Game Rant's John Jacques reviews Saints Row 3.
The Saints are back, and they're branching out from Stilwater: the action is bigger, the moments are bolder, and developer Volition certainly upped the unpredictable zaniness that has become a signature of the series.
Does Saints Row 3 provide the sandbox-style entertainment we've been craving? Read on to find out.
Saints Row 3 starts things off with a bang: bank robberies, bobble heads and kicking through a flying airplane are just some of the things players can expect to do in their first few minutes. Plot-wise, it's up to the player to bring the Saints over to Steelport, a city in which they have no official stake - plus plenty of enemies who don't want them around. It starts up a relatively short time after Saints Row 2, and the gang has marketed themselves into a brand - expect people to ask for autographs in the middle of gunfights. And gamers will love to oblige - because that is by far one of the least crazy things to do in a game which actively tells players to do things from kill hot-dog costumed men to riding a tank through the streets causing destruction for no reason while avoiding laser jets. It's a wonderful thing.
Of course, there's a lot going on at once in Steelport. To help players keep things organized, Volition has included a handy cell phone for the main character - it's not a Niko Bellic styled T-9, but rather a 'touch screen' interface with apps for buying Improvements, calling homies, starting missions, checking the map and playing MP3's. It's a well organized system that's quick and easy to use, meaning most of the player's time is spent on the action rather than trying to get there. And who gamers are, is, of course, up to them: the customization in this game allows gamers to tailor a character to their wants: everything from hairstyles (no matter the gender), outfits, bras, full on dog outfits, voices and even dance moves can be set. Like in the last game, players can pick what their gang members will dress like and which vehicles they can cruise in. Saints as a biker gang? Why not.
Suited man, boxers and a bra, '70s disco stud, whatever - you'll blend in somewhere.
The campaign itself - while a bit shorter than the other Saints - never gets stale. In fact, it keeps up with the antics of the insane things players can do when not on a mission - which, in an experience like this, is incredibly impressive. Throughout the game gamers will be fighting three main gangs: The Morningstar, a European white-collar crime syndicate, the Luchadores, a Mexican wrestling inspired gang headed by the epitime of stereotype, Kilbane, and the Deckers, a neon-glowing cyberpunk gang that eventually takes players to a Tron-like world through the character's subconscious. The majority of missions are full of mostly humorous and non-serious dialogue, though some of the characters seem to have been scripted with least-common-denominator lines and are downright annoying. If players don't distract themselves with activities and exploring, they'll beat the campaign in a relatively short amount of time.
Steelport is full of a variety of people, from rabbit-costumed weirdos to creepy perverts and, for the most part, their AI holds up well. However, as is always the case, there were a few issues with mission AI acting choppy. During some activities, a high-speed chase suddenly became a slow moving turtle as the car players are covering, via helicopter, begins to follow the speed limit, and occasionally stone cold stops in the middle of a chase. Likewise, when covering via sniper rifle, AI opponents don't seem to care that the person beside them just got picked off - no need for cover here.
As fun as the chaos is, Saints has the unfortunate habit of bringing up enemies to easily pick-off with headshots as they seemingly line-up happily in the sites - and even when they do try and avoid getting hit, it seems to be the same side-step animation every time. Thankfully, this usually doesn't last for too long as something ridiculous often stomps in - like an inhumanly large, ogre-type brute who easily shrugs off bullets. The shambling zombies which looked great in previews only bring up repetitive shoot-the-respawn gameplay, which is disappointing considering the potential they brought to the table. Still, they're zombies - what better excuse to test out your IEDs?
From riding with a tiger to shooting apologetic octopi and back again, Saints Row 3 does succeed in providing a fun ride for the majority of the game. Co-Op mode (whether regular gameplay or 'Whored Mode,' a Gears of War 3 spinoff where players face waves of dangerous women) provides a ton of fun - and replayability - for gamers and their respective partners in crime. Players will certainly find a plethora of entertainment in various parts of Saints Row 3, but it's matched by some forced humor which doesn't mesh, stale activities rehashed from prior entries in the series (though Insurance Fraud never gets old!) and some engine as well as AI flaws littered throughout the game.
Saints never takes itself seriously, which at times is fantastic and true to the series, but also brings a few unmemorable characters, jokes and events with it. While it certainly has its share of faults and issues, Saints Row 3 represents a hilarious, entertaining and immensely pleasurable look at over-the-top gang life. For fans of the previous games and new gamers looking for a fun distraction, a visit to Steelport is certainly recommended.
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Saints Row 3 releases for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC on November 15th, 2011.