Saints Row: The Third Xbox 360 Review

I’m not normally a fan of sandbox games, a lot take themselves far too seriously. Some pad out the game with tedious side missions and a few aren’t even really sandbox games at all. Those are the ones that really annoy me, the ones where it’s all just a totally linear game dropped into an open world to give the illusion that there’s more to do than there really is. Thankfully Saints Row: The Third doesn’t fall in to any of those categories.

The third row Saints are back, but this time they’ve gotten a little bit too big for their boots. It all goes wrong when they decide to rob a bank, a bank which belongs to a major crime syndicate. Unfortunately, they weren’t privy to this information and the situation only descends deeper into turmoil. The entire escapade all ends with the death of Johnny Gat during a spectacular midair battle, the remaining Saints are not happy about that and are quite naturally looking for some payback. Before they know it the Syndicate electronically wipes out their amassed fortune and empire, leaving them to start anew in the city of Steelport. They will have to take down the Syndicate’s gangs and a special government task force before they can claim their spot at the top of the heap back.

All sounds pretty run of the mill, yes, but it’s all of the little things you do along the way that make things so much more engaging than you’d think. The plot starts pretty normally, however things get more and more strange and before you know it giant mutant clones and the like are thrown your way. Later you will take part in a human pony cart race from an S&M club, and it just gets weirder from there. You will take a Tron-like excursion to cyberspace, fight in a Mexican wrestling match, and battle hordes of rabid zombies. Hell, you’ll even take a trip to Mars by the end of the game, even if it is only via a film set. This is what makes Saints Row: The Third stand out from the crowd. It is weird and wonderful, and it accomplishes it all with a sense of humour that works brilliantly.

Of course this would all just be cosmetic if there hadn’t been some upgrades to the gameplay too. For starters, the armoury has been widely expanded on. You will now have access to things like tazers, reaper drones, air strikes, sonic cannons and my personal favourite The Penetrator, half giant dildo-half baseball bat. The vehicle list has been similarly upgraded, with a whole heap of military vehicles now at hand. Several varieties of tank are available as well as helicopters, a VTOL jet, a weird jet-helicopter hybrid, a jet bike, and even a space buggy. Your entire arsenal is upgradeable in various ways, from simple things like larger ammo clips, instant reloads, and major damage increases. Unarmed combat has even seen some improvements as well in the form of a load of fancy wrestling moves added to your repertoire.

Everything has been kicked up a notch in the fun stakes and this time around even the side missions aren’t boring. While it is true that a lot of them return from previous games in the franchise, there are some new ones as well, and they don’t get more madcap than Professor Genki’s Super Ethical Reality Climax. In what other game can you participate in a Japanese reality game show where you put your life on the line against a load of over sized cuddly toys and junk food? Might I add, it’s not like you have to do it all on your own either. The entire game is playable in co-op which just adds to the fun. If you fancy a break from the campaign you can take on the game’s Whored mode, a variation on the standard Horde mode found in many games these days.

As much fun as the game is, I have to admit that it’s not perfect, not technically anyway. Glitching occurs on an occasional basis. Most common is things may get thrown about for no reason now and again, I’m not sure if it’s a fault with an item or character movement. Perhaps there’s something invisible throwing things around, but it’s not a serious problem. NPC AI is occasionally a bit off too, with people attacking you for no reason. Again, not a big issue. More serious are reports of things like getting stuck in lifts if you are stupid enough to drive a vehicle in to it, falling through the ground at a certain spot on the map, and apparently broken missions. Personally, I’ve not seen any of this on my play through of the game, but they are possible and you should know about them if you are considering buying the game. Saints Row: The Third still a very fun game. Even if it has some technical issues, I definitely wouldn’t consider them game-breaking.

Saints Row: The Third is the best sandbox game I’ve played in a long while. There’s no realism, no seriousness whatsoever, just completely mental and over-the-top fun. If that’s not your thing then this game is definitely not for you. If you like outlandish fun however, give it a try. You won’t be disappointed.

8 out of 10