Playingis much like navigating any GTA game… only with roughly 145% more random craziness and enough gratuitous nudity to choke an elephant. And it’s damn hard to choke an elephant. I tried it once. I had to tie its trunk in knots before the fucking thing finally collapsed from lack of air. See what I mean about random craziness? I have no idea why I just shared that totally random yet amusing anecdote from my misspent youth in the wild savanna of Africa. Blame the game. Or maybe Brandy spiked my monkey testies…
Saints Row takes place in and around the city of Stillwater. Exploration is a large part of the experience, you’ll want to check out every nook and cranny for various rewards. Completing plot-related missions involves expanding your gang’s sphere of influence. You’ll start off humbly enough headquartered in Shaundi’s ex’ roach motel apartment, where the player is first introduced to many of the game’s main menus. In each hideout, you’ll find the tools to customize your avatar or purchase upgrades for your abilities and such.
If you want to move on up to swankier digs, you’ll have to takeover enemy territory. This means going outside and kicking ass. Taking over rival strongholds, engaging in shootouts on the open streets called Flashpoints and a variety of other plot-related and side-quests mini games will earn you progress toward taking over a territory. Combat in Saints Row, much like the game itself, is hardly taxing on the old brainpan. Point and shoot pretty much covers it, a very generous health recovery system makes the whole thing relatively painless. Saints Row is not a hard game to finish and a harder difficulty would have slowed down the pace at which the major set pieces and gags come at the player.
You’ll never lack for something to do in this game, whether you’re rushing through the main story or looking for a way to kill a few minutes (or a few pedestrians), Saints Row has you covered. There’s a good 20 hours of fun in here, a lot more if you take the time to gawk at every exposed wiener in the game.
While Saints Row: The Third isn’t a bad looking game, per say, it’s a case of overflowing imagination trumping quality. There’s a cartoonish, almost anime-like aspect to the graphics that serves the game well. A more powerful graphics engine would probably have lessened the overall goofiness that Saints Row aims for. If you’re too busy staring at the graphics, you might miss half a dozen bad puns.
That being said, Saints Row does not look like a game released at the tail end of 2011. There are massive drawbacks to its limited engine. Draw distance is generally poor, NPCs have very little in the way of unique animations and the game repeats many textures and whole buildings over and over again. This is a shame since open-world games need to make the player invest in hours and hours of exploration. If the scenery is been-there-done-that, what’s the point?
The cartoon philosophy extends to the violence. Blood spurts and gunplay is playfully over the top to the point of feeling neutered. This is the kind of violence that elicits giggles from 5 year olds. To its credit, Saints Row really knows how to dress its cast. There’s such a wide range of clothing to choose from in Saints Row that I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that the game designers moonlight as fashion experts in their down time. I half expected J. Alexander of America’s Next Top Model to step right in the middle of a gunfight to give your crew lessons on how to better strut their stuff in their stylin’ outfits.
The only thing Saints Row truly, inarguably excels at is voice acting. There is a ton of dialog, most of it at least mildly witty, to listen to and the voice cast does an admirable job of delivering their lines with appropriate gusto. Saints Row’s script is often laugh-out-loud funny and bad voice actors would have ruined the tone. Kudos to the cast for making me chuckle despite myself on more than one occasion.
The Verdict: [rating:3]
Look, over the past few months I’ve played entries in the Uncharted, Deus Ex, Gears Of War, Assassin’s Creed, and Elder Scrolls franchises. My cup of gaming runneth over with quality products. Judged against such competition, of course Saints Row comes up short. However, having recently been taken off my Skyrim IV drip, I needed something dumb, light and entertaining to keep me from relapsing. Saints Row is a pleasant dose of codeine: not as addictive as heroin but you’ll have a goofy look on your face throughout the whole trip.
Your faithful reviewer,