major character has to have multiple, over-exzaggerated billboards hung off of buildings to promote their relevance to the world. To me, it just seems like a concept they relied too heavily upon, and didn't allow the city a natural design. The neighboring districts are none too diverse, just factories to coincide with the city's industrial theme, sparse suburbs, and poverty-stricken areas reminiscent of L.A.'s skid row or Detroit's seedier areas. Each gang in the city seems to quaintly provide inspiration to their turf's design, for instance, the cybergoth Deckers operate out of a renovated Nuclear Power plant that's surrounded by a night club district.
Further withholding a moderate lack of diversity is an absence of things like islands or mountainous areas. One island serving as a parody of NYC's Liberty Island is about the only thing that deviates from the structure of the city, and yet you'll find nothing more there than a few hobos and the staging point of one of the endgame sequences. In SR2, there were at least tiny islands and mountain ranges on the horizon to give the city some sense of geographical significance, however Steelport seems to appear to be nothing more than a 4-district cityscape out in the middle of an endless ocean. It's about 2/3 the size of Stilwater, which is about a quarter the size of GTAIV's Liberty City. Steelport is simply an isolated city paved with repetitive ascetic, but an overall grand allure. One thing I can credit though is that choices you make, or certain plot developments will permanently alter the cityscape. If a jumbo plane takes a dive during a mission, its wreckage will remain there. In almost every case. this is a purely ascetical alteration, but a certain event will change an entire district of the city into something completely different.
Speaking of mundane city life, what's it like down on the streets? It's just that, very mundane. It doesn't not hold a candle to either iteration of Stilwater, or really any GTA since San Andreas. You'll often see mobs of look-alike pedestrians faring the streets, with not much else to do than smoke or compliment/taunt you, depending on how you interact with them. Occasionally you'll see people dressed up as mascots, but they seem to have no special business around town. SR2's environmental A.I. obviously doesn't come close to the one Rockstar may have arguably put excessive effort into for GTAIV , but it was little things like seeing street performers on boardwalks and Tai-chi class sessions on beaches that gave Stilwater charm. There was always something going on that fit the motif of the neighborhood. In Steelport, everyone seems to be content with just aimlessly wandering. Photo-op NPCs give the city-goers a small bit of relevance to the player, but seeing as there's only 20 total in the city to find, they're no means of livening the city. Traffic in most parts of the city is comparable to that of Christmas day desolation, never really enough cars to make it seem like the busy city the design team envisioned it to be. But at that, any greater amount of traffic would make traversing the streets difficult, as they're quite linear and condensed wherever you go. That reminds me of one particular gripe I knew I'd end up mentioning at some point; landing an aircraft anywhere other than the airport or a helipad is tedious (not impossible, but irritating) as the street blocks are so scrunched together. When I called for an aircraft delivery, my delivery boy flew it over my head wherever I ran for a good 5 minutes, as I continuously tried to find him an area clear enough to set it down.
Being up in the air is nothing special either, the vertical limit seems to be just a hundred ft or so above the tallest building. You'll be higher up at least once in the story, but only for that instance. Skydiving and basejumping are entertaining, but don't expect to gain a 10th of the altitude you can gain in games like GTA:SA or Just Cause 2. Flying is fun if you challenge yourself to fly through the narrow spacing of buildings, pipelines and bridges, but due to the fairly small radius of the city, most aircraft fly at a less than satisfying speed to preserve some sense of of stature.If you wanna get somewhere FAST, I recommend a nitrous-rigged motorbike.
To round out presentation of terrain, there's the water. It's literally the most boring thing in the game. You'll have access to a speedboat and a jetski, and have absolutely no use for them outside one or 2 missions, where you're just pulling up to a near-by cargo ship. There are no other boats out on the water, few, if no watercraft jumps (I haven't seen one other than aforementioned mission), its just you, going as far out as you can.
