Of Sinners and Saints

One Year late on this one, but I needed a game to act as a stress relief, seeing as my stress ball exploded after squeezing it too hard, and punching out someone is technically a crime, so I got Saints Row The Third. Developed by Volition Inc. and published by THQ, Saints Row has always been, to me, what the people in the world of Grand Theft Auto would play as a video game. A friend recommended it to me, as he thought I would enjoy the sheer insanity of the game, in addition to the fact he wanted to play Co-op. I had 15,000 Gamestop pnts, so I said, “What the Hell,” and I grabbed a coupon and bought it. With game in hand, I was excited to start my Campaign of Doom and Destruction, as much had been promised to me in terms of deadly whimsy.

Saints Row the Third takes off from the previous game, in so far as your gang of miscreants are still robbing and looting in ridiculous style. Dawning your Johnny Gat mascot costume, you and your “homies” loot a massive bank, by lifting the vault with a helicopter (because that is both physically possible and totally practical). Unfortunately for the saints, things get a little bit difficult, as the bank they had robbed was part of a massive criminal organization called The Syndicate, a title most likely taken from”The Big Book of Villainous Group Names”. After talking to a French Prick, refusing to play ball, and ending negotiations with poise and gunfire, the Protagonist crashes the plane, and dumps it’s oddly large amount of goods onto the city below, welcoming Steelport to their newest power player, the Third Street Saints.

HEELLLOOOO People of Steelport. Who’s your Daddy?
My initial reaction to this game was “Wow”. This was mostly due to the freedom to take anything I wanted, customize in multiple ways, and have utter freedom to do what I pleased. Which is a really nice feature for an RPG, because everyone wants to make their own style shine through the plastic mass produced world we live in, so hooray for Freedom. Granted, I used said freedom to run over 250 pedestrians in a Street Cleaner in the first 15 minutes of the game. Not because that was my intention, but because I’m that bad of a driver, and didn’t listen to the GPS so that I could explore my new city.
As I drove around Steelport, I realized that as a backdrop of the game, it is gorgeous. It feels like a bustling city, where 95% of the doors you can’t open and buildings you can’t access. Traffic comes and goes (with the occasion semi plowing through, killing everyone), people walk the streets (sometimes assault you), and the weather changes and NPCs react to that change (with magic umbrellas). Now I might sound picky, which I am, but these are the minor things I’ve noticed whilst playing, and while providing minor amusement, it just served as glaring reminders that I was playing a game, and couldn’t immerse myself into it.
This immersion problem also infested the combat system. Now, I have a bitter hatred for Quick Time Events (QTEs), and Saints Row is filled with them. I don’t even mean for Boss fights, but it’s required for some sub bosses too. My hate of QTEs stems from the fact that when they occur, I know longer am focusing on being my character or playing the game, but rather mashing the hell out of the button that the screen is saying I must do to survive. I’m no longer lost in the game, but rather are reliving my Simon Says days and hit the butons the electronic man in the TV tells me to.
Another part of combat that seems screwed up is pacing. There isn’t any, when it comes to weapons. In the first mission after you arrive in Steelport, you get a Reaper Drone. You know, a military grade weapons UAV that fires death onto the mortals below. That’s pretty much the entire game, giving you bigger and bigger toys to play with, to cause wanton destruction.

I’m only lvl 2, but what the hell! Kill everything … Ever

Don’t get me wrong, I love getting toys like airstrikes, tanks, and molecular atomizers, but there is a time and place for everything. When you give way super death beams to lvl 6 paupers, you’re inviting them to go on a killing spree, and then get very very bored as they’ve surpassed anything they could face at the time. And that’s what happened to my gaming experience. It’s so easy to get power weapons, and leveling basic weapons to super powered death cannons, the challenge fades.

Saints Row offers a bunch of side missions to up your control of Steelport, get cash, and increase your income. I personally did each of them at least once, but found that my time was better spent buying real estate and letting that accrue over time to fatten my wallet. Maybe I’m just a greedy miserly gangster, but it worked to pay for all my strongholds, and weapons. I’m sure some people would find the side missions enjoyable, but without any draw to them, other than money, there is no reason for me to engage in any of them, especially any of the escort types.

Now, there was aspect of the game that has intrigued me, and that was the story. Before you all get excited, no, I don’t think the story was a good one. It was more of a reason why we’re killing things, than a story. NPCs were rounded, but remained static throughout the game, and the sotry was basically, get revenge by killing everyone and anything that we come across  But I did say I was intrigued, but by what, you may ask. Well the ending is the answer. Spoiler Warning, but there are two endings to Saints Row the Third, and you can do both if you want, but the thing that is interesting about the ending is how different they are. Option one is that the Saints go on to be whimsical superstars, being goofy and making money, the other is that they take Steelport and solidify themselves as a gang. I feel as if this dual ending perfectly describes how the creators must of felt while making this game. Is Saints Row a serious game about Gangsters, or is it whimsical and comedic? What direction do we take this franchise in? Good questions, and the answer they must have come up with:
In a nutshell, Saints Row the Third was a great stress reliever for me. I loved coming up with new ways to kill people. But even murder gets old after awhile, and you need something more than new toys and wanton destruction (and especially dlcs) to regain interest. The immersion factor is basically shot in the foot here, and replayability is basically nonexistent, unless you just wanted to go on a murder spree, but once you’ve heard all the jokes in the game, there whimsy is gone, and you’re just left with your sociopathic tendencies. So, I’d recommend giving it a try, but try to finish it before the return date ends from gamestop, as it’s not worth keeping on the shelf.

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