While some consider Saint’s Row to be nothing more than a Grand Theft Auto rip-off, those that follow the series can testify that it’s anything but. I’ve had a copy here for the last few days and beyond the obvious argument based around, “It’s an open world crime game”, I can’t see what people are on about. Is BF3 a Call of Duty rip-off because it’s a military shooter? How about Forza and Gran Turismo? Each game should be judged on its own merits and that’s exactly what we’re going to do here.
In Saint’s Row: The Third you have a brand new playground in the form of Steelport, a city under siege from three rival gangs. You and your crew (The Third Street Saints) are tasked with propelling yourselves into the mix and the battle for supremacy. What follows is a series of missions in which you must take out opposing gang members, interrupt their businesses and generally be a nuisance. While I found some of the missions to be a little repetitive (they essentially all boil down to “Go kill such and such”) I can’t say they were boring. You’re constantly on the move and there’s always someone nearby that can be killed in a gruesome manner.
Initial impressions are 50/50. The graphics certainly don’t leave you breathless when you have been playing Battlefield 3 and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations immediately beforehand, but they don’t exactly disappoint either. They’re simply a different style; almost cartoon-ish if you will, as opposed to an attempt at complete photo-realism. Once you’ve adjusted to them, however, they fit the game perfectly as you will quickly realize Saint’s Row 3 isn’t really ‘trying’ to be anything it’s not.
Unfortunately that same lack of effort evidently spilled over into the storyline, as there really isn’t one. Yes, you have to take down rival gangs and so forth, but after a while it doesn’t feel like there’s any point to it all. The characters and inexplicably hilarious dialog are really the only thing carrying the game forward. While I know that many have commented on the poor ending to the game, I won’t. I figured out fairly early on that the story wasn’t really going anywhere and put myself into autopilot in between the missions, as it’s clear that the developers want you to focus on the action and enjoy the game for what it is. To summarize: the storyline seems to have been an afterthought with little purpose other than to give your killing spree’s a little structure, which it does well.
So if it’s not about the storyline, then what else is there to the game? Saint’s Row 3 is out to make you laugh and offer you a good time, all while giving you your recommended daily allowance of destruction, chaos and borderline insanity. From bunnies carrying Rocket Launchers to naked women driving around in 4×4’s, there’s plenty of weird things going on in Steelport to keep you smiling. While playing I thought to myself on multiple occasions that it was all rather like one big episode of Itchy and Scratchy, straight out of The Simpsons – mindless violence. I approve.
The game has stuck with its familiar and well executed third person view, over the shoulder with a cross hair ahead of you. “Don’t fix what isn’t broken”. The controls are smooth, well laid out and rarely cause any problems. There were a few glitches here and there, nothing huge, just minor issues like people walking into each other or not running for their lives as you unload a magazine 6 feet away from them. I did find some vehicles to be a little awkward to control, for example a slight touch of the stick would send me veering off the road and up onto the pavement. Generally speaking though, there wasn’t too much either negative or impressive on this front – just the usual stuff that you would expect from games of this genre.
If you get bored (it can happen after an hour or so) then why not bring a friend into the equation? Saint’s Row: The Third has a very impressive co-op mode that allows you to introduce a friend on the fly. This isn’t just limited to the random destruction bits either, all the missions are designed to accommodate two players. I actually had my girlfriend join in to test it out and over an hour after inviting her to join me, she was still giggling and talking to the Xbox 360 with every round she let off – “Oh you little bugger, come here!”, “Uh oh, now you really ****ed up!” and “Here comes the chu-chu!” (as she fired an RPG at a group of pedestrians) were my favorite quotes. Needless to say, if this game can keep someone whose primary sources of entertainment are either “Sally’s Salon” and “Angry Birds” on iPhone or daytime TV, then it caters to a large audience. Even those you wouldn’t expect.
In case you hadn’t noticed by now, Saint’s Row: The Third isn’t about in-depth storylines, character development and over the top graphics. It’s about pure, uncompromising fun. While we see games like Rage sacrificing everything for the sake of graphics, it’s good to see someone strip games back to their roots and focus purely on the entertainment factor. Don’t get me wrong, eventually it does get dull (how long it takes will depend on how creative your imagination is), but in short bursts this game will provide you with some of the best entertainment you’ll have all year. I truly hope this title does well financially so it sends a message to developers world-wide. We’re not all in it for high-definition this and precision that, some of us just want to crack a smile after a hard day at the office.