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Review: Saints Row: The Third

by Steven Williamson on 30 November 2011, 14:00 4.5

Tags: THQ (NASDAQ:THQI), PC

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Refusing to kneel to the Syndicate, you take the fight to a new city

The battle continues as players jump out of a transport plane and face a new perspective as you fight against dozens of Syndicate members while falling through the sky. Just when you think it can't get any crazier, you launch yourself right through the window of a passing jet, before embarking on another bout of furious fire-fighting skydiving.

Having made a new enemy, who’s obviously just as crazy as the 3rd Street Saints, this opening 20 minutes of non-stop action is immediate proof that production values have been stepped up in this third iteration. And it's a bold statement by Volition that signals its intention to shock, amuse and entertain through sexual and violent imagery, over-the-top skirmishes and a larger-than-life cast of characters.

Split into three distinct gangs, the Syndicate is now the number one enemy of the 3rd Street Saints and gameplay takes a familiar path as you battle for respect and power on the streets of Steelport. The concept of gaining power in the city is certainly nothing new, but Saints Row takes players to unimaginable places, including a trip to Mars. The fact that you never really know what's around the corner keeps the action feeling fresh as its cast of flamboyant and eccentric characters, from porn stars to Mexican wrestlers, jump out and surprise you, and the missions go off on tangents that often defy belief.

Shooting the breeze with the Saints Row posse

Gameplay follows a familiar pattern to previous titles, with third-person combat and driving objectives taking up the bulk of your time. The open-ended mission design allows players to pick and choose objectives and a series of escort and delivery missions give way to some crazy scenarios where you’ll be taking down a skyscraper with a gigantic bomb or calling in an air-strike on an enemy stronghold. The introduction of a third government-run gang, called S.T.A.G. (Special Tactical Anti-Gang) takes the mayhem to whole new level and rarely, particular in the final third of the game, does the pace slow down as it pits these three gangs against each other.

Mission variety is excellent and whether you're causing mayhem in a nuclear plant, disabling force-fields to enter sub-terrain lava caves on Mars, or attempting to stop a zombie infection, there's a firm emphasis on fast-paced combat and over-the-top weapons and characters. Disappointingly, combat rarely involves any sort of strategy, other than to run-and-gun and make sure your weapon is pointing in the right direction, and as a result it's a game that offers little challenge - other than through the sheer number of gimps it throws at you. Nonetheless, the combat scheme is slick, melee attacks are fun to execute and there's plenty of mindless fun to be had out of some entertaining scenarios.

There are dozens of side missions too, delving you into some controversial subjects, such as human trafficking, where you ride around in a car protecting the back of your buddie as he shakes on a deal. The shock factor escalates outside of the main campaign too with a ‘Whored mode,’ a smutty take on Gears of Wars' ‘Horde Mode’ which involves taking on waves of enemies, zombies, giant prostitutes, and gimps waving purple dildos. It's crude, over-the-top, and some may say unnecessary, but once you actually get hold of a dildo and start bashing it around the head of a leather-clad gimp, it's clear to see that Volition's creativity has actually spawned a brilliant new weapon, which should most definitely be used in future Saints Row games.