Saints Row: The Third (Onlive, PC, 360 and PS3)
Saints Row: The Third developed by Volition and published by THQ is the latest title in the Saints Row series and we play as the leader of the Third Street Saints gang in the open environment of Steelport city. The story focuses on a gang war between the Saints and the Syndicate but before the main plot line is established the game starts with an attempted bank robbery and the character of Josh Birk. He is a TV star who is researching his part for the forthcoming Saints' movie and this neatly establishes that the Saints have turned their gang into a media empire, launching a wide range of merchandise and sponsorship.
The bank robbery quickly starts going wrong when the bank tellers unexpectedly pull out hand cannons and we find that security is kitted out with military grade weapons. It is at this point that we drop into the character and start shooting our way to the bank vault with fellow Saints Johnny Gat and Shaundi. After being jailed and freed we play through some elaborate in-plane and freefalling combat, landing with Shaundi in the Syndicate controlled city of Steelport, a fictional city described by our companion as "Bangkok's abusive father". From this point the game starts to follow a linear mission based plot line that we experience for the rest of the game and it isn't short on violence, humour and adult content.
Saints Row: The Third is a third person perspective action adventure game that blends driving sequences with gun fights, all set in the vast open urban sprawl of Steelport. We have the option of completing the story missions to progress through the game or exploring the city. Exploration of Steelport reveals numerous rival gang members to kill, property to buy, items to collect (such as drug caches and sex dolls) and photo opportunities with fans. Added to this are mini-games activities such as Professor Genki's Super Ethical Reality Climax, Insurance Fraud, Tank Mayhem, Guardian Angle, Tiger Escort and many, many more. As well as these ad-hoc diversions we can access the Saints Book using the in-game Smartphone styled menu system. The Saints Book gives us a list of side mission that are either an assassination, a car theft or a statistics based challenge. And as well as an the upgrade menu the Saints Book also offers a music play list and Phone Book so we can contact our partners in crime when in need of information on our criminal income and cheats.
Saints Row: The Third uses respect as experience point and successfully completing missions earns us money and respect. Occasionally they also expand our vehicles or weapons and when we level up the process unlocks character and gang attributes that we can then spend money on improving. The levelling system also allows the player to buy attributes, or 'perks', each time the player character is levelled-up, with the various options requiring a certain level before purchase is possible. Money can also be used to purchase clothing items, weapons and cars, or may be used to upgrade weapons and cars with unique features.
On certain story missions we are given the opportunity to choose the action that ends the mission and in this way action has a long lasting effect on character development. For example the first decision we are faced with is whether or not to blow up the Syndicate's HQ or to take it over. Blowing it up gains us a lot of respect but cause NPCs to react differently to us, while leaving the building standing gives us more control over the neighbourhood and more hourly income.
Customisation is also a large and noteworthy aspect of the game, an aspect which begins with how we customise our character. The number of customisation option is vast and in some cases wonderfully ridiculous. If we choose, we can make our character speak in zombie grunts or wear an animal mascot suit. The number of character options is very impressive, and we are not restricted on what elements we can be combine. If we wish to create a huge fat man with bright blue skin who sounds like a Russian woman or a busty Hispanic babe with a beard then we can. Should we tire of our characters appearance then we can simply visit one of the numerous and cheap plastic surgery or clothing stores throughout Steelport.
Customisation doesn't stop at just the character though as we have the ability to steal any passing vehicle and take it to a chop shop, which are also numerous and located throughout Steelport. If we have sufficient funds we can indulge ourselves in customising the vehicle as we see fit.
In addition to the single player mode, this customisable chaotic carnage can be undertaken in co-op mode with one other player. The duo can participate in all missions and activities. Alternatively we can indulge ourselves in Whored Mode. This mode takes place at a set location and involves us fighting off waves of increasingly tough goons. This can also be performed solo or with assistance.
Graphics and Audio
In terms of graphics, this game is unimpressive and suffers from, infrequent glitches. While it is true the environment is vast and feels city sized it is sparsely populated and lacks detail at street level. Driving around Steelport traffic pops into existence right before our eyes and on one occasion during a particularly great piece of driving we managed to launch the car through the air and wedge it nose down between a bridge support and a nearby container. When we exited the car we magically walked through the solid steel wall of the container, unfortunately, like so many illegal immigrants before us, we were now trapped within the reconstituted walls of the container and forced to load a save.
The sound effects and voice acting are of a very high standard but the real star of the game audio is the soundtrack which is heard on car radios throughout the game and includes a wide variety of good quality music ranging from hip-hop to metal, electro pop and classical. Using the in-game Smartphone style menu we are able to toggle stations on and off and compile a mix tape of our favourite songs.
Above all else Saints Row: The Third is a lot of fun. It is a depraved adult theme park of a game that doesn't take its self too seriously but keeps the focus on an enjoyable gaming experience. This isn't for the easily offended though as the game takes horrific violence, criminal behaviour and the objectification of women as light hearted and goofy, tackling subject matters like abduction, rape, slavery and sex traffic with puns and bad taste jokes. Enjoyment of this game is going to be very personal marmite type experience and even then all but the hard core player will find the unnecessary expletives and constant degradation of the female characters a little wearing towards the end of the game.
All this enjoyable carnage is set is in a vast and open environment which is sadly lacking in detail and, as mentioned above, suffers from occasional glitches. The most annoying of these glitches is not the experience of being trapped in a box but rather that certain activities such as Tank Mayhem or Insurance Fraud require us to blow stuff up or get hit by cars, respectively. It is at these points that we notice the lack of population; Steelport is a ghost town. Juxtaposing the graphics in our sensory experience is the audio, which not only provides us with excellent voice acting and sound effects but also a high quality soundtrack across a number of different musical types.
In 15 or so hours of gameplay players should complete main story missions and then we have the secondary mission/activities to consider meaning that this game is extremely good value for those seeking 100% completion. One of the longest games we have played in a while in fact.
Frenzied fun, that doesn't take its self seriously. Not for those easily offended or under age. A puerile sense of humour, a liking for graphic violence and sexual depravity would help. Score 83%