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Saints Row: The Third review

Hats on sideways, pants on backwards, we take a trip to Steelport to see if Volition's latest gangsta-opera, Saints Row: The Third is pimp or gimp.

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I'll confess. When I found out that I would be reviewing the latest installment in this buck-wild send-up of 'gangsta' games, there was a bit of eye-rolling. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the first two, but they did little to have me wanting more. Saints Row: The Third promises a bigger, crazier experience, but is it better than its predecessors?

From Saints Row: The Third's opening helicopter bank heist, all the way through to both of its gob-smacking dual-endings, I had an absolute blast. Though a good number of the early missions serve to introduce the host of optional side-mission types, the majority of the campaign missions are grand-scale, multi-objective affairs that span the entire city and culminate in a jaw-dropping, laugh-out-loud set-piece moment. Seeing what the game was going to throw at me next created a strong case of "just one more mission" syndrome.

Best of all, while the main story campaign is plenty fun by itself, you can play through the game cooperatively with two players.

Whereas previous Saints Row games struck me as a bit too crass, The Third's tone is much improved; it's like a big-budget action flick meets vintage MAD magazine in an adult bookstore. The humor is still incredibly low-brow (with weapons including an absurdly-large purple sex toy, for example), but any residual mean-spiritedness is handily trumped by dialed-up-to-eleven ridiculousness. The fact that Killbane--one of the rival gang-leader bosses--is a masked, WWE-style wrestler, says it all.

Fictional host city Steelport's varied islands and locales--which include towering skyscrapers, industrial, and suburban areas--make up a great playground that's far more compelling than the previous setting of Stillwater. And just about everything I did in Steelport earned cash and respect, allowing me to burn through a dizzying list of upgrades and unlockables. The in-game economy, unlike so many other open-world games, remained meaningful throughout my experience. I never felt like I was "too rich." As a result I was primed to explore the side-missions all the more.

While Saints Row has generally been labeled a "GTA clone," it also adds meaningful progression to the genre. For example, the game's GPS feature easily bests Rockstar's efforts. When active, virtual arrows appeared, in racing-game fashion, to direct the next turn en route to the objective. It's an utterly brilliant design choice that allowed me to keep my eyes trained on the game world, instead of a mini-map on the corner of the screen. Driving vehicles takes the arcade approach favoring fun over strict simulation, making it easy to tear up the city streets like a Hollywood stuntman. And some of the game's aircraft are a particular joy to pilot, given their Harrier-like abilities to hover or soar. Not many open-world games can claim to have a variety of such fun, easily accessible vehicles.

Saints Row: The Third is a surprisingly fun ride, and really shouldn't be missed by fans of open-world mayhem. It takes the concept of subtlety, sets it ablaze, stuffs it in a cannon, and then fires it into a pile of blow-up sex dolls while nuking it from orbit. The all-out insanity and variety of the experience far outshines its minor shortcomings. The Third time's the charm, and raucous good fun.


[This Saints Row: The Third review is based on the retail PlayStation 3 and PC versions of the game, provided by THQ.]

From The Chatty

  • reply
    November 14, 2011 11:30 AM

    Jeff Mattas posted a new article, Saints Row: The Third Review.

    Hats on sideways, pants on backwards, we take a trip to Steelport to see if Volition's latest gangsta-opera, Saints Row: The Third is pimp or gimp.

    • reply
      November 14, 2011 11:45 AM

      b( Never played the Saints row series before but i might give this game a try )

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      November 14, 2011 11:53 AM

      Anyone played this yet? How does the combat gameplay stack up against Red Dead Redemption? Which had the best combat gameplay for a GTA-style game.

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        November 14, 2011 7:34 PM

        I'm guessing it's similar to the previous two, which were balls to the wall over the top awesome

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        November 14, 2011 7:49 PM

        Yeah I'd like to know how the cars handle compared to the last two games.

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      November 14, 2011 12:17 PM

      Just a small correction. WWF is no longer WWF. They changed to WWE years ago. Not a big deal though.

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      November 14, 2011 12:28 PM

      Is this a review or a quick look? That nearly said nothing at all about the game.

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        November 14, 2011 12:37 PM

        all you need to read is right here:

        "It takes the concept of subtlety, sets it ablaze, stuffs it in a cannon, and then fires it into a pile of blow-up sex dolls while nuking it from orbit."

