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Review: Saint's Row the Third

The foul-mouthed and psychotic giant is back for more goofing off.

Sorry about my absence last week, gang. I’m sure you sobbed hot tears of despair while I was away. But, final exams don’t ace themselves, so I spent most of last week locked away in my room with my nose stuck firmly in thick pages of legal jargon. 

Now, after a week of thorough research, speculating on Public Administrative Theory, and heated political discussion, I’m ready for a cool dip in the intellectual simplicity of gaming, and what better to do that with than the videogame king of the immature and the crude, Saint’s Row the Third?

Plot and Characters

Saint’s Row the Third (hereafter known as SR3) picks up some unspecified number of years after the events of Saint’s Row 2. The Third Street Saints, the street gang from SR2, have risen to international celebrity status for all the untold billions of dollars they either stole or racked up in property damage and the thousands of innocent civilians they murdered with cars and bombs and chainsaws in their quest to take over the city of Stillwater. 

SR3 starts off with the four “heroes” from SR2 staging a bank heist. In case you’ve forgotten, there’s Johnny Gat, the psychotic thug who is somehow still roaming the streets despite having been convicted of more than 300 counts of murder, Pierce, the black guy whose personality is soaked to the bone in stereotype, and Shaundi, the drugged-out tramp who’s shirt makes it clear that she’s smuggling cantaloupes via her chest. 

And then there’s you, of course. You are whoever you choose to be, although that statement doesn’t quite paint the full picture. The character customization options are, to put it lightly, completely and utterly insane. I’d wager that if you spent enough time going through the sliders (I’m pretty sure there are more than 100 for your face alone) you could probably create a striking likeness of yourself. Then you dress him in a football helmet, a tutu, and fancy brown loafers and run around punching people in the head with a pair of Sasquatch fists. 

I didn’t bother with the facial structuring, though. I just painted myself solid white, gave myself a bright red afro and nose and role-played as Ronald McDonald after he was handed his pink slip from the corporate office and decided to start up a street gang. Given the lightness of tone throughout the game, it actually fit quite well. 

As for the other members of the gang, the only one I liked was Johnny Gat, and he plays only a very minor role. Pierce is “meh,” and Shaundi, while great to look at, makes me cringe with her new personality that amounts to that of an angry teenager. The fact that she and her pals still constantly reference her lifestyle of childish drug abuse and extreme sexual deviance doesn't help, either.

Speaking of drugs and sex, there’s certainly no shortage of that. Let’s be clear: this is probably the most immature game I’ve ever played, so much so that I wonder if the entire development team is composed of fourteen-year-olds. There are prostitutes everywhere you look, everyone swears like it’s going out of style, and one of the melee weapons is literally a giant purple phallus on a baseball-bat handle. 

Still, it all fits in perfectly with the city that you’re playing in (called Steelport, by the way). Only people that idolize murder and destruction which amount to domestic terrorism would allow such things to float around in public. 

As far as the story itself, you start as the aforementioned four, you get accidentally carted off from your original city to a new one, where a rival mob wipes your bank account clean and you’re forced to start from square one, although that’s debatable considering I had access to Apache helicopters and Predator missiles (plainly ripped from Modern Warfare) within an hour of gameplay. 

My advice: don’t question it, because it makes no sense at all. You’re a street gang, you’re somehow world famous for being indescribably evil and sadistic, and now you’re going to topple rival gangs and a futuristic military force. Yeah, like I said, don’t question it, because it’s not going to answer for itself. 

Gameplay

Know what? It’s immature, it’s childish, it makes no sense most the time…and it’s probably the most fun I’ve had with a game all year. 

There’s no end to the variety that the game presents. At any moment, you can be shooting out with gangs (if you’re boring and have no imagination and you’ve bought every shooter that’s been released in the past five weeks), or you could be driving 100 miles per hour with a tiger in the passenger seat, hacking a computer by racing against the clock on a Tron-style Light-cycle, fighting hordes of the undead, streaking across the sky on a rocket-powered motorcycle, or just plain streaking and trying not to get arrested  for your indecency (or rather shot because the cops hate you as much as the masses love you). 

All of these activities are done to gain money and respect (which is basically just Xp). The money lets you buy real estate for an hourly return (in-game hours, so about every five minutes), guns and upgrades for said guns, and custom paint jobs and performance tweaks for vehicles. The respect lets you unlock special abilities, the highest levels of which will make you completely invulnerable. 

