Saints Row: The Third is a top-notch AAA experience, and a worthy sequel to Saints Row 2. Does it manage to surpass it’s predecessor, or does it get bogged down in the over-the-top ridiculousness of the Third Street Saints?
One thing’s for sure, this game was a fun, streamlined experience. It’s clear the designers listened to player feedback from SR2, as many of the tiny annoyances that cropped up in SR2 have been completely eliminated. That means no more instant-ragdoll frustration, more checkpoints, a more streamlined story, and more inter-character dialog.
In terms of making SR3 a fun experience, this game is a rousing success. Right off the bat you’re thrown into a large, vibrant city full of activities and hidden collectibles. There’s a fun recurring hollywood theme (and one of the DLC’s exclusively deals with the hollywood blockbuster angle), as well as an over-the-top wrestling story-arc that’s well executed.
The graphics have been kicked up a notch, and my aging gaming system is struggling to keep up. It just barely eeks out a playable 30fps on my current (albeit quite aging) rig.
The engine itself seems to have gotten an overhaul as well. Welcome additions include better map management, auto-respawn (for collisions that leave you stuck under a car), and the ability to record a movie of gameplay at any time.
As usual, the game is split up between missions that further the story and side-activities that earn you guns, cash, and property.
Respect is still a large factor in the game, but I never found myself unable to play a mission because “you don’t have enough respect to play this mission.” This was a welcome gameplay balancing. Honestly, if you don’t want to pad the length of a game with mini-games that’s your prerogative. Sometimes you just want to experience a story. SR3 lets you get back to the story at your leisure.
The vehicles have gotten a few significant upgrades, not the least of which are rocket-powered flying craft (like my favorite, the ‘Salem’ flying broomstick). Yes, you can literally take a broomstick up to the heavens and rain down fury from above as you fall down towards earth in a blaze of glory.
While there are still a significant number of minigames, there feels like there are fewer storyline missions than in SR2. I managed to finish SR3 in about a month of casual play (20-30 hours) alongside the absolute avalanche of time that Super Mario 3d World commanded. This is a bit less time than I spent on SR2 or the original Saints Row, and It feels like this is due to having fewer storyline missions.
All your old friends are back though, and the supporting cast is as strong as ever. Dr. Genki makes another fun set of appearances, and there are plenty of new homies to be recruited to the cause.
While the story has taken a slight hit, it’s also been streamlined significantly. No longer is your city divided up into three areas, each representing a gang (and homie) that will occupy your time in that region. Now you simply call up your homies for missions, and advance the story. Some homies will have a focus on a specific rival gang, but you’ll still get plenty of chance to play with your favorite Saints Row homies vs any of the rival gangs.
That’s really the main selling point of any of the Saints Row series for me, the continuation of the (quite engaging) storyline that was started in the original Saints Row. You’re always left wondering how crazy things are going to get, whether it’s rolling a giant yarn-ball across traffic or speeding through tanks on a flaming ATV.
This also marks the beginning of the superpowered aspect of the Saints Row series. Three has you guzzling tainted Saints Row cola for super-speed, as well has diving into a mini-matrix for cyberspace missions. It’s a precursor to the super-powered cyber madness of SR4, but it doesn’t feel out of place in the world of SR3.
In the end, SR3 is an excellent experience and well worth your time. It can often be purchased for ~7$ on flash-sales (or is included free with the purchase of Saints Row 4 at many locations.) At this price point, you’re getting a fun, streamlined open world action game hell-bent on having fun. Who wouldn’t want that?
I rate Saints Row: The Third a very respectable 89/100. It’s an improvement upon Saints Row 2 in many ways, but doesn’t significantly raise the already high bar for the series.