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          November 14, 2011 12:49 PM

          I mean, I already pre-ordered because it seems like it's going to be awesome. But this review is basically just a long-hand form of what's written on the back of the box. No talking about sound, controls, gameplay, length; this is some shoddy writing right here.

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            November 14, 2011 7:41 PM

            Almost all of the reviews on Shacknews these days are really short.

            Meh :(

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      November 14, 2011 12:35 PM

      So excited to pick up my pre-order tomorrow.

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      November 14, 2011 12:42 PM

      Does anyone know what time this will unlock on steam?

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        November 14, 2011 12:57 PM

        I'm in CST and Steam tells me it will unlock 9 hours from now so midnight in your location I guess.

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      November 14, 2011 12:42 PM

      i would have expected a bit more talk about the pc ports quality/stability considering the travesty that was the SR2 port. Did you not play enough of the pc version to give an opinion either way?

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        November 14, 2011 12:49 PM

        The majority of this review is based on the PS3 version. PC was played for a handful of co-op missions.

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          November 14, 2011 12:57 PM

          Sooo, does that mean you had no technical issues with the PC version?

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            November 14, 2011 12:59 PM

            Check metacritic. Other review sites are saying that the PC version is the way to go, having been developed in-house and not as a crappy port.

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        November 14, 2011 12:56 PM

        All review sites that touched the PC version indicated that it is the best version to play the game on if you have hardware that's newer than 2005.

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        November 14, 2011 1:13 PM

        RPS has you covered there:

        I am pleased to report that with Volition taking over the PC coding duties for their own game this time out, it runs like an absolutely dream. Well, the pop-up is awful, but I mean, it runs.

        http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/11/14/saints-row-the-third-review/

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          November 14, 2011 1:34 PM

          which means that if you install it to an SSD, it's going to be pure bliss.

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      November 14, 2011 12:44 PM

      The latest bombcast detailed this game quite a bit.
      Auto-tuned pimp character sold me on it.

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      November 14, 2011 12:56 PM

      This is like 3 paragraphs =(

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      November 14, 2011 1:10 PM

      Good review, Jeff.

      While it makes me more curious about this game, the overall juvenile tone (even when coached in hilarious stuff) still has me not terribly interested in the game. I'll have to watch someone play it before making any purchasing decisions, especially with all the other huge AAA games available right now.

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      November 14, 2011 1:13 PM

      MAD magazine in an adult bookstore? Who the hell writes for this website these days? It's awful. MAD magazine has never been adult themed or geared.

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        November 14, 2011 1:17 PM

        thats not what theyre saying. the adult bookstore is WHERE big-budget action flick meets vintage MAD magazine.

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          November 14, 2011 1:21 PM

          I get it now. They're stretching way too hard for an analogy. It'd be easier to just say "It's a big budget action flick with immature adult humor" or something.

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        November 14, 2011 10:25 PM

        I have no idea why people think these two functional retards are funny.

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      November 14, 2011 2:11 PM

      Your Amazon.com order of "Saint's Row: The Third" has shipped!

      yes yes y'all

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        November 14, 2011 7:48 PM

        You mean you didn't get it on the PC? :(

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          November 14, 2011 7:52 PM

          no. its a couch game plus I dont know how well my old 4850 would handle the dildo physics :(

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      November 14, 2011 2:16 PM

      Having never played a GTA or Saints Row game, I'm strangely tempted by this

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      November 14, 2011 2:26 PM

      I am definitely picking this one up may not be for a while yet, too many good games at one time. They need to spread out these releases a little bit more.

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      November 14, 2011 4:06 PM

      Really looking forward to this in Co-Op!

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      November 14, 2011 7:20 PM

      How much time is left until it unlocks in the US?

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      November 14, 2011 8:02 PM

      will this have an online 'free roam' kinda mode where you can connect with a friend(s) and just... do whatever?

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        November 15, 2011 12:43 AM

        The co-op mode is like that. You can do whatever you want or execute missions.

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          November 15, 2011 5:52 AM

          is it still only 2 player coop? 4 player would be hilarious!

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      November 14, 2011 8:24 PM

      ETA 37 minutes!!!

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      November 16, 2011 12:35 PM

      I had a blast playing this last night. Easy to immerse yourself in the universe and just relax.

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      November 16, 2011 12:35 PM

      I had a blast playing this last night. Easy to immerse yourself in the universe and just relax.