Saints Row The Third


Written by Chris Price
21 Monday 21st November 2011

I’ve never been over-enamoured about Grand Theft Auto - a title which the Saints Row lineage has harvested for not only its framework, but also its divisive rags-to-riches storyline.  And procedure is standard amongst the sandbox genre – steal cars, stylise your character, purchase firearms and shoot rival. Map navigation is a little clunky, opting for a smartphone interface system for delivery of missions, and the ‘Saintsbook’ app to locate mini tasks and missions. The cultural positioning of Saints Row The Third is certainly one of its more defining features – avoiding the well-trodden path of hip-hop chic in favour of party-anthem bassline house and dubstep, making the game in step with its age but also re-affirming its flyweight, good-time feel.

The feel of developers Volition’s Red Faction lives on in the firearms, each packing a hefty wallop with a generous acceptance of damage while your chosen character is afforded a generous level of damage acceptance, allowing for wild-eyed gung-ho heroics reminiscent of PS2 firepower classic Mercenaries. The game's wildest weaponry is relegated to the bracketing sections of the story though, and it would’ve been nice to see The Mollusc Launcher (allowing you to fling explosive Octopi at assailants) or the self-explanatory ‘Fart in A Jar’ rationed throughout. Getting your hands on a UAV remote missile launcher early certainly helps whet the appetite for later.

The brazen lack of health and safety also continues in the game’s rather fulfilling ‘Respect’ mechanic, an experience points system that fast-tracks your characters development based on risk. The ascending respect gauge reacts to how much recklessness you indulge in, becoming a multiplier the more sustained your nefariousness becomes. Simple yet effective, it makes activities like the usually tiresome travelling between locations into exasperating mini games.

SRTT isn’t the accomplished toybox I was hoping for. By parodying the clichés that the game steps about while featuring such a familiar core structure, it all become of a paradoxical loop. The game regularly threatens to break the cycle with plenty of nifty set-pieces, some excellent writing and some truly surreal weapons, characters and personalities. But with each linked by such traditional sandbox structures of quest, drive, shoot, repeat, their impact is dampened by familiarity.

But it’s innovative in many surprising ways – ways that complement the experience and elevate it above its predecessors. It’s funny too, but with such investment in its zaniness, its concentrated bursts of sarcasm are often too few and far between, making the game feel somewhat incomplete against the likes of InFamous 2. Yet Saints Row The Third relishes in the explosive absurd, and manages to just about carry off the illusion when taken as a whole. And it will see you returning to Steelport over and over again, whether to fling members of The Syndicate into walls or beat passers by with an oversized rubber dildo.


Saints Row The Third is out now on PS3 (reviewed), Xbox 360 and PC.

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