November 14, 2011

A dildo bat does not a great video game make.  Video game developer Volition landed a cult hit with Saints Row 2.  Rather than try to emulate the dark-and-gritty nature of the Grand Theft Auto franchise, Saints Row 2 wisely went in another direction and turned your character into a garish supervillain.  There was a deep level of character customization when it came to your appearance, and the gameplay and design was solid and immersive.  There were glitches (including one that would unforgivably corrupt your saved game), and the controls and driving needed to be tightened, but it played well enough.  More importantly, the game design was terrific and offered a diverse world filled with various landscapes and fun activities like spraying buildings with poop and throwing unruly celebrity hounds into jet engines.

Saints Row: The Third improves the character customization and the controls, but it loses almost everything else in a major step backwards for the franchise.

After dominating the city of Stillwater in Saints Row 2, the 3rd Street Saints have become international celebrities.  They have their own line of energy drinks, clothing stores, and have become more popular than any group of murderous psychopaths have any right to be.  Trying to hold onto their cred and help out an obnoxious method actor for no reason, the Saints rob a bank, but the bank belongs to a crime ring known as The Syndicate, which is comprised of three street gangs. The Saints are kidnapped, managed to escape from an airplane, and land in the new city of Steelport where all of their power means nothing and they have to start from scratch.  The new objective is to take over Steelport by taking down the Syndicate, which is comprised of the meathead Luchadores, the TRON­­-style hacker gang Deckers, and the sophisticated Morning Star.

Saints Row 2 shared the same structure of amassing power by bringing down competing gangs, and like in the previous game, you’ll be offered missions to further storyline, and activities including “Snatch” (stealing prostitutes from pimps), “Tank Mayhem” (destroy as much as you can with a tank and reach a point total before time runs out), “Insurance Fraud” (destroy yourself as much as you can by running into traffic and reach a point total before time runs out), “Professor Genki’s Super Ethical Reality Climax”, (try to kill a certain amount of mascots—mainly furries— while trying to survive and reach a point total before time runs out) and a few others.  However, Saints Row: The Third drops fan favorites like “Septic Avenger” and “Crowd Control”, while offering almost nothing new in return (even worse, the irritating activity “Heli Assault” remains).

It’s a problem that carries throughout the entire game.  Saints Row: The Third smacks of a smaller budget.  Steelport is technically larger than Stillwater in terms of area, but it’s far less diverse.  The city is mainly compromised of a commercial district in the center surrounded by factories and a small suburban zone plus an airport.  When compared to Saints Row 2, which had a university, a Chinatown, a suburbia that actually felt like a suburban environment (complete with strip malls), a gigantic underground mall, a marina and casino district, and much more, Steelport is a bore.  You always feel like you’re going to the same three places and none of them seem to be brimming with life.

The game tries to make up for its shortcomings in the environment and in the mini-games by offering up more comedy and bigger set pieces, and on the set pieces it comes through.  You have characters offering quips as they jump out of planes, move through a TRON-inspired landscape, and use a terrific new vehicle called the TKOL, which, as your character points out, “is like if a helicopter fucked a fighter jet.”  But most of the humor lacks a punch.  The writing isn’t as sharp, and the game is afraid to offer anything dramatic until the final mission (provided you choose one of the two endings).  Saints Row 2 wasn’t afraid to have your character put a friend out of his misery or carry over a grace note of revenge to the man from the first Saints Row who betrayed you.  Saints Row: The Third forgets almost everything from the first two games other than a couple supporting characters who come with you to Steelport.  Zimos, a kinky pimp with an auto-tune voice, is a fun newcomer, but there’s hardly any comedy or creativity to fellow new characters Kinzy Kinsington and Angel de la Muerte.

This cutback on story and character puts an even heavier burden on the small things like your appearance and weapons.  Every weapon, whether it’s the dildo bat, the “Apocafists” (which punch people into a blood explosion), the Fart in a Jar, or anything else creative, loses its appeal after a while.  You can go streaking (with pixelated junk) and it will get old after two minutes.  Doing a mix and match on your character’s outfit is fun, but if you want to play Wacky Dress Up, then you should just download the Saints Imitation Station, which is free.  The only new addition that never gets old is how you hijack cars.  If you sprint at a vehicle and press the button normally reserved for hijacking, you’ll crash in through the window and kick out the current driver in one motion.  It’s called the “Bo-Duk-En” (in honor of Dukes of Hazzard) and you’ll never choose another way to enter a car.

And driving is fun this time around.  Driving in Saints Row 2 was a bit of a nightmare since your car never seemed to grip the road and had almost no handling.  Saints Row: The Third absolutely nails the driving, and every sandbox game should aspire to reach this level of control.  The shooting has also been improved and while I miss my health-aid snacks (they’ve been replaced with four thrown weapons, which is useless since you’ll always use grenades), you’ll need them less since you can now upgrade your weapons and they respond far better to your aim.