Back on land you'll notice (especially if you were fond of it in 2) that very few buildings provide interior access. Done away with are modest buildings like convenience stores, banks, museums, restaurants; things that would add to the realism of a city, you can no longer enter. (Instead you now purchase these as you would Monopoly assets, and leave them to generate revenue. You wil visit many interior areas throughout the game, but only in instance of a mission. Very few you can return to, one strip club comes to mind, but it's just that. The Deckers' club district provides nothing for you other than streets lined with alluring clubs that you can't enter (same goes for the red light district, which is literally shoved under some overpass in the middle of downtown.) You'll even pass a huge one called "The Gothedral" that looks like it'd be a blast to enter. If you approach it you'll even hear the reverb of the music playing inside. But it's never at any time open to you. It makes you wonder "well then... why?!" Unfortunately, that in itself seems to be a dumbfoundingly recurring theme in the game.
You'll have access to several nicely designed and fairly spacious crib strongholds, but they're far different than the ones obtained in 2. What's nice about them is that you can now access their services anywhere in the house at the press of a button, which even sets you out at your garage or helipad. What's unfortunate however, is the lack of effort put into them compared to the ones obtained in 2. Unlike the former game, you can only customize 3 primary strongholds, whereas there's about 7 all together. The remainder will still provide standard crib services of wardrobe, customization (if it's a primary one) and vehicle storage/retrieval which now includes in-house customizing, which is wonderful. The actual "customization" of them falls far short of the interior decorating you could do in each Stilwater crib. No linger can you choose a preferred overall atmosphere with mix-and-match furniture arrangements; now you simply upgrade your acquired stronghold into a Saints mega skyscraper. Each of them look amazing, especially fully upgraded, however the only portions of these grand properties you'll have access to is their penthouse. Which as you customize, will take on the same exact decor. All 3 strongholds, as well as the Saints HQ (which automatically has the top tier decor.) are all the same contemporary art galleries, plastered with bizarre creature paintings. Something you either like or hate I suppose. At this point I'm picking at little details, but it goes to show that someone got a little lazy and decided to get the cookie cutter from the drawer. The remaining pads you'll discover belong to certain people you'll befriend in the story, and whereas you have no control over their style, are themed well to their owners.
A final complaint of the city of mine is that they seem to have done away with easter eggs in favor of lampooning the heck out of pop culture. There are some, but none as remotely entertaining as a secret island/cave, or a giant sea monster or even the easter bunny himself... But who knows, maybe something has yet to surface..
Moving on from the core city element of the game's presentation to cover it wholly, I'll move onto other various things. Weapons tend to have a slight exaggeration to their style (look at the size of a Shepard in your character's hands to get a sense of what I mean, or the decked-out bulkiness of the AK-47-inspired Krukov rifle.) Personally this doesn't bother me, as I play Saints Row for the fun and absurdity of my abilities, so having amazing accuracy with two magnums the size of bricks is pretty entertaining, as are the look and feel of most other weapons. Many people have complained that once you upgrade a weapon, you're stuck with its appearance. Again, not something that personally bothers me, its really a thing of preference. Your character will also often handle these weapons in flashy stances that typically make you look as cool as you set yourself to be, but there are several weapons that again, cookie cutting is blatantly obvious. An example is a certain bladed melee weapon you'll eventually have access to. Its native users will wield it properly (and quite fashionably at that) however when you equip it, your stance with it will be that of a generic melee object stance, therefore you have one hand gripping the sharp blade. It really bugs me that they were so lazy that they overlooked something that elementary. Most melee weapons in 2 had a stance that catered to their shape, why should a more advanced game play that mechanic down? Other than those minor issues though, weapons are a well varied and designed element. Oh, except they got rid of environmental weapons like trashcans, so I've been without my signature weapon, the mighty stop sign. :(
Vehicle development seemed to have been handled with a bit more care, there's a wide variety of sports cars, luxury vehicles, gimmick/mascot rides, trucks (No monster trucks this time around sadly...) helicopters, and classified technology to cater to any crime boss or thrillseeker's taste. Vehicle customization, unlike the myriad of other seemingly downgraded elements, appears to be fairly superior to past iterations. I'll discuss the mechanics of it later on in the review, but I mention it here to commend the designers/devs on giving car modders the ability to make masterpieces.
