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Saints Row: The Third (PC) Review

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Along with others, I recognized Volition’s Saints Row as a GTA clone for the Xbox 360. At that time, I had no interest in any open world games because of the lackluster fundamentals from games in that genre. As for its sequel, I heard it was a more vulgar revision of the original. I didn’t hear anything that would suggest this franchise was worth my time and money.

So what changed with Saints Row: The Third?

I heard its approach to the modern open world gangster fantasy was the exact opposite to Grand Theft Auto IV — the first GTA game that I ever completed. It was described by the folks at GiantBomb as “stupid humor done right” which is something I can get behind. They also suggested they went hog wild with over-the-top moments and emphasized on fun above all else.

I liked what I heard and decided to check this purple themed game out.

Saints Row: The Third got my attention right away with the main menu theme. It was an original composition and one that made me linger at the start screen until I had my fill for the day. If I owned a smartphone, it would be my ringtone.

But as impressed as I was with that opening theme, it was their use of licensed music that had me smiling and nodding with agreement. Music is supposed to add to the experience and Volition’s choices did just that. They made epic moments more grand and perilous situations more dire with well timed use of licensed awesomeness.

The voice acting as a whole was impressive as well. I chose to roll with the Russian lady voice and found her to be humorous and convincing as a crime boss. As for the celebrity voice actors? I had forgotten they employed celebrities until I saw a couple of familiar names in the credits roll. I’m glad they didn’t do anything to call attention to themselves.

So far I’ve said nothing but good things about the audio, but unfortunately there was a glaring flaw that takes quite a toll on the open world experience. Like with inFamous 2, Steelport City was eerily quiet. The lack of ambiance and muted sound effects made the on foot travels feel completely disconnected from the rest of the game. It’s a real shame.

Fortunately for the game time spent on foot can be minimized by spending as much time as possible in a vehicle. I was able to quickly and easily acquire vehicles by way of a cellphone call or by jumping feet first through the windshield of an unsuspecting car. Eventually I was able to summon helicopters and VTOLs as well! Why walk or drive when I could fly?

I wouldn’t be touting vehicular transport so much if it wasn’t an enjoyable experience. Driving controls felt pin point accurate which meant I could weave onto oncoming traffic with ease. Why would I do that? So I could accumulate “Respect” points to level up and unlock abilities. Every “near miss” and drift also yielded some points for me; it was like there was a bit of Burnout: Paradise inside Saints Row: The Third.

But wait there’s more!

If I hijacked a car with an passenger, I was able to initiate their “hostage” mini game where I was given cash and some Respect points if I managed to evade the authorities for a set amount of time. It’s a minor distraction in the grand scheme of things, but Saints Row: The Third was filled with these little nuggets of fun.

When I eventually reached my destination, a story mission or activity awaited me. In the beginning, the missions wrapped a bit of context around the various side activities available. Those missions were fine, but it wasn’t until they were done with the introductions that the insanity and my enjoyment began ratcheting up. I wish I could divulge examples of a great mission, but I risk spoiling the fun for potential players who read my ramblings and sounding like a crazy person in the process.

I didn’t mind most of the side activities because they were either straight forward mayhem oriented ones like “do something to draw out an assassination target” or “accumulate half a million dollar’s worth of damage”. There was only one set of side missions which I didn’t care for so I guess that’s not too bad when I compare it to other open world games where I would skip a majority of those optional pieces of content.

What made Saints Row: The Third’s insane, referential and crude humor work was their restraint; they didn’t hit me over the head with their jokes. They were well aware with their ridiculous premises and didn’t take anything seriously. They left just enough reality to ensure their jokes had impact. The same philosophy was applied to other aspects of the game as well.

My character started out a mere mortal, but ended up like a goddess. She became an asian chick with “anime” hair who was impervious to bullets and had a flair for dressing up like Faith from Mirror’s Edge, a secret agent and sometimes even a citizen of the Matrix. Thanks to all the great customization options available, it was nearly impossible to create a character that I wasn’t happy with.

Fun at every turn was promised by those who recommended Saints Row: The Third and it delivered. Even the inexplicable framerate drops and the odd crash couldn’t stop me from playing. I wish the sound design was better and I wish every side mission was a hit as well, but these are minor blemishes when everything else was fantastic. When I discovered my first major hideout was located in the penthouse suite of a skyscraper for the sole purpose of allowing me to base jump from the helicopter pad? It knew it was a game with its priorities straight.

Verdict:
Must Play

Ratings Guide

For more information on Saints Row: The Third, visit the official website.

2010 PC Rev. 1.1 was used to play Saints Row: The Third.

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