Review by Hellraiser234

"Fighter Jets, Tanks, and Lasers, Oh My!"

Let me get this out of the way early. Saints Row: The Third is quite possibly the most fun that I've ever had with a video game. For those who haven't played the series yet, Saints Row is an open-world crime saga, sort of like the Grand Theft Auto series. However, unlike GTA, the Saints Row series contains one continuous story: That of the Third Street Saints, a band of misfits who didn't really fit into any of the more established street gangs in their hometown of Stilwater.

Saints Row: The Third picks up where Saints Row 2 left off. The Saints have successfully taken over Stilwater, and even better, have become celebrities. They have their own line of clothing. Their own line of energy drinks. The group is worth millions of dollars, and have fans all over the world. They're even getting ready to produce a feature film, "Gangstas in Space." Life is good for the Third Street Saints.

The game begins as the Saints are in the middle of a bank heist that's little more than a publicity stunt. Hollywood actor Josh Birk is accompanying the Saints, in a attempt to research his role for the movie. What starts as a routine bank heist goes horribly awry when a criminal organization known only as the Syndicate gets involved. The Saints end up in unfamiliar territory, after being taken to the city of Steelport. What follows is an over-the-top story that absolutely must be experienced.

The Saints Row series has come a long way in terms of storytelling. The first two games consisted of the Saints trying to take down three rival gangs. Each gang had their own independent story that rarely - if ever - crossed paths with the others. That all changes with The Third. Much like the first two games, there are three enemy gangs involved with the story. What separates these gangs from the gangs of the first two games, is that instead of being completely separate, all three of these gangs work together, and make up the Syndicate. This provides one cohesive story, instead of three separate ones.

The missions you'll undertake throughout the story are easily the most diverse that I've ever seen in this type of game. Rarely do you have to do any specific action more than once, and you constantly find yourself doing something awesome. Whether you're engaging in an aerial gunfight after jumping out of a cargo plane, flying across the city in a military fighter jet, participating in a wrestling pay-per-view, driving around with an angry tiger in the car, calling down airstrikes to destroy enemy tanks, or crushing traffic under the treads of your own tank, there's always something fun going on. And that's only the beginning of the zany situations you'll find yourself in. Several choices await the player throughout the game as well, and there is never a wrong answer. You're always rewarded for your actions, although the rewards differ based on your choices. Did I mention that the game includes tanks and fighter jets?

The sense of humor that has become Saints Row's trademark is here and better than ever. The story alone has plenty of moments of cheesy and even just plain juvenile humor, but most of the laughs will come outside of missions, when things are left up to your twisted imagination. The character creation is full of laughs by itself. It's difficult not to laugh when you have the freedom to beat pedestrians to death with a 300-pound elderly man wearing a cheerleader skirt and speaking with a Russian woman's voice. Weapons like the Penetrator and the Fart in a Jar are full of laughs as well.

The sounds of the game are fantastic, too. Voice work is all very well done, including some notable celebrity voices. Hulk Hogan voices ex-pro wrestler Angel De LaMuerte, and Burt Reynolds makes a completely random cameo that is actually explained within the story. The music that you'll hear throughout the game is a well-chosen mix of tunes that stretch across almost all genres, from classical to hip-hop and metal. My favorite part of the audio, though, is that at certain parts of the story, the radio is disabled, and replaced with ambient music that fits the situation at hand. Bonnie Tyler's "Holding Out for a Hero" is especially used to great effect.

All of this culminates in one of the most epic finales that I've ever seen in a game, when a three-way war erupts in the streets of Steelport. Everything about this game screams "80's Action Flick" at the top of its lungs, and the last few missions do a very good job of making sure that you hear it. As you arrive on the scene, you're surrounded by absolute chaos, as the Saints, Syndicate, and military all battle for control of the city. Bullets, rockets, and lasers (Yes, lasers!) fly in all directions. People are dying. Cars, jets, tanks and helicopters all get blown to bits. Then, in the middle of this, the player is faced with the most difficult decision of the game: Do you sacrifice the lives of those close to you in order for revenge, or do you let the enemy escape in order to save the people you care about? Each choice leads to a different ending, but both endings are satisfying in different ways.

As I said at the beginning of this review, Saints Row: The Third is quite possibly the best game I've ever played. The way I see it, GTA is no longer the benchmark for open-world crime games. Rockstar had better bring it's A-Game with the upcoming Grand Theft Auto V, because there's a new king of the streets. Seriously, fighter jets, tanks, and lasers!

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 11/22/11

Game Release: Saints Row: The Third (US, 11/15/11)

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