Sinners and Saints Row: The Third
Monday, December 5, 2011 Leave a comment
Before we get into Saints Row 3, I have talk a little a bit about my experience with the last game. It might sound blasphemous but I actually liked Saints Row 2 better than GTA IV. I had an absolute blast playing it. As I was playing it I would think to myself “Yes! These guys get it. This has everything that I wished GTA IV would be and more.” I don’t play videogames to have realistic experiences. That’s what my front door is for. I play video games as an escape; to let loose and just have fun. That’s an element the last GTA game was sorely missing. There will always be a place in my heart for the GTA series, but SR has managed to carve out its own path.
Saints Row 2 left off with you and your gang sitting on the top of the world. This time the game places you in the city of Steelport. There isn’t too much to say about the city itself, other than that you’ll be working your way from the ground up like in previous games. I understand that you can’t just start off controlling everything because that just defeats the purpose of the game. However, I found it extremely jarring to one minute be partaking in some epic missions, and the next shuttling around hoes like I did 10 years ago in GTA III.
I actually found SR2’s story to be quite enjoyable. It was simple: rag-tag gang of street thugs pitted against rival gangs, and an evil corporation. I found SR3’s story much less compelling at first. This time you’re pitted against a mysterious syndicate a la the Legion of Doom, or any other cliché villainous organization. Some of the characters were a little too wacky for my liking, but as I played more and more, I began not to care. As the story progresses, you really get to learn more about them, and it doesn’t really matter how crazy they are. Their personalities are developed and everything makes a strange sort of sense.
I know people don’t play these games for the story, and honestly, the story here is little more than a thinly veiled excuse to let you run loose in a sandbox with a bunch of awesome toys. It’s clear the game’s philosophy is to turn everything to “11” when it comes to over-the-top ridiculousness.
There’s something kind of awesome about driving around in a car, sucking people up and shooting them out of a cannon while Between the Buried and Me plays in the background. The same can be said for dropkicking an unsuspecting pedestrian, delivering a clothesline , or simply giving them a swift kick in the nuts. In the GTA games I’m sure we’ve all at one point in time jumped on the hood of a car, and allowed the driver to take us on a tour of the city. Imagine my surprise when I did the same thing in SR3 and discovered a Tony Hawk-like minigame where you actually have to maintain your balance using a meter, and can even do a handstand. Car Surfing! It’s these fun little treats that really give the game its personality.
There’s even a purple dildo that you can use as a melee weapon. My first reaction: “Eh, I’ve seen this done before. In fact I’ve seen the exact same thing in GTA.” However it’s now become my favorite weapon. I’d love to hear about the programming and physics involved in making the purple dildo flop around. They’ve made it “bigger and better.” It’s attached to the handle of a baseball bat, and it delivers a satisfying “oomph.” There’s some serious weight behind this thing, and it’s a lot of fun running around town smacking people with it.
There’s a ton of stuff to do, upgrade, and customize, and all of it is aimed at pleasing you, the gamer. There are a myriad of customization options for you, your vehicles, and your gang. These range from wardrobe choices, tattoos, haircuts, voices, etc. You can even change gender during the game. It’s all about you.
I didn’t expect to like the humor at first. It’s expected that the humor will be crass, but it somehow never ends up coming across as obnoxious. Some moments are downright, laugh-out-loud hilarious. There were some missions where I couldn’t help but have a big grin on my face. The game has a lot of personality, and can be quite endearing. The writing is humorous, and even nerdy at times. There are both obvious and unexpectedly subtle jokes. You would expect it to be a run-of-the-mill, mediocre kind of game, but it seems like there was a lot of care put into its creation. I ran into surprisingly few bugs/oddities/graphical glitches. The game overall isn’t very pretty, but it’s passable.
It’s worth noting that there are some good songs on here, songs that for some reason I can’t ever imagine appearing in a GTA game. You’ll find tracks from bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan, The Black Dahlia Murder and Deftones. My favorite radio stations are the metal one and the cheesy pop one. There are several wonderfully placed musical moments that I will not spoil here.
The Saints Row franchise is the spiritual successor to GTA: San Andreas, while GTA IV was both a literal and figurative rebirth of the series (You start off in Liberty City, the one also featured in GTA III). GTA IV aims to give you a gritty and realistic city along with an emotional story. SR3 aims to give you an exaggerated, cartoon world that also serves as your plaything. With the GTA series moving in a more realistic direction, I think there’s enough room for these franchises to coexist.
With each new iteration in a series, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect some sort of progression. There isn’t a whole lot of progression from the last game, but at the end of the day this is a fun and enjoyable game. There can only be one original, but SR3 does a damn good job in achieving what it sets out to do.