Certain games appeal to the “adult kid” in us, I know that sounds like an oxymoron but the truth is some games make us laugh and curse at the same time, some games make juvenile jokes not meant for children. Generally, these games are considered male-oriented because they are loaded with machismo, but I have seen women gamers laughing it up and kicking arse in these types of games just as much as the guys – though they may be a little slower to admit it. GTA 3 is a prime example of this kind of game, it raised a giant uproar for it’s senseless violence and adult themes yet it was the top selling game of 2001. It revolutionized the sandbox game and set a new benchmark, both in rude content and diversity of gameplay. As a result all games called “sandbox” or “open world” would be compared to the very high mark set from then on. In 2006 developer Violation Inc. and publisher THQ created a game called Saints Row which was successful enough to sell two million copies and create a sequel which due to technical issues only sold 400,00 units the first year. As a result it took a while to get Saints Row: The Third out and has brought up the question in many people’s mind: is it better than it’s predecessor?
So you definitely get the feeling that the game is going to be both mature and immature at the same time. Which is good, it is what we have come to expect from these kind of games. You can have all of the above situations executed in a serious game but that would probably lose a lot of the fun factor. Sometimes at the end of the day these themes are really what you need, and what Saint Row definitely shoots for and delivers.
You start out with a lot of character customization as to how he or she looks and you can spend a good deal of time getting lost in just this element of the game. There are plenty of gamers out there that don’t care about this feature and can just randomize and be done with it but for those who plan to invest themselves in the storyline of the game as much as the gameplay taking the little extra time can make the difference between a generic thug or a finely honed avatar.
Whichever way you go with it be assured that eventually you will be able to have fun with this aspect too. If you pre-ordered you start with a very strange but fun mascot costume to get you started as well as the rather generic outfit you get to start with. As time goes by in the game you get to accessorize as much as you want, in fact it earns you more reputation, which lets you unlock more things which can include more accessories. You get the opportunity to make the most bad ass looking character to the most silly looking one and though it doesn’t really effect gameplay except for rep when you are running around just having fun in the open world having on some fun gear can add to it.
Graphics And Atmosphere
The graphics in the game look so good that sometimes they look more like concept art, especially during the cinematics. The shadowing and detail in this game help draw you in even with the third person perspective most of the time and the atmospheric sounds and interactions help keep you in it. You can stand on one spot on the street and watch all kinds of interactions between the different AIs populating the world. This isn’t a new idea, but it is a very important one to execute due to the high standards these kind of games are held up to now. You have to be able to interact with just about any part of the environment but it also has to have the ability to interact without you which gives it the opportunity to earn the Mature 17+ rating all on it’s own without the fun and senseless violence you will undoubtedly unleash upon the games’ world. Between the graphics and the atmosphere, from the sounds of traffic, arguments and distant gunshots on the streets to the muzak in the elevator every part of this game is detailed and thorough just as it needs to be.
The game controls are pretty standard for this type of game, actually the buttons are so similar that they are intuitive and don’t really require any practice to get the hang of. If you played the GTA games this will all seem very familiar in the movements of the characters as well as the controls. There are definite and distinct differences between the Saints game compared to the GTA, but at least the controls are quick to master.
Too Much Like GTA?
Some of the similarities of this game and GTA really can’t be ignored but there is also nothing wrong with that since when you get something right there is nothing wrong with keeping at it. Stealing vehicles is the same, beating up or gunning down people on the street, vehicles are mostly similar to GTA and all this makes it so that you can just jump in and play the game without training. Yet at the same time there are very different mini games than GTA so it is a refreshing change.
There are a whole lot of vehicles of all different types some of them are repeated between different gangs, as are the clothing with mostly a difference in color and each gang’s specialist – some snipers, some martial artists. There are plenty of everyday vehicles such as garbage trucks, semis, event little utility carts.
There are also some of the really strange ones like the one that came with pre-ordering the game that is a cat truck that sucks people into its face grill and fires them out a cannon with a bunch of confetti. I know that sounds made up but here it is in all it’s glory.
