Yes, there is a giant purple dong on the front page of Icrontic. If that doesn’t get you wondering, then you’re dead inside. Only this game could get our editor to allow such a travesty. Saints Row the Third is, if nothing else, an exercise in pushing boundaries.
If you’ve watched any of the cherished memories videos we’ve been running, you already know that this game is absolutely over-the-top mayhem at its worst, and crazy OMGWTFBBQ moments at its best. This game makes Grand Theft Auto …well, boring.
Do we jump straight to the dildo baseball bats, people cannons, or ‘sex appeal’ slider on the character creation screen? Maybe we should just ease into the whole thing. Strap in.
The Saints of Stilwater
Up to this point, the criminal gang affectionately known as The Saints are the Kings of Stilwater. They have their own branded energy drinks, merchandise, movie deals, terrible soaps—they’re criminal celebrities. This game starts you off in Steelport, though—unfamiliar turf for the Saints. Their celebrity status follows them in, but certainly doesn’t do them any favors in the new City of Sin. A variety of rival ‘Syndicate’ gangs—the Deckers, the Morningstar, and the Luchadores—control most of the city’s eight islands. As you progress through the game, you begin to take over parts of the rival turf in a variety of ways.
The simplest and most straightforward way to take over territory revolves around buying up property and stores on the map. Stores that have been purchased will give you a slight discount for your shopping adventures—but it won’t matter, there are enough crazy activities in game to keep your pocketbook lined. Gang operations are sprinkled across the city as well, which involve waves of gang reinforcements that must be removed before the territory can be taken.
Come out and play-ee-ay
By far, though, the most entertaining way to control the city is by participating in the activities you can play around with. Professor Genki’s Super Ethical Reality Climax is the weirdest gameshow you’ll ever participate in. It’s Steelport’s popular reality TV show, which takes a page from a Japanese game show and a dash of The Running Man and combines them into the oddest three minutes of play-by-play announcing you’ll hear on TV. But hey, you aren’t limited to just playing on a fictional game show.
Tank Mayhem missions are incredibly fun. As you can imagine, they put you in a tank (surprise!) and kindly ask that you cause a given dollar amount of damage to the surrounding city. Trailblazing will have you race from point A to point B, all while blowing up as many passing motorists as you can to earn bonus time and keep the race going. Guardian Angel puts you up on high with a .50 caliber sniper rifle to provide overwatch for your homies—or was that a chopper and rocket launcher?… I can’t remember. Tiger Escort is… well it sums up the game very well. You’re put in a car with an angry tiger. Yeah. Except, this tiger will only be calm if you drive extremely fast. It’ll get very angry very quickly if you bump into things as you scream through Steelport. Buckle up.
Last, but certainly not least, my favorite activity of the bunch: Insurance Fraud. I seriously am in tears every time I play this game. The rules are simple: throw yourself into traffic and rack up as many medical bills as possible by bouncing between passing cars, buildings, overpasses, planes, etc. Yeah, I don’t even… There are a few other activities that are your traditional go here, pick up this, return here (in the form of prostitutes) but those just aren’t as fun as the above.
Luckily, none of the activities really get old—the variety of them all really helps keep each one fresh and unique.With every completed activity comes respect, which is just as valuable as cash. Upgrades on your in-game mobile phone can be purchased for a variety of character boosts. Abilities include things like unlimited sprint, quicker health regeneration and reloads, gang recruitment for added firepower, increased hourly income—oh, and a blow-up doll outfit. There are a few others, but it’s very clear that a healty balance of cash and respect is required for progress through the game. It’s easy to come by, though—everything from drifting in your car to dressing supafly in a ton of wild in-game outfits will earn you the respect you need to succeed.
Your mobile phone will be your link to everything mission-orented ingame. It’s a well done system, but I do have one small complaint—rather than missions being queued up for you, you’ve got to go into your phone and select them yourself. I understand why Volition made that move—they really are trying to push the open world aspect by allowing you to just freely do whatever you want—but if you’re really trying to progress through the missions, it’s slighty tiring to tell the game you’re ready to start up again. That said, there are a variety of basic assassination contracts, vehicle thefts, and challenges like wheelie distance and vehicle surfing available for selection. Where the game really shines, however, are the campaign missions.
