Saints Row The Third Xbox 360 Review
Helped by the lure of constant progression and improvement, these slower sections aren’t terrible enough to ruin the overall experience. With a host of character and weapon upgrades, buildings and cars to obtain, and the ability to customise gang members’ behaviour and appearance, the desire to keep playing remains.
Which is useful, as the story isn’t particularly engaging, mainly because there isn’t a single likeable character. Sure, there are funny ones, such as the pimp who always talks through an auto-tune voicebox, but there’s no one with whom you can empathise, making it hard to give a toss about what happens to any of them. Combine that with the sheer ridiculousness of it all and Saints Row: The Third’s narrative is vapid and shallow.
Note the use of both ladies in frilly corsets and military helicopters
Of course it’s supposed to be silly, but covering real world topics such as sex trafficking and drug addiction with such recklessness grates quickly. These subjects can be the subject of comedy, but having an achievement after kidnapping prostitutes called ‘Breaking them in’, takes it a bit far. That’s not to say that all the humour misses the mark, we laughed out loud on more than one occasion and (sorry to keep coming back to it) we’ll admit to enjoying bludgeoning people to death with a dildo.
The main problem with the more unsavoury parts of the game is that Saints Row holds a mirror up to the uglier parts of society and says precisely nothing about it. It’s an 18-rated game, so this shouldn’t matter, but a lot of parents don’t pay attention to game ratings, so it kind of does.
A specific example of this is the radio stations you can hear when driving. GTA has some brilliant satirical talk radio shows that wittily reflect on the state of modern America. In Saints Row: The Third, people chat about topics such as masturbation and bestiality. It's not exactly enlightening stuff, but sure to be comedy gold for the teenage boys who aren’t technically allowed to play this game.
The selection of radio music is good though, with loads of licensed tracks from different genres; music during missions also adds to the overall experience, sometimes in unexpected ways. There’s a rescue mission set to Bonnie Tyler’s Holding out for a Hero, for example, and that’s guaranteed to make you grin. Not all the use of music is as inspired though, and the less that’s said about one cringe-worthy moment with two characters singing along to Wrong Way by Sublime, the better.
Drive around, see the sights
Strangely, the online element has been stripped down from Saints Row 2 and none of the competitive modes make an appearance. The developers – Volition
– say this is because of a focus on the co-operative mode, which is fair enough, but the competitive modes were a lot of fun and it’s sad to see them go.
In their place is a bog-standard wave-defence game called Whored mode (see what they did there?). This is fun for a bit, but it feels like a waste of the possibilities afforded by a sandbox environment, especially as only two people can play together. Co-operative mode sees the second player join in the main story, getting to keep any money and respect earned. It’s good to see some missions play differently, with the second player taking on new responsibilities, making co-op feel more than just a tacked on afterthought.
So, in spite of Saints Row: The Third’s propensity for vulgarity and refusal to do anything truly innovative for the sandbox genre, it has fun elements. The city itself has a gloriously seedy personality, driving is fun and co-op works well. However, the special weapons get revealed too early, meaning there’s limited novelty to the last two-thirds of the game, and it’s fairly easy due to limited AI and an admittedly excellent control system (at least on the Xbox 360 version we played).
The pacing does slow at points, undermining the constant destructive anarchy that the game strives to achieve to some extent, but there’s loads to see and do. If you think you can handle, or enjoy, the crass tone and humour, then you’ll have a blast with this; if not, best avoid it. Also, did we mention the dildo?