Half of my excuse for not having a lot of blog posts recently is because Steve-O and I have strayed from gaming during our hang out sessions. My other excuse is because I’ve spent the better part of two months trying to appreciate Saint’s Row III. I downloaded this game for FREE from Playstation Network. Looking back, I’m pretty sure it is the best free download I’ve played so far (though I do have a bit of a backlog currently). I certainly got the most mileage out of this title than other free downloads from PSN.
I may have mentioned once, or twice, or a hundred times, my love for over-the-top, I-don’t-take-myself-seriously humor. You’ve seen how overly critical I am of games that take themselves uber seriously (The Last of Us, Tomb Raider). But when a game asks, “How about instead of trying to justify a bunch of trifle crap and be all serious we point out all the ridiculousness and poke fun at ourselves?” in the form of offering a 3-foot-long, purple sex toy as a melee weapon…
Yeah, I was sold pretty quickly.
This generous helping of over-the-top, filthy humor is delivered in the form of a free-roaming, sandboxy, action-rpg. A type of game I typically shy away from nowadays, due to lack of free time to play. But when I’d heard it had ludicrous humor and was free, I downloaded it anyway. After the opening scene, you’re treated to the character customization screen. I created a female character with a Russian accent. It. Was. Awesome. I don’t know, something about Russian accents makes everything funnier to me. Is that racist?
So anyway, since this is my first Saint’s Row experience, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I’d heard it was akin to GTA, which is probably why I never actively pursued any of them. But when I read a Saint’s Row 4 review praising the over-the-top humor of the series, I became interested. After spending a considerable (for me) amount of time playing Saint’s Row The Third, I can honestly say it is one of the funniest games I’ve ever played… And I’ve played Bayonetta and Lollipop Chainsaw.
The main gist of the game is to be Steelport’s numero uno gang. This means you get to make The Deckers, The Morning Star, and The Luchadores’ lives miserable until The Saints come out on top! Throughout the plot you’re derailing their efforts, naturally, as well as in some optional missions as well. If you’re out for a joyride in a vehicle you either hijacked from an unsuspecting driver or souped up at a “Rim Jobs” garage, you’ll unlock icons on the map. These indicate optional activities, locations up for purchase, or gang operations you can thwart. Thwarting gang operations is a fun, violent distraction. I won’t spoil too much with the other optional quests. But I will disclose that one involves intentionally getting yourself run over by cars.
The stores and other buildings you can buy up serve a few different purposes. If you purchase shops that offer goods for purchase, you’ll get a nice discount perk. Depending on the cost of the building, you’ll also receive an hourly allowance (scaling from as low as $100/hour to $1,000/hr that I noticed), and of course increase your influence in that area of the city. Buying up properties also has an added strategical advantage; when you enter one of your properties your character automatically loses any notoriety they currently have with another gang, or those pesky law enforcement who seem to frown upon you running over and otherwise terrorizing people minding their own business.
Speaking of running people over… Along with the icons on the GPS map (accessed through your smart phone main menu) there are also 100% optional challenges you can complete. While in your cell phone menu, you can browse your messages which ask you to steal vehicles, commit assassinations (some of the tasks you must complete to draw out the target are HILARIOUS), and fulfill other challenge quotas. The challenge quota I fulfilled first was running over 500 pedestrians. Yep. And I’m proud of it, too.
So after I spent the first few hours of gameplay running over pedestrians, driving in the oncoming lane, and doing some vehicle thefts, I got to the nitty gritty of the story. Completing plot missions is the only way to unlock certain goodies which will make your life a lot easier. Like getting an RPG and a sniper rifle, for starters. The battle system in this game is heavily reliant on guns, explosives, and peppered melee here and there when you feel like kneeing jerks in the crotch or swinging around The Penetrator.
Changing which weapon you have equipped is a different method than I’ve used before and it took a little getting used to. You get four different slots for grenades, molotovs and such, as well as 8 slots for one of each gun type. You’ve got pistols, SMGs, shotguns, you name it. If you get bored of your current shotgun, and you’ve attained another one you want to play around with, you have to go to a “Saint’s Crib” to access your weapon stash. Throughout the game you’ll acquire a lot of cribs and strongholds to tinker with all your weapons, vehicles, outfits, and homies/gang members.
While progressing through the plot, you’ll “befriend” characters and they’ll become accessible homies. Then you can give them a holler via your smart phone and they’ll tag along with you while you wreak havoc on Steelport. If you aggro a rival gang member or some local law enforcement while driving around town, they’ll start shooting out the passenger side window for you. Needless to say, when you’re fighting they’ll join in too.
During most of your main missions, the game dumps whichever character is currently favored by the story with you. Thankfully you never have to worry about their ammo/inventory. Your tag-alongs do their own thing. But if they get KO’d, you do have to run over and resuscitate them. Think Resident Evil 5 chest pound. The only significant annoyance I had with the AI was when I wanted to get in my car and drive off but Pierce, for example, had different plans. You can’t drive off without a homie, just as you can’t let one die. So you have to sit in the car and patiently wait (while probably getting shot at or thrown out of the car) for the AI to decide to follow your lead.
Certain characters are plot-specific. Others, like homie types, are dependent upon how the player responds to certain situations. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of player choices there were to make. Some were difficult coin tosses. Others were no-brainers. Even the ending you receive is one of two different scenarios depending on what you decide. If you’re afraid of missing out on one of the endings, don’t worry; after the credits roll your character is plopped back in the city with the final mission available again so you can see how events would unravel if you decided differently.
I really enjoyed the cast of characters. Shaundi, Pierce, Zimos, Angel, Kinzie, Killbane, Cyrus… They all fit your typical niche/stereotypes while adding extra zest to the roles. I think Shaundi and Zimos were my favorites. I was disappointed that Zimos really tapered out of the story after his character arc.
My created character was great. The character customization is pretty in-depth. If you decide you don’t like something about your gang boss, you can always opt to give them plastic surgery. Or even an entire sex change, if you so desire. I didn’t like how certain accents were only available for one sex or the other. I thought that was a weird restriction. You can change your character’s clothes at any Planet Saints or at a crib. Different outfits and articles of clothing give different amounts of Respect.
Respect is experience in Saint’s Row. The RPG aspect of this game comes with the experience and character building. As you buyout the city and piss off the other gangs, you’ll earn Respect. With each Respect level you’ll unlock more abilities and goodies to purchase. Unlocked abilities vary from improving your character’s attributes, to increasing hourly income, and even beefing up your homies. These will all cost you money. I felt low on cash in the beginning of this game because I was dying to get some of the abilities, but I didn’t have enough real estate to make the money back quick enough. This all changes after you buy up a significant number of properties and kill some time by doing story missions or being a terror upon the unfortunately citizens of Steelport.
I think the only other main grievance I can come up with is wanting a fast travel option. Being able to fast travel to a select crib or stronghold would have been nice. Due to my current lifestyle I don’t get to play for long stretches of time at once so it wasn’t a significant drawback to me. But I bet if I got to play for 3-4 hours at a time it would be annoying.
I seriously think I could drone on and on about how absurdly awesome this game is. But instead of doing that, I’m just gonna tell you to hurry up and go play this game if you haven’t already!