Rounding out presentation is character design, which in my opinion, was also well handled by the design team. Unfortunately though, it seems more and more as I delve into the pros and cons of the game, they seem to stem deeply from design team/development team differences. The cast is one most people will be fond of, each character having a unique personality and outstanding voice talent to convey it. The entire cast, as well as generic models of gang members are artfully designed, some unique and original, while others lampoon popular culture (while still retaining a unique persona.) It's this marvel of the design team that the developers themselves seem to have once again, lazily interpreted into the game. In SR2, we were gifted with the freedom to access any clothing we saw on a cast member, as the developers modeled all costumes through the same customization engine that the player uses. With some meek exceptions, there wasn't a chance anyone in Stilwater could show up your swagger. It was this esteemed customization element that with the promise of an even greater customization system, mislead those anticipating it into one of the biggest walls of disappointment ever. And sadly, clothing isn't even the half of it. Simply, the developers chose to static these designs, meaning only that character has those clothes. Not a big deal when you can't have Pierce's sport coat or Shaundi's hooker tights, right? Well how does it make you feel when that sleek pair of DJ headphones that Decker is wearing are not a clothing option. Neither is his ipod, or his neon utility pants, or the buster sword sheathed to his back (no, your character would rather brandish that like a moron!) And what about when his sexy backup shows up to literally run circles around you in her pleated skirt and rollerblades? It made me pretty disappointed, we'll leave it at that. But it's not just the Deckers, these things can apply to generic NPCS, your own gang, who will sport things like custom guns in shoulderstraps, and belts fashioned from machine gun feeds. You get none of this, and take my word for it, there will be things that you'll wish you could have. Way more things than the entirety of the player's collective wardrobe. And like I said, it doesn't stop at clothing. I won't get into it because I don't want to spoil some of the enemies you'll encounter, but lets just say some are more fitting to a fantasy anime than anything depicting the modern world. Which, I totally wouldn't mind, if, you know... I could maybe do that stuff too? I could rant on and on about these things, but Volition stepping back on customization AND giving the cast/enemies/YOUR OWN GANG far more flare is pretty frustrating. Simply, it takes away from that feeling of empowerment you're supposed to feel in a Saints Row game.
So yeah, that's presentation, in a huge, long-winded nutshell. I'd apologize for ranting about it, but these are things that are vital to detail about a Saints row game. In a summarized sentence, SR:TT's presentation is one that's creative, and appealing, but poorly, and sometimes insultingly executed. The cast is its strong point, but ironically I probably won't have many nice things to say about it when I move onto...
Well, one thing that can be said about the story this time around is that it's HIGHLY spoiler-sensitive, so thankfully I can keep it relatively short. It has a strong start, that in the style of Saints Row, has its epic appeal, but never takes itself too seriously. As you progress in your fight against the Syndicate, you'll be continuously drawn into the story by moments of "Oh, ****, now what?!" or simply "Niiiiiicee." The writing maintains a steady smoothness, that again, is carried by exceptional voice talent. There are lots of surprises and twists, but oddly, at some point in the game, those sophistications seem to shift into something convoluted, although never unwarranted in the Saints' world. On the other hand though, this convolusion is something that a 3rd grader could have shaped a better plot out of. This is to say that there are things that happen, that you would expect to effect or be effected by other parts of the plot. It's like you're expecting certain stuff to happen in the story... not because you think you have the plot figured out, but really just because they seem logical and would make for a really cool plot (albeit turning a gang tale into a sci-fi fantasy.) Many parts of the plot will fall flat, and characters you think are key players are dropped in often anti-climatic ways. Sometimes I'd wonder if certain characters' VA's bailed, or if it was just lack of effort on the writers' part.
But at the end of the road, there's a fairly redeeming climax that sets up for a future installment nicely (and in that over the top Saints style, no less.) This is of course if you make a certain choice. I personally recommend seeing both endings, simply because you get rewards for completing both. The alternate ending however... well it's nothing special. After beating the game once, you'll be allowed to replay the final mission and make the alternate choice, but once both endings are achieved, you'll be back to business as usual. On the note of replay, I was struck with more sheer disappointment over there being no mission OR cutscene replay. I know this isn't something usually found in open world mission games, but seeing as it's something that was plausably implemented into 2 (TV for cs, newspaper clippings for mission replay, makes sense to me) and there being quite a bit of amazing scenes that my character did something really cool in, I cant think of any reason why they'd exclude it. But at that, maybe it was to promote playing through again as a different gender/voice talent to experience how they deliver their role. Seeing as there are several instances of lines varying depending on gender or voice, I'll definitely give the game's ~10 hour campaign a couple more plays. (mind you that's an average completion time when focusing solely on the story.)
