Saints Row The Third PS3 review

July 2, 2012

/ by Tin Salamunic

Developer(s): Volition
Publisher(s): THQ
Release Date: November 15, 2011
Platform(s): Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC, Cloud (OnLive)

When Saints Row 2 came out in 2008 it was an unapologetically violent, raunchy, profane and outrageously silly genre parody. Some dismissed it as a Grand Theft Auto Clone, but in reality, Saints Row 2 was a unique, mayhem filled, thrill ride that gave us colorful characters, top of the line voice acting and a gritty, Guy Ritchie style storyline. Saints Row 2 had some of the best character and vehicle customization options in the genre and despite the lackluster visuals and unrefined controls; it was my favorite action game of the year.

Saints Row The Third was one of my most anticipated titles of 2011. The trailers promised everything that was great about Saints Row 2, times a hundred. On November 15, 2011 reality sunk in. The sequel was out and like a hurricane it destroyed all my hopes for the sequel and was over before I could scream for help.

The Good
- The first few hours are a blast
- If you can stomach the goofiness, there is a ton of it
- Moments of brilliance

The Bad
- Very underwhelming graphics
- Embarrassing storyline and characters
- Idiotic gimmicks replaced the charm of the series

Saints Row The Third is loud, obnoxious and tasteless. The last game managed to balance the ridiculous with the brilliant, but Volition’s latest outing is a huge disappointment for fans of the series. Gamers unfamiliar with the previous title should immediately stop reading and go play Saints Row 2 in order to understand my bitterness.

Once upon a time, when pimps ruled the world

Since the last game’s events, The Saints have gone from street gangsters to owning a media empire. We see a return of our favorite character Johnny Gat and Shaundi, but neither of them gets the screen time they deserve. The first tutorial mission is a heist gone wrong. The bank tellers start fighting back with military grade weapons and it leads to a chaotic shootout between The Saints and the Stilwater P.D. The Saints end up in jail and you learn about the Syndicate, a criminal organization led by Phillipe Loren, who coincidentally owns the bank you tried to rob and has the police in his pocket. The story then takes you to Steelport, the new city that the Saints will try to take from the Syndicate. Beyond the promising intro, the game becomes duller with each objective. The storyline hangs on a thread throughout the campaign as each mission gushes with overdone dialogue and cheap gimmicks.

In some of the earlier developer interviews, Volition claimed that they would focus on the more ridiculous nature of the franchise, but I never imagined they would take it this far. What you see in the previews is exactly, and unfortunately, all you get. The purple dildo weapon that seemed so funny the first time it was shown in trailers has more character than the rest of the Saints Crew. The developers boasted about the amount of content they would bring into the game, but not only is it ironically smaller, lacking everything that was great about the previous title, it even reuses most of the mini missions from the predecessor. Cheap! Very Cheap!

Been there, done that, please bring back Johnny Gat

For a game that tries so hard to be unique with its vulgar attitude (which I generally don’t mind if done right), Saints Row The Third comes off as extremely repetitive and boring. I am not looking for groundbreaking gameplay elements or graphics, but for charmingly abrasive characters that made the previous game so much fun. This isn’t really a spoiler since it happens in the first mission, but Johnny Gat dies, the one character that would have likely made a difference in this masquerade. The developers couldn’t even keep the goofiness persistent. All exciting missions take place in the first half of the game and you’re left with redundant objectives until the extremely anti climactic finale. The mission structure is dishearteningly conservative, especially when considering the length of the game, which is around 17 hrs (compared to the 30 hours in Saints Row 2).

Ugly, purple duckling

I didn’t expect a graphical masterpiece, but I was hoping for a step up from Saints Row 2. There is minor polish here and there, but considering the entire engine was re built from ground up, the visuals are very underwhelming. My biggest disappointment is the character creator. The character models look bad and the outfits, while large in selection, are goofy and lack any of the customization options from the last game. Little details, such as the ability to mix and match every single item of clothing and the super flexible weight sliders are all gone. Everything is replaced by ridiculously contrived costumes that lose their charm within the first few hours. It’s funny the first time you try on a bondage outfit, but the juvenile humor wears off fast.

The city is big, covered in purple and very empty. After a while, you will feel like you are playing a tech demo of the environment, rather than a finished product. Whether it is a result of laziness or lack of creativity, I’m not sure.

Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang

I didn’t talk much about the gameplay because there is very little to talk about.  It is a bit tighter and more responsive than SaintsRow 2, but a few interesting vehicles and weapons aside, it’s exactly what you would expect from this kind of game. It's your typical, sandbox, third person shooter but it lacks polish and excitement. There is a Tron inspired mission in which you fight your way though a computer program and it’s a glimpse of brilliance that we never see again. There is a really cool jet, called the VTOL that you get to control, but aside from a few missions and fast travel, there is no point in using it. The game gives you a lot of toys to play with, but there isn’t much you can do with them. You see repetitive enemy types that you fight over and over and by the nth hour, it borders extreme boredom.

It’s the end of The Saints as we know them

In a recent article, THQ announced that the originally planned, standalone expansion Saints RowThe Third: Enter The Dominatrix will be incorporated into the next sequel, which carries the unoriginal working title The Next Great Sequel in the Saints Row Franchise.

Saints Row The Third is not a bad game by any means, but it lacks everything that made the series so charming and interesting. If you haven't played any of the previous Saints Row titles, you might get a real kick out of this one, but for everyone else, it pales in comparison to its predecessor. What you’re left with is a party gimmick that’s fun to show off to your friends, but beyond the initial shock value, it falls short of what could have been. If I were giving out rewards, this would receive the Biggest Disappointment of the Year award.

Review by Tin Salamunic

Final Score “Okay” 6.0
Very few improvements over the last Saints Row game. The city feels empty and uninspired and the art style is just plain ugly.
The gameplay is solid but becomes extremely repetitive after a while.
Half the size of Saints Row 2. Almost all mini missions are copied from the previous title. A huge letdown.
Everyone sounds like an idiot. The radio stations are great, but the rest is very unimpressive.

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