Leveling up, ganging up
As in previous Saints Row games, performing stunts, killing enemies and generally being a jerk earns you respect which lets you level up. Perks and abilities become available for purchase from your in-game phone as you level up, letting you do simple things like taking less damage, all the way to being able to call a homie to come deliver you a tank or wipe your wanted rating. Weapons can also be upgraded via cash and offer huge bonuses, it’s a classic Saints Row move that a fully upgraded disorienting flashbang grenade becomes a literal “Fart in a Jar”.
The perks get more and more drastic as you level up, so that by the time you’ve completed the main game you’ll be able to cheat with a simple phone call. Of course for those of you too impatient for even that, the game has the standard cheat codes available as well. A lot of the late game content really is worth earning though. For example:
In addition to the endless kind of chaotic fun you can have just messing around in a sandbox game, SR3 provides drop in drop out co-op in the campaign, and Whored mode for gamers looking for multiplayer options. Some of the missions we played in the campaign were different during co-op, adding additional elements to the mission exclusively for the second player.
Whored Mode is a traditional hoard co-op mode where you fend off waves of attacking enemies with (or without) the help of some friends. And by “fend off attacking enemies” I mean you whack strippers and BDSM gimps with a purple dildo bat and shoot furries with a tank. Note that the game requires an online pass for these modes, so if you buy the game used be prepared to shell out a few bucks.
A Gangster’s Paradise?
While some of the character’s face models are still a bit homely, Saints Row has never looked better. The cartoony style makes ridiculous things seem possible, while at the same time keeping the game’s Itchy and Scratchy level of violence more funny than offensive. The framerate is also impressive, running smoothly even in the middle of enormous 10 car explosions and flamethrowers. We played the game on both consoles and the PC and experienced no crashes or bugs. The game actually automatically teleports you if you ever get stuck in an object or the trapped somewhere on the map, which is a nice touch.
SR3’s only substantial flaw is that the city of Steelport isn’t terribly interesting. It’s a big industrial town with a few residential areas and lots of big neon lights and skyscrapers. It doesn’t look bad, but we can’t wait for Volition to expand the next game into more diverse territory.
Saints Row has always been seen as something of an also-ran, but The Third finally says, in no uncertain terms, that it’s just as big and even more fun than its more serious competition. Some might be tempted to dismiss the game because of its extreme wackiness, but know that at its core, the game is incredibly well crafted and ceaselessly fun. While the comedies typically lose out to the dramas come awards time, none of it changes the fact that Saints Row: The Third is one of the best games of the year, and given this year’s competition, that’s no small compliment.
Is it better than...
For those who skipped straight to the end
Saints Row: The Third is the complete realization of everything this franchise has set out to do. Yes it's ludicrous and lewd, but it's also a joy to play, a streamlined sandbox that hooks the fun directly into your veins.