With all that of my chest, I'll lighten up to talk about some...
For what they are, I was pleasantly surprised with the graphics (darn well better be for what's supposedly been sacrificed for them.) The animation is unique, a modest CG tone that within its surreal-world complex, is one that cant be done justice in still screenshots. In stills, the characters and world appear pasty, but in motion, the frame rate is consistently high, and even when you're in the heat of facing down 20 Luchadores while their Lt. bombards you with scatterbombs, the action says smooth and flowing. Co-op in these instances is inevitably subject to a bit of lag and slow down, but it's never been enough to brake me and my partner's stride. Attention to detail of city textures make repetitive elements at least convincing ones, as do those of vehicles, weapons, and cast characters. NPCs on the other hand have not received the same treatment, and oftentimes seem out of place in an environment that looks relatively more realistic than they do.elating back to presentation however, there's nothing to behold beyond the perimeter of the city. Water, while looking almost as glistening as GTAIV's is all you'll see out in any direction, giving the polish of the city a sour contrast. Little effort was put into lighting, something you'll never notice the mechanics of within the illumination of the city, but above it from the sky, you'll be looking at a bright, multicolored city sitting out in the middle of a bland, pastel ocean that makes no reflection of the day or night sky.
Weather is a bit more realistic, although this is only displayed the occasional rain downpour and resulting slickened roads. The story is set in the fall, so wherever you go, you'll see trees of pastel Autumn colors, powered by the fairly new realtree tool. Yet all the leaves seem to magically adhere to their trees whilst the ground remains completely tidy. Oh and pop-up is ever-present, especially with trees, but its something open-world gamers just have to accept for now.
What was specifically claimed to have been addressed on the topic of fade-in, is the notorious glitch of scope fade-out. A developer speaking on weapons clearly and boldly stated "We've addressed the sniping zoom fading issue, you can now see and hit targets literally miles away." .....Nope, The problem is still ever-present if trying to zoom in on any NPC or car more than about 300 ft. away. As someone who enjoys sniping in any game, this irks me more than it should, but it doesn't stop me from going out to shoot at what I can reach.
To top off the graphical analysis, I'll give praise to the character creator, which allows you very broad range and flexibility. If you put effort and trial&error into your character creation, you are bound to end up with a representation of you (or someone else) that you can at least be proud of. Hairstyles now have a notably larger selection now, but still only look slightly more realistic than the mostly hideous pixel-dumps that were SR1 and 2's selections. Hair does sport a degree of physics now, but in another drop of the comparison coaster, hair is still stuffed into whatever hat you're wearing, including hoods. There's exceptions such as the gaming headsets, but by now, it's just something that they could've put a little effort into resolving. Going into a certain store you might notice that there are pictures on the walls of certain outfits, of which the person wearing a hat will have their hair naturally protruding out of it (take a look at the Steampunk pin-ups in Nowbody Loves Me to see what I'm talking about. There's also a couple pictures of characters there's no possible way you could make, indicating that the "pin-ups" are recycled concept art. Classy.)
So in short, The graphics are exceptional for what they are, there's just things that should have been fixed by now. Let's get on to something I don have to do any griping about now, such as the...
The sound in Saints Row: The Third is one of a handful of elements that have me addicted to it. Everything from voice acting, to general sfx, to the specific and distinct sound of every weapon is top-notch. Frankly, I feel like the sound team were the only ones busting their rears for this game, and their work paid off. Every sound is satisfying in this game. Every spoken line, gunshot, tire screech, 'splosion and splat just sounds right. And since I cant think of a better place to mention it, I'll tack on the rumble calibration to sfx. It's all calibrated flawlessly to the unique force of each weapon, down to the smallest detail of your phone's vibration ringer.