You gain respect by completing missions, but you can also gain small amounts of it by killing cops, driving into oncoming traffic, and tossing innocent civilians off of buildings. I’m sorry, but I have to laugh at a game where your character gains people’s respect for beating old ladies to death with giant sex toys. 

So yeah, it’s nicely varied. There’s certainly no shortage of activities, between Japanese-style game shows which involve shooting people to death and deliberately hurling yourself into traffic to collect on insurance claims. It lacks two things, though. The first is context. 

It’s great that I can do all of these things, but there hardly seems to be any reason for most of it. In SR2, there were at least short cut scenes which gave an explanation for why you were driving around firing fecal matter out of a septic truck at people’s lofts. Not great explanations, but at least it was something.  SR3 decided to cut those out, so now it's just a single push of a button that straps you into a flame-retardant bodysuit and sends you careening down the street on a flaming ATV.

I suppose I could look to the main story for motivation, but then I would probably quit as soon as the thought sank in that my motivation is supposed to be to help a bunch of selfish, materialistic, psychotic thugs rob and cheat and murder their way to a sort of ruling class. 

I found the occasional “moral choice” sections to be just laughable. There are sections throughout the game where you’ll be forced to decide the fate of either one or several people. It’s ridiculous, though, because the choices are always something like “murder everyone in a skyscraper and take it for yourself” or “murder everyone in a skyscraper and blow up the remains,” or indeed “sell the prostitutes into sexual slavery with a rival gang” or “keep the prostitutes to be your own sex slaves.” 

I know some folks will take issue with my getting upset about a lack of motivation other than “just because,” so let me justify my statements: the game is fun. It’s a lot of fun, as a matter of fact. It’s just undirected fun, which I suppose is fine, but a little bit of narrative structure would have been nice, especially when explaining how a gang of street thugs manages to overthrow several battalions of a futuristic military force which employs land, sea, and air power. 

The second thing the game lacks is challenge. It wasn’t long before I had invested enough in real estate to where my hourly payouts were huge. I used my tidal wave of cash to completely deck out my pistols, and that was all I ever needed. I was dual-wielding them while carrying 500 rounds, each of which exploded on contact. Between that and a few health bonuses I purchased via smartphone, I was completely unstoppable. I never needed another weapon. 

On a side note, between laser-rifles, high-tech fighter-bombers with massive laser cannons, and healthcare available from my Amazon smartphone app, the only context I can give to the story is that there must have been a rift in space-time between SR2 and SR3, and SR3 is taking place in a parallel universe where the U.S. economy didn’t go into the toilet and the year is suddenly 2065 instead of 2011. I swear, it makes sense. Try it when you play. 

Multiplayer

You can play the campaign with friends or with random people on the Internet.  That’s all I know. No one I know owns the game, and I hate random people on the Internet, so I didn’t bother. I don’t need anyone’s help when I’m hacking a computer by turning into a toilet and blasting pixilated avatars with a Megaman-esque cannon. 

Overall

Like I’ve said, it’s fun to don your character in a bobble-head helmet and high-heels, take over the controls of a random citizen’s car with an RC remote, and then rampage through the streets with it. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but I will say that the campaign’s ending is officially the most retarded thing I’ve ever seen. I’ll let you judge it for yourselves, though. 

It does have the ever-coveted variety that so many brown FPS’s lack these days. Every single thing I’ve mentioned throughout this review is something you actually can (and in most cases have to) do in the game. 

Investment suggestion: buy it. I was actually sad when I had to take it back to Redbox. Despite having beaten the campaign, there was still plenty to do, and more importantly, I actually wanted to do it. That’s a tough thing for a game to pull out of me with my tiny attention span.

The above is only my opinion. It just happens to be right. 

Where to Purchase

Here's some great local places to pick up this game: , , , and .

Brother of Mad Mouth Murray February 10, 2012 at 12:21 PM
Good game and all, but how did you miss the fact that it's almost entirely satire?
Brother of Mad Mouth Murray February 11, 2012 at 04:51 AM
Good game and all, but how did you miss the fact that it's almost entirely satire?
Adam Alexander February 11, 2012 at 04:54 AM
Eh, I found that explanation to be a little thin.

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