The set also came with one of the unique costumes in the game that I used for a while because it was a very strange and unique and just plain silly fun. Some of the mini games and extra content is designed to look like it would fit in with a Japanese game show which is another way that this game goes in it’s own direction. It really tries not to take itself seriously from the crazy weapons to the crazy vehicles, to the silly attacks this game is just darn silly fun.
Even the names of the achievements and missions are all double meaning and the banter is the kind of things guys might say to each other while they razz one another on headsets or on the couch. I laughed just about every minute playing this game and though I remember the wonder of GTA3 and it’s glory, I like that this game decided it was going to give you the third person shooter but was going to make every minute crazy machismo fun. It earns the warning posted earlier but not in the dark way that the warning could mean, it earns it in uncompromising over-the-top action and humor. Sure you get the serious mission when you are piloting a helicopter to cover a hacker friend as she tries to get information to help your gang survive, but you also get a gigantic mountain of a friend who jumps on the top of a hovering jet and starts beating it up to help you escape or a comrade who had a tracheotomy and uses an gold auto-tuner on the end of a cane as a voice amplifier.
Homages And Storyline
Most of the really funny stuff is definitely Mature 17+, so I won’t be dwelling so much on that in this piece, but it takes all those video game moments from over the years and pays homage to them to the point of ridiculous. Instead I will try to point out some of the ways it pays homage that are far more subtle that I can mention without giving away the storyline. There are references to Starship Troopers, HALO, Matrix, TRON, and even some MMOs. Heck, there is a joke that most younger players will probably never get involving text based games that older gamers will be laughing their butts off at.
I love those movies but I don’t remember her in them. It does show an example of how the absurd is combined with the slightly more subtle. It actually makes sense to the storyline and that is something that this game does well, takes a surprisingly versatile storyline that features several twists and turns to make absurdities possible and surprising results come up. It isn’t all linear either, there are certain moments in the game where you have to make decisions and those decisions sometimes have a small branching off and others decide what ending to the game you get. It is so well woven in that there are debates all over the boards discussing which ending seems like the more logical, the “right” one that will show it’s effect if another Saints Row game is made.
The OnLive system has always been great with its Arena that allows you to look at all the different games people are playing and actually watch them play in a spectator mode that allows you to talk to them, cheer them and jeer them while they work their way through a game. OnLive also incorporates it so that if the game can be played co-op you can actually join the game you are watching. So the way OnLive works with Saints Row: The Third is when you sign in at the beginning of a session you can choose to have your campaign “private” or “co-0p” which makes it so that while you play a new player can join you in the game as long as you aren’t in the middle of a mission. If you are they have to wait until you are done with the mission then they can hop into the game with you and do co-op missions. It’s as easy as that! So if you see someone playing and you like their style of play you can jump right into the game with them and if that works out you can friend them and hop into their games no matter what it is as long as you both have it anytime you are both on. It really makes it so that you don’t just have someone you can enjoy a round with and maybe play with later, it makes it so that you can play with them regularly. You can make Brag Clips on OnLive at the hit of a button that records the last 15 seconds of play so if you just can’t stop laughing about what you just did you can share it with the whole OnLive community and give them a good laugh or cheer too. Also OnLive works with the Saints Row website which allows players to not just chat through its community, it also allows you to compare games and meet up with more people.
One More Mode To Mention
There is one last game mode I have to mention but I will be fairly tight lipped about because it really is just best to be experienced. It it called Whored Mode (Hoard) and it is a 30 level survival mode with a greatest hits from the game both weapons and enemies wise. It is one that is fun to play over and over and I can’t recommend it enough, though I do recommend playing it after the game or you will be spoiler-ed on who some of your opponents will be.
Saint’s Row the Third manages to succeed at nearly everything it tries to do, from telling a good story while giving you all the things you love in a open world game and a whole bunch of silly adult fun. It is not for kids, they probably wouldn’t get many of the jokes anyways, but it is a brutally-fun game. Worth owning!
[stream provider=youtube flv=http%3A//www.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3DAqg2PUEyBFA%26feature%3Dplayer_embedded%23%21 img=x:/img.youtube.com/vi/Aqg2PUEyBFA/0.jpg embed=false share=false width=640 height=360 dock=true controlbar=over bandwidth=high autostart=false /]