One of the problems with describing things that happen in Saints Row the Third is that everything you write just starts to sound like a demented Mad Lib. The green man in the gimp suit hit the luchador gang member in the crotch with an anime squid cannon. And we swear we’re not making any of that up.
As in the previous games, you play as the leader of the Saints, a purple clad gang looking to take over the city by crushing rival gangs, cops and anyone else who gets in their way. Saints Row 2 ended with the gang taking over the city of Stillwater and making themselves superstars in the process. The Saints are now as much a brand as a gang, hocking sponsored bobbleheads and energy drinks to the public.
After a bank heist gone wrong, the Saints find themselves in Steelport, butting heads with a local crime group known as the Syndicate. From there it’s the classic rise to power story, as you take out the rival gangs, and eventually a paramilitary force, one by one. As far as story goes, SR3 isn’t reinventing the wheel, but the dialogue between the characters is consistently hilarious. The game is packed with in-jokes, meta humor and constantly swerves into almost surreal territory.
Usually, the problem with giving the player the best weapons and vehicles in a game immediately is that they won’t have anything to look forward to. SR3 overcomes that issue by constantly setting the bar ever higher in terms of fun, insanity and unpredictability. Getting a rocket launcher in GTA was a big deal because it usually only showed up later in the game and in limited quantities. Getting a rocket launcher in SR3 is like finding a dollar on the side walk, cool, but not exciting, because in the world of SR3, rocket launchers are only the tip of the iceberg.
As with most sandbox games, the sandbox itself is the city, but the toys are the vehicles and the weapons. SR3’s weapons start off innocently enough with the standard pistols, SMGs and shotguns, but before long it’s UAV drones, hover bikes and meg- uh I mean “Cyber” Busters.
The self described “Awesome button” is just that, a button that makes all of your moves more ridiculous. While it’s technically just the sprint button, it speeds up actions like stealing a car or attacking an enemy, making the little things faster and more exciting. In fact one of the more fun things about SR3 is how between taking human shields and hitting enemies in the crotch, you can actually do a lot of damage with melee attacks in this game. Sprint towards an enemy and attack, and you’ll perform running DDTs and other moves that leave the enemy knocked down. Running into a room full of armed goons and meleeing everyone to death is endlessly entertaining.
One of the biggest complaints people have about sandbox games is that when playing actual missions it’s all essentially variations on “drive to this point on your GPS and kill this guy”. While that remains the nature of the sandbox beast, SR3 does its best to swerve violently off the path of what you expect.
One mission finds you trying to drive a car smoothly with a tiger in the passenger seat batting at you, while another has you travelling the city in a hover jet, dogfighting other hover jets and taking out tanks with your heat ray. Volition really manages to break the mold with some of their later missions, notably "http://decker.die", a mission so insanely creative and funny that it single handedly makes the game worth playing. We won’t spoil it, but it takes place inside a computer, so be prepared for anything.
Like any good sandbox game, SR3 includes a bunch of optional side missions to pad out the roughly 13 hour campaign. While some of the side missions, like Escort and Trafficking are a little dull, the vast majority of them are a blast. Mayhem, Trailblazer, and Heli Assault are loaded with big explosions and destruction, while classics like Insurance Fraud have your character hurling themselves into traffic while ragdolling into as many other cars as possible. The much touted "Professor Genki's Super Ethical Reality Climax" is particularly fun.
Many players were a little saddened to see the lack of customization options in GTA IV, and for them SR3 will be a welcome change of pace. Your character is fully customizable and can be completely changed at plastic surgeons located around the city whenever you want. Want a 400 pound metallic blue drag queen in a catsuit with Russian accent to be your main character? Go for it. Created characters can then be shared and swapped online via the game's community functionality.
Your vehicles can also be upgraded and fully customized, and best of all the game automatically saves them to your garage, meaning that if you accidentally drop your creation into the ocean, you can still get it back. Unlike GTA IV, SR's driving is totally unrealistic, and as a result, totally fun. Crib customization is also available, though if you’re playing SR3, interior design is probably quite low on the list of things you’ll want to do.