Oh yeah, the missions
Volition did a great job in creating truly over-the-top events during play. They promised a “Holy Shit!” moment in every mission and they deliver. The very first mission has you robbing a bank with a helicopter (after you’ve signed a few autographs during the heist, of course) and fighting “Oh I dunno, two or three waves of bad guys, that’s usually what’s required, right?” The game makes fun of everything—the genre, the gaming tropes—it doesn’t take itself seriously and you know it right away. It’s what makes the game so much damn fun to play. The craziness of every mission will make you want to see what you’re in for next. It could be a giant, hulking, naked Belgian guy or flying into the cockpit of a cargo plane, through the fuselage, grabbing a parachute off an unsuspecting victim as you fly by and out the other end, and catching your partner before she falls to her death. Right.
Speaking of crazy and over the top: a feature worth noting is what Volition calls “The Awesome Button“. There are a variety of things you can do with it in-game, each as zany as the next. Drop-kicking drivers out of cars, blowing through windshields to knock drivers out, slamming pedestrian’s faces into the sidewalk and posing bikini-calendar style next to them… pretty much anything goes. Why punch someone randomly when you can put your crotch in his face, right? It adds a hilarious touch to the chaos you can bring upon unsuspecting victims, and hasn’t gotten old yet (seriously, surfing on someone’s back in the middle of the street? How can that get old?)
A lot of the game is customizable, as well. Weapons are upgradable, allowing for nails in baseball bats, exploding bullets—you name it, the game’s probably got it. Go ahead, juggle that enemy with your dual pistols’ exploding ammo. I’ll wait.
Strongholds can be upgraded from puny, rundown apartments to giant, imposing skyscrapers, which provide bonuses to money and respect earned per hour. Every car in the game is able to be upgraded as well. Paint, rims, underglow, trim … it’s all there. Just drive to—where else—Rim Jobs to get it done. Character customization is easier with Image as Designed, Steelport’s own plastic surgery chain. The locations allow you to change the way your character looks at any point during the game—provided you weren’t satisfied with how much ‘sex appeal’ you gave your male character during the first go around (hint: it’s the size of the bulge in your pants). Surgery is only skin-deep, though. You’ll be able to hit up Let’s Pretend for all you furry outfit needs, Rusty’s Needles for tattoos, Planet Saints for clothing, Nobody Loves Me for stolen meme t-shirts punk attire, or Leather and Lace for all your assless chap needs. You’ll be hard pressed to keep your character in anything for longer than a few hours of gameplay—there are just so many outfits and crazy items to wear that you’ll continue to switch just to see what’s next. Flying through someone’s windshield and drop-kicking them out of their car in a dog fursuit never, ever gets old.
Bring a friend
The final two game modes outside the normal campaign are what you’ll really write home about, though. A separate co-op review will be coming soon, but there are a variety of game modes you’ll be able to participate in with a friend. The Aerial vs. Ground Cat and Mouse and Full Notoriety survival game modes will keep you occupied for quite some time. Whored Mode is Volition’s take on horde mode…just…with whores…and zombies, and furries, and manly women, and…well, you get the idea. It’s three maps and 30 waves of increasingly difficult enemies that will arm you (and them!) with everything from the now-famous purple dildo bat to C4. It truly is a sight to be seen, having 30 men in gimp suits running at you with purple, floppy dickbats. It’s something everyone (over the age of 18—this game is rated M!) should experience at some point in their gaming lives.
So what’s the final verdict? Saints Row the Third is an insanely fun game that is full of jaw-dropping, hilariously inappropriate moments that will keep you asking for more. In the next few days leading up to launch we’ll have game play video of Whored Mode up, so you can get a better idea of what you’ll be facing, as well as some fun and random things to do throughout the city. Words can only do so much to express the lunacy this game involves… it really has to be seen to be believed.
Saints Row the Third is coming out on the 15th, for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.