”Steelport is like Bangkok’s abusive father.”
Saints Row: The Third takes place in the City of Steelport, rather than the first two games’ hometown of Stilwater, Michigan. You will immediately notice humongous towers of intricately shaped steel, tons of neon lights, and a wasteland of abandoned industry. Besides the urban decay and crime, the city itself is really neat and I could only wish it actually existed. It’s described as one of the toughest cities in the United States, so much so that halfway through the game the U.S. military will invade with their best weapons and impose martial law. This isn’t a spoiler, mind you, as it’s been advertised endlessly in gameplay videos and promotional art.
Eventually, the Special Tactical Anti-Gang unit, or STAG, will swoop in with a humongous aircraft carrier, laser weaponry, transformer VTOLs, and state-of-the-art tanks to put a stop to your shenanigans. It’s at this point that the game takes a very sharp turn from urban, ghetto warfare to pure sci-fi, and I absolutely love it. The futuristic and fantastical weapons open so many new avenues of gameplay, from a Sonic Blaster that behaves a lot like Half-Life 2
’s gravity gun on the push setting to UAV airstrikes, SR3 never ceases to give you an endless variety of toys to kill things.
And then you have some weapons that are just downright ridiculous. The “Penetrator” is a long purple dildo on a stick that you whack people with, and the “Fart in a Jar” is basically a stun grenade. You can even remotely control NPC vehicles and make them wreak havoc on your behalf. My favorite, though, is a bazooka that launches mind-controlling squids that will turn foes into friends before exploding and killing them. These little creatures are absurdly cute and will apologize to your enemies for what they’re doing or give off a little Pillsbury Doughboy-like laugh.
Scattered throughout the SR3 game world are optional activities for you to take part in, ranging from causing as much monetary expense to the city in a tank in the allotted time to fighting through a Japanese game show death arena (“Professor Genki’s Super Ethical Reality Climax”). There are also challenges and achievements to complete or unlock, such as surviving wave after wave of enemy forces, streaking and shocking people with your nudity, surfing on top of cars, and a seemingly endless array of vehicular stunts to attempt.
Compared to other sandbox games, Saints Row: The Third
is very smooth and responsive, with such accurate and deadly gunplay that it’s practically bordering on third-person shooter territory. Unfortunately, there is still some overbearing auto-aiming to deal with, and the game isn’t quite as fast when it comes to moving the camera as a full-blown shooter, but it’s certainly the best of any GTA derivative. The AI is semi-intelligent – they will duck out of your way, hide behind cover, rush you, or flank you -- but like most games in the genre, they won’t be impressing anyone. Consequently, your “homies” or friendly NPCs are pretty useless, serving only to die endlessly and pester you for revives.