Unfortunately, another overhaul offers mixed results.  In Saints Row 2, your special abilities—like reduced gang notoriety or faster sprint—resulted in finishing activities.  It was a balanced give and take.  If you wanted Special Ability X to make the game easier, then you needed to accomplish Activity Y.  Saints Row: The Third tries to streamline the process by tying cash and experience together.  “Respect” is your experience points, and leveling up unlocks more special abilities that you can buy with the cash you earn from missions, owning property, activities, and diversions.

But here’s the issue: Because you can eventually buy invincibility and unlimited ammo, you’ll simply avoid endurance missions and anything unnecessary that would test your health or firepower.  Once you’re invulnerable, almost everything becomes a cakewalk, and since you can earn respect from almost anything, it’s simply a matter of waiting till you get to the necessary level.  The problem is compounded by giving you the ability to get all of your property money via your phone.  Go to your crib, leave the game running for a few hours, come back, and you’ll be flush with cash to buy all the abilities you want.

I don’t mind that shortcoming so much.  Volition tried out a different approach and it didn’t work, but it wasn’t a bad idea in theory.  Neither is giving you choices at various points in the game where you can change events and receive different bonuses depending on the option you choose.  However, most of the choices are so clear cut that there’s really no need to think twice if you’re playing to win.  Offering you a choice between respect and cash is a balanced option, but giving you the choice between an entire district take over and a useless new homie is a no-brainer.

I desperately wanted Saints Row: The Third to be a glorious evolution of one of my favorite games.  Unfortunately, it looks like Volition couldn’t deliver.  Again, I believe part of that goes to budget.  The series had to drop down from B-list level voice talent like Eliza Dushku and Neil Patrick Harris to (charitably) D-listers like pornstar Sasha Grey and retired wrestler Hulk Hogan (however, there’s one celebrity cameo that’s downright brilliant).  But there’s no excusing the lack of creativity.  Even with a pared-down cityscape, there’s no reason the plot and writing should be so uneven, and a mission involving a zombie outbreak reeks of desperation.  I could at least respect the new Saints Row if it took the series in a radically different direction and that direction didn’t pan out.  I would have been perfectly happy with a Saints Row 2.5 that brought in the tighter controls, updated graphics, the Professor Genki activity, and handful of new weapons.  Instead, Saints Row: The Third is a massive disappointment to everyone who demands more from a sequel, which is, well, everyone.

Rating: C-

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  • Strong Enough

    Yea i played the first one but not the others. it’s just mindless fun. I haven’t been playing games like i used to. I bought Skyrim and it’s been sitting my TV for days collecting dust. I think am outgrowing video games. I turn on the game and ask myself why am playing this. what purpose does this add to my life? Deep sh*t


    • D

      Maybe you shouldn’t look to video games for your life’s purpose, just sayin

      • george

        you shit wanker who do you think you are saint row 3 aint just a game its a game that should be reward the best game of all time for the fun!!!!! YES!!!!!

    • Chris H.

      well if u were already kinda iffy on video games then skyrim is not the game to buy. it requires almost all of ur time. i think more fast paced games like call of duty would be better. but if u’ve outgrown video games completely then i say good say to u sir.

    • Ryan O

      Dude you should do something with your life … get a job ect instead of looking at games and asking yourself why you play these things or even deciding to play them or not … oh by the way ‘why do you play them?’ for entertainment mate :)

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  • John medina

    This fool was obviously picked from the street to do his job

  • Lara E.

    I think you’ve completely hit a wall in your life, commenting on posts like this to get justification from people Internet heroes.
    I think you’re comment is respected as much as the tramp i saw today, picking fag butts from a bin.

  • nNark

    So, video game reviews? I see Collider is intending to be another CraveOnline site. Good luck with that! This diehard movie fan will begin looking for the next appropriately useful movie spot.

  • Yellowismyfavcolor

    Well I was disappointed in what they did with the Characters….I liked the new pierce but I miss the old one too like how he was always ignored…shaundi yeah I liked the upgrade but they changed her way to much….and most of all was gay dying….seriously him shot talking everyone made the games for me….And the clothing and hair options weren’t as great…they kinda gipped us on the storie too the boss died way to fast i like the way you pushed buttons to dodge and stuff but some of the mission were just phone calls and cut sences I seriously dought I’ll buy the fourth one…

  • coley

    After literally counting down the days for the release of this game, I am seriously dissapointed to find that they removed most of what I looked forward to :( although I typically prefer the GOW, Borderlands type of game play SR has always been one of my fav games. I fell in love with part 2 playing it and replaying it several times. On a boring Sunday afternoon while hubby was watching football, I could spend hours driving around, getting my character high, messing with strippers at the strip club, changing my being, tatts and clothes, up dating my crib. But in SR3 non of these idle time options seem to b available, the city is boring so far everything pretty much seems the same street after street. There doesn’t appear to b near as many stores, and no jewelry stores at all :( no more weed or alcohol, and even the strippers seem to have vanished. The septic avenger is MIA and so far I don’t see a way to customize my crib. And freckle bitches is gone… I had hoped that part 3 would be more edgy, I was hoping my character could b full on nude if so desired, after all there is existing nudity in other games so why not? I was looking forward to getting my character high and driving blurred through the city, I was looking forward to lap dances from some strippers. I can’t believe im saying this after years of supporting SR while Hubby praised ETA, im actually looking forward to release of GTA5 hopefully they didn’t forget what made them fun to play in the first place. Oh well enjoy the game is still fun and offers hours n hours of entertainment so its not a waists of money, however if u haven’t bought it yet, u might want to wait to catch a used copy in a month or so for less money…

