Wumbo Wonders is series of blog posts in which I talk about my feelings and general thoughts about a video game I’ve recently completed. These are just random musings about the game, so I may be jumping all over the place. There will definitely be spoilers so read at your own risk!
Expectations are almost always a bad thing. Go into anything assuming too much, and no matter what, those prospects will certainly be almost impossible to live up to. Saints Row: The Third probably captured that feeling more than any other game I’ve played this year. After hearing Giant Bomb discussing Saints Row: The Third as a potential winner for 2011’s Game of the Year, I came into Saints Row with sky-high expectations. And how could I not? It was being mentioned in the same breath with games like Portal 2, Batman: Arkham City, and Bastion. Those games I just listed were among my favorite games of last year, and seeing Saints Row intermingle with those upper echelon titles made me place it on an unreasonably high pedestal that no game should ever be on. As a result, I came away from Saints Row: The Third feeling a tad bit disappointed.
Saints Row: The Third is a fantastic game. There, I’ve said it. I’ll say it now so that my primary opinion toward the game is out there. Its insanity has been discussed many times over, and all the accolades it received for said absurdity is well deserved. Saints Row: The Third had its strongest moments at the beginning and at the end. The bank robbery mission with the stupid oversized Johnny Gat head and the leap through a commercial airliner tumbling out of the sky both set the stage for the hysteria that Saints Row: The Third was going to throw at the player. The missions near the end of the game are some of the most fun missions I’ve played in a while, with http://deckers.die taking the cake. The wrestling match against Killbane was also ridiculously enjoyable, and throughout both of those levels, I either had a dumb grin on my face or was laughing out loud. And the Sublime sing-along? As a kid born in the 90s, it was oddly touching and heartfelt.
On the other hand, the middle of the game felt a little lackluster. With a bulk of the missions simply being an introduction to the activities that help you expand your empire throughout Steelport, they felt like random tasks that really have no bearing on the overall game. One minute you’re throwing yourself into traffic, and the next you’re driving next to a ferocious tiger scratching your face off. What? It does fit in well in the seemingly stream of consciousness theme of the game, and maybe that was the overarching intent of Volition. But it doesn’t help matters that some of these activities were flat out dull. Although a handful activities are exciting and satisfying (the tank one comes to mind), the majority of them did nothing for me. It’s not like the escort or turret sequences were hard, but you can only blow up so many vehicles until the excitement of seeing another explosion wears away.
Another reason why maybe I didn’t enjoy Saints Row: The Third as much was because I had too much prior knowledge. When people talk about why Saints Row: The Third is great, it’s usually because of certain moments. I already knew about Burt Reynolds, Vitol jets, that a guy has a constantly auto tuned voice, and some other preposterous moments. So when those encounters happened, I was like “Huh. That is pretty funny.” Granted, I did not know about the specific situation or the details of each set-piece, but I think simply the shock factor of a ludicrous moment is a large part of what makes it memorable, especially in Saints Row. Those situations didn’t surprise me as much because in the back of my head, I was expecting them. When you ask somebody why a game is great and they scream out a list of 10 crazy moments, those specific events have already been ruined for you. But when they say a game is great because of a deep and interesting story, or because of solid and fun gameplay, then that experience of the story or gameplay will always be fresh for a new player.
If I came into Saints Row: The Third last year when it was still new and exciting for the public, I know I would have enjoyed it a lot more. The dips and valleys of the game would be easily overlooked in favor of its wild lunacy. Games like Portal 2 and Bastion consistently offered the highest quality throughout, and in my opinion, Saints Row: The Third had too many fluctuations in its overall experience to be compared to those gems. With that being said, the game is still an excellent one. The voice acting is superb, the characters are hilarious, and the weapons are a literal blast to use (level 4 pistols are amazing). On top of all that, all the insane moments are done with a sense of self-awareness that makes the stupidity seem… intelligent. I think the best way to summarize Saints Row: The Third is from a piece of dialogue that’s from Saints Row: The Third. In the very first mission of the game, Josh Birk states, “You’re robbing a bank dressed like yourselves? Ultra post-modernism. I love it.