25 of 33 people found the following review helpful
A Bombastic, Ridiculous Thrill Ride,
This review is from: Saint's Row: The Third - Xbox 360 (Video Game)
The Saint's Row series has always had a special place in my heart. So many hours of my childhood were wasted taking turns with my best friend acting a fool in the initial entry, and countless nights devoid of rest were spent pimping my character and buying up property in 2008's excellent sequel. Starting off as a Grand Theft Auto clone and soon forming it's own unique voice in the industry, Volition's franchise has morphed into a carnival of everything you've ever wanted to do in a game, but were too afraid to say aloud. With "Saint's Row: The Third", all of these things have crashed to form what may be the craziest game you'll play all year.
Picking up a while after "Saint's Row 2", "The Third" finds the Third Street Saints transformed into a brand, one that is slapped on everything from bobbleheads to energy drinks. Every single one of their exploits is a media circus, and the first mission of the game takes place during a particularly crazy heist. This heist involved breaking into a bank, shooting up droves of SWAT members and gangbangers, getting a vault airlifted from the bank, and riding on said vault while shooting off assailants. This is only the first mission, mind you, and it's a great taste of what's to come later on in the game.
Not to go into specifics, but one thing leads to another, and before you know it, your custom character is in a new city, forced to reboot the Saints from the ground up in a new locale. But as luck would have it, you've happened to royally irritate three very intimidating gangs, and all of them want you and the Saints gone. It's either you or them, and as the protagonist, it's fairly obvious how everything's going to go down.
The game takes off to an exhilarating start, featuring some of the most insane missions you've ever experienced in a game, film, or anything else for that matter. One such mission has you skydiving from an airplane into a penthouse, shooting up waves of gang members, and hurling grenades to dislodge barracades, all while Kanye West's "Power" blasts in the background. It's a rip-roaring good time, and many of the early missions have the same thrilling tone to them.
Which makes perhaps the game's only shortcoming more anger-inducing: the poor pacing of missions after the first act. Volition pulls a very cruel bait-and-switch on players, after packing every mission in the first parts of the game with over-the-top action. Once you've gotten into a groove, though, the game starts throwing on seemingly meaningless side activities on you at such a quick rate that it starts to feel like the formulaic sandbox game the first entry was. While none of these missions are particularly bad (Professor Genki's Super Ethical Reality Climax is a brutal reality show that is a blast to play through), many feel like they were best left being optional. I would even go so far as to say that some side-activities from the other entries should have been eliminated altogether, such as the intensely dull Snatch and Trafficking.
Speaking of those last two activities, they are perhaps two of the most demonstrative of the game's rare but frustrating glitches. NPCs that you're supposed to be protecting will often do the most counter-intuitive of things, such as run straight into enemy fire when they're supposed to be escaping, or simply standing around like a statue while you're getting torn apart by enemy fire. These don't happen all the time, but after a while, it starts to become noticeable that allied NPC AI could have used some last-minute fine-tuning. Other notable (but incredibly rare) bugs include enemies that will occasionally disappear into a wall and getting trapped in ragdoll form underneath certain objects. The latter is remedied by an instant respawn, but one would figure that Volition could fix a glitch that has been in the game since it's inception instead of making a quick fix like that.
Which isn't to say that the overall gameplay is bad at all. In fact, it's one of the more standout features this time around. Gunplay has finally been perfected, able to balance the freedom allowed in sandbox games and the precision shooting offered by third-person shooters. Being chased on foot through the streets by a car or helicopter is no problem, as the player seamlessly shifts between vaulting over obstacles while whipping around to pull off quick, precise headshots to their assailants. Other aspects, such as the driving and boating mechanics, work in a similar fashion to their predecessors in Saint's Row 2, with one exception: flying. Vastly improved from the last entry, flying around feels like a fully-fleshed idea instead of an exciting concept. Flight sim-esque controls allow more complex flying maneuvers to be pulled off with ease, which makes flying a more viable way to travel Steelport.
And you'll be doing a lot of travelling, because "The Third" has the most robust and exciting city I've experienced in a game of this type. This is due in no small part to the outrageous amount of customization and overpowered weaponry. Ever wanted to be a skydiving mascot wielding a bat fashioned out of a dildo? How about a punk rocker with duel pistols that shoot infinite explosive ammo, or a streaker with a penchant for jumping into cars "Dukes of Hazzard"-style and propelling your crotch into people's faces while tackling them? In this game, all of these unique possibilities are a few of the hundreds of realities you can make happen. Volition deserves a round of applause for delivering such an insanely fun overworld to explore and/or ravage, with plenty of side-missions to complete and real estate to purchase.
They also deserve praise for the sheer variety story missions pack in. Outside of the utterly disappointing manditory side-mission portions, players will experience virtually every trope from contemporary games in the campaign. I won't be the guy who spoils things, but let's just say that zombies, luchadore gangsters, pimps with autotuned voiceboxes, and trips into a Tron-style motorcycle ride are among the highlights of the game. I cannot think of another game with such sheer variety in it's narrative, with the possible exception of 2008's bland but amusing "Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard." This game will routinely have players in stitches with the zaniness of the situations and the wry humor characters shoot back and forth at each other like verbal gunfights.
"Saint's Row: The Third" is the start of a new direction for Volition's fantastic franchise. While not perfect, it establishes it's identity and severs ties with it's GTA Clone past, which is a hard feat that other open-world crime games have stumbled at and failed to accomplish. Offensive, loud and outrageous, this game is one that will stick with you, for better or worse, and suck you into it's grasp without letting you go. While it certainly is not the best game I've played this year, it may very well be the most consistently entertaining.
Overall: B+ (9.0)
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 22, 2011 9:09:27 AM PST
R. Myers says:
Thank you for pointing out specific things wrong with the game, such as the AI. I hate it when reviewers only talk about the good stuff, then you get the game & are unpleasantly surprised. Anyway, keep up good reviews like this.
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 26, 2011 1:22:10 AM PST
Elias B. says:
Thank you very much for the kind words; I'll keep trying to be objective even with games that I enjoy. To me, people who're spending their money on something deserve to know everything! :)
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