  • mitchell

    I DISSAGREE with every one of you people. all you guys do is wait for a game to come out. pick every single bad thing the creators did and bad mouth them on everything they didnt do to please you selifsh children, let me begin this defence of SR3 by saying that there is NO game on the planet that lets you fly a helicopter to a zombie island call in a reper drone and go crazy when ever you want to. with that single sentence i would kindly like to say morons. secendly, the new people in the game means… a new game? why would you want to play a game you already played. the story continues years later when your gang is infamos for what you did in the past. gat dyeing was tragic i know. but it feeds the story harder beacuse now you wonder how the saints will go on without him. yea dua there all different. this isnt peter pan land where we all live forever and dont age. they added new choppers. better weapons, more cars. a f****** tank and a jet that transforms. if they gave any more then they did too much. i stay loyal to a game that continues to let me run around in a kitty suit with a chainsaw. your points are heard but i sign off by saing infinit respect for 3rd street and by saing the more famous words. “saints row bitches”

  • Sapphire

    Wait for a game…pay plenty of cash for them….then turn out not so great…YES i think we have good reason to complain.
    It would have been GREAT, but the alcohol option is was actualy fun when you werent on missions, to drive around like that with something to do.. and thinking the NEW saints row, would have amped that up a bit too.. that was a let down. Anyone else notice how customizing character, you arent able to fix their hieght? my chic looked like a amazon : /

  • darci

    this is actually the first time I’ve sat down and played a Saints Row game for more than a couple minutes, the first one was clunky to me so I never tried it again, but I heard a bunch of good reviews and so far it hasn’t disappointed…game is lots of fun and it does a great job of setting environment, San Andreas was probably the last game like this that really impressed me this much with it’s ‘mood’

    one of the biggest thing is the radio stations, just like San Andreas, it totally really is a nice addition to the setting, I especially liked the inclusion “Riot Rhythm” by Sleigh Bells, “CLUB” by MNDR, and “A City In Florida” by Deadmau5

    • David

      All of these negative reviews are because people are comparing Saints Row 3 to 1,2, and other games that are simallar.
      Look at it like this for a change: Compare the first Saints Row to GTA4. Saints Row looks like a peice of shit doesn’t it?, but most of us played and enjoyed Saints Row when we haven’t compared it yet. Now look at Saints Row 3 without comparing, it’s a pretty badass game just like 1 and 2.

      I liked all of the changes. I didn’t enjoy the activites from Saints Row 2 or 3, but they are still fun and amusing for a while. I will only say one negative response. Why didn’t Gat die in a badass way. He is killed by a french old man that you kill easily. I was sort of hoping Gat somehow survived the plane crash, because that was a terrible way to kill the only guy who is on your characters level of kills, skills, crazzyness, badassness, and do I need to go on. At least theres still Zombie Gat, they should have zombie Lin and zombie Carlos come back so you can cruize with all your dead friends.

  • G

    this is my GOTY

  • Virtualist

    I agree with you Sir.
    I love the first and second game.
    The third is really disappointing.
    Dildos and wacky things will get boring pretty fast.
    But a great story last forever IMO.
    Remember when Aisha and Carlos died, then The Boss killed Julius in the SR2?
    And now think about Johnny Gat’s death in the third.
    Oh God, I’m really really pissed.
    I hope the 4 will be back to its root once again.
    The good old Saints Row which we love.

  • Mike

    I stopped reading this crappy review when you called the jets a TKOL. If your going to write a review get the damn video game logic right. It’s VTOL idiot. Don’t review a game if you don’t even know the basic names for the vehicles used in the game.

  • Mike

    One other thing I forgot to add. It’s not called imitation station it’s initiation station. Why don’t you leave the video game reviews to the professionals because you obviously only played this game for maybe 5 minutes and then thought you could make a game review.

    • Matt

      its called a TYPO this guy is right sr3 was the biggest let down of the year they ruined the plane controls making it to easy the upgrades are rubbish and the story is shallow most people got sucked into the hype i made that mistake too i got bored after 5 days saints row 2 is better and more time consuming

      • Mike

        I’m not saying sr3 is funner than sr2 because it definatly wasn’t. But none of that was a typo at all. He completely got the facts wrong and I don’t see how to you typo vtol with TKOL when there isn’t a k in there. Same with imitation and initiation. He just didn’t have his facts straight. I do agree though sr3 was a lot more boring that sr2 .

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  • Twilightmare

    Is it just me, or is this place full of angry faboy kids?