And you know what else is awesome? The music. Now I can't claim to have heard every song on every station, but I know this game has an outstanding soundtrack when A.) I can listen to an entire mixtape of my favorite station's track list without wanting to skip out on a single song, and B.) More often than not, I'm quite content with the song that's playing on whatever station my current car is set to. So unless you should happen to hail from some tribal commune that only knows of bongo drums and spine xylophones, there really is something for everyone.
Lastly on the glorious topic of sound is the game's score. It's typically composed of dirty electro and dub arrangements that play after missions or during key events and some songs such as Kanye's Power will automatically play to shadow certain moments. So the score is something very unorthodox compared to your typical instrumentals and will probably be a hit or miss for a variety of people, but I personally enjoy the hard dropping beats that sound off after something dramatic has happened to close out a mission. I highly recommend playing SR:TT in the highest audio quality available to you, it'll really get you pumped!
Well then, onto something more practical and review-centric. Maybe something like...
The gameplay?: 8/10
Ass, as I begin to type this segment, I'm not even sure how much I'll end up ranting about it, so I'll try to focus on core things as they come to mind. Firstly, let's talk about the controls. a solid, but un-customizable third person shooter will serve you well on foot once you've learned it and taught yourself the many tricks it has to offer. Dodge-rolling and clotheslining your opponents is a great way to gain leverage in a situation where you're surrounded, among other tactics that will reveal themselves to you as you experiment. The "awesome button" is just a fancy name for sprint, but sprinting into your actions is what makes them "awesome," so remember to watch your stamina if you're meaning to run up to an enemy to roughhouse him! This generally applies to wrestling moves, dodgerolling, and dramatically entering cars, other than that, it's simply your sprint button.
Traditional brawling has replaced the several combat styles of 2, while rolling martial arts, street fighting, and wrestling into one super style that's a blast to play around with. It's handled with the shoulder buttons, with additional QTE button presses to supplement your moves. What's akward about this is that even if you ignore the QTE prompts completely, you'll still go into executing cinematic-style combos that will continue to prompt you to press whatever button corresponds to the next move. My only explanation for this is that properly timed presses or mashing the current prompt will increase your damage, but otherwise, it just makes brawling seem like something rushed or incomplete. You also have nut-shots via the right stick button, which on the contrary of any misleading statements any devs might have made, only select weapons have them. Some are cool and flashy, while some get to the point (literally, of course.)
Shooting is very well polished; hitboxes are spot-on and guns feel and sound so natural. All weapons serve their recommended purpose to the letter, so one should familiarize themself with all weapon types so you can utilize them for every situation.Thankfully sensitivity is adjustable, because I feel that the default aim speed is far too sluggish when you're facing down mobs of 20-30 enemies, so I found putting my axis values at max and using small, precise stick movements was the best way to go for me.
The game is based on the 3 traditional difficulties of easy/medium/hard, easy being a snoozefest, and hard being a ragefest (try out the Super Ethical Reality Climax on hard if you want a punishing challenge.) I find Normal just right for keeping me on my toes, but even then, letting a gang battle escalate into full tier chaos, you probably won't last long unless you flee. Even then, have fun escaping. The three gangs, among other enemies are all a blast to fight, even if one of them dispatches a very dirty fighter to deal with you.... You'll see what I mean eventually!
Of course, there's plenty to do aside from causing your new rival factions aggravation, such as "procuring" (hey we're not all thieves right?!), immersively customizing , joyriding, and stunt hunting in any appealing vehicle you may come across. The driving control scheme from GTAIV is more or less implemented here, with shoulder buttons serving as gas and brake instead of the Traditional arcade style accleration of previous installments. Drifting is now possible by holding the e brake and reverse simultaneously, and gently letting off the reverse as you correct your turn. It's loads of fun to do on a nitro'd bike, but just don't expect iny GT5 degree of realism.
Vehicle customization (sorry, still no aircraft modding) is as deep as ever, with the standard add-on bonuses such as reinforced frame and tire durability now set into levels of upgrade, giving you more of a sense of putting hard work into your baby. Body options are plentiful and nicely designed, and colors are sleek and well-rendered. New to customization is underglow lights, which come in every palette color, and they look amazing in the dead of night. As I mentioned earlier, you can now customize from your crib garage, saving you the trouble of commuting back and forth to the mod shop and saving your ride. Or you can just hit up the Nearest Rim Jobs shop if you feel like doing it the old fashion way! I'm not certain how many cars you can have stored in your garage, but it's a plentiful amount, so save vehicles you're fond of to your heart's content!
So what to do after you've got a cool new ride? You go shopping, duh! Clothing stores are divided into 5 different franchises, all catering to bondage/leatherware, to mascot and party costumes, to stereotypical "Hot Topic" subculture, with everything fairly normal in-between, most often found at the Saints' very own franchise. Simply, the clothing options found in these locations don't hold a candle to previous games, as A.) your tops and bottoms are all pre-aranged sets, meaning you have to wear certain undershirts and jackets together, and pants only come with the belt you see. Also branding your clothing with an array of logos has been scrapped, for almost each piece of clothing having its own hit or miss design on it. Discouraging as this may seem to any Stilwater fashion designers, in all fairness, the pre-designedd garbs are mostly nice, and like the radio, I'm certain everyone will find something they like. You just have to get creative, which eventually grows on you in a way. You can still choose to wear only your skivvies, or even less than that if you'd prefer. While in the nude you will be mosaic'd, which comes as an omen of world's demise to some people.... but yeah I just think it's just a novelty.
So you wanna go streaking now that you've decided to walk out of the store with less than you came in with? You can do that, and it'll earn you cash respect points with your gang. you'll use respect to qualify for upgrade purchases for everything ranging from your combat prowess, to your gang's abilities, to weapon performance. Of course these upgrades aren't in the least bit necessary, but are often invaluable perks.
Many other "diversion" activities that show up on your map as you progress. These range from aforementioned streaking, providing sharpshot/air support for targeted homies, and racing through streets filled with explosives whilst donning a pyro suit. And now introducing Professor Genki's highly anticipated Super Ethical Reality Climax, a fun little game where you dodge booby traps and shoot down armed mascots while Hulk Hogan hilariously commentates alongside his co-anchor. These are just some examples of activities, there's a whole list of multi-leveled activities around town for you to challenge and reap.
Outside of the main game is "Horde" Mode, which models the game into an instanced arcade style survival mode against waves of cleverly crafted enemies and conditional scenarios of absurdity. Very much to my dismay, completing this mode yields no reward, not even an achievement. It's simply a distraction from the main game that's very fun to play, especially co-op'd. Most waves also pay homage to pop (or geek) culture, for instance one mission called Y.Kano has you driving a tank (you either get the reference or you don't, haha.)
So you've had enough fiddling around in your new city, and you wanna get down to business. The story is sectioned into several chapters that will have you contacting your lieutenants so they can provide you with prep work, or planned strikes against the enemy gangs. Sadly, most of these "missions" are simply glorified diversion activities, but the dialog keeps them entertaining. After completing prep missions, you'll be sent out to take direct action against the corresponding gang in very entertaining and diverse missions, with cutscenes to firther the story. When provided with a choice after completing such missions, you may be required to walk to one side of a room or another, or travel to one part of the city or another. The choices themselves will not impact the story, save for dialog variations, until the very last choice, which will detirmine your ending path. After completing certain missions you'll receive bonus material such as vehicles and outfits relative to that mission, some being automatic, while others my be the reward of making a certain choice.
Finally, I'll give you some thoughts on...
Replay Value: 10/10
WOW 10/10, really?! Yes, despite all the indifferent things I've had to say about the game, The Third has replay value in many forms. Weather it be messing around solo, having literally twice as much fun in co-op, or developing your own stunts and antics, there's always something to do wherever the Saints go. There's also several DLC mission packs lined up over the next year, which will hopefully include some more diverse clothing, but in the meantime, I'm pretty sure I'll be keeping busy around Steelport
So in conclusion, we find that Saints Row: The Third is a very accessible game that will have no problems engaging newcomers, but will snarl puzzlingly disappointing setbacks at long-time fans of the series. Those simply wishing to play a fun game (like I said, if you don't care about anything other than having fun, consider this review an 8.) will find what they're looking for every time they boot this one up. Just enjoy it for what it's worth, and remember to do the audio justice!~
Final verdict: 7/10
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 11/21/11
Game Release: Saints Row: The Third (US, 11/15/11)
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