If the open-world action game genre were to celebrate Thanksgiving, there’s no doubt who would be seated at the head of the table: Grand Theft Auto, the grand-daddy of them all. To either side would be all of his offspring -- some successful and others lost in the shadow of their elder -- but off in the background, you’d find Saints Row, playing with the kids and knocking things over. First released as an Xbox 360 exclusive in 2006, the original Saints Row was a great success, despite being considered a straight-up GTA clone. But as GTA aged, it became more mature, more story-driven, and much more serious. At the same time, Saints Row has understood its rather different role in the universe and wholly embraced it. The Third is the result – a rebellious game that refuses to act normal and does everything in its power to make you giggle gleefully like a child.
My first experience with Saints Row
began with the PC port of SR2. It was one of the worst ports I’ve ever played, including atrocious controls, terrible performance, mediocre graphics, and a collection of bugs that would make any entomologist faint… And I loved every second of it. The game not only epitomized the concept of fun but had some of the most hilarious and likable characters in gaming. The city of Stilwater was an awesome setting, with much to see and tons to do. The game was just oozing in content and replayability.
After that, Volition, Inc. created another game that elevated the concept of nonstop fun: Red Faction: Guerilla
. The entire point of the game was to indiscriminately destroy everything and lead a rebellion on Mars by conquering territory in an open-world setting. It was easily one of the most fun games I’ve ever played because I could do anything I wanted and unleash my repressed insanity. Saints Row: The Third
takes this idea, rolls it up and uses it to snort a few kilos of cocaine, then massacres boardroom logic in favor of giving you, the player, the ability to beat the bejesus out of pedestrians with a giant dildo.
The point of SR is to lead your gang, the Third Street Saints, to supremacy over the city’s rival gangs. You do this by buying property, murdering enemy gang members, completing missions, and participating in various activities throughout the city to earn both money and respect. In SR3, respect is essentially the equivalent of experience points in other games, unlocking new upgrades for you to spend money on. These upgrades grant you everything from the ability to call in vehicles and backup to increasing your health and ammunition. The money you accrue will be used in buying and upgrading individual weapons, buying ammunition, upgrading your “crib” or gang headquarters, vehicles, and snatching up real estate.
The story missions in the Saints Row
series have always been campy and bordering on parody of anything and everything. They resemble Hong Kong action films with Hollywood one-liners and will satiate every old-school action flick fan’s heart. The Third
is no exception to this. You will find yourself jumping out of cargo jets, blowing up city blocks with a tank, and just so much more that I don’t want to spoil. In short, the game is less about being a gangster and doing hood rat stuff, and more about being the country’s most-wanted terrorist and deriving joy in being this post-9/11 world’s worst nightmare – without ever giving it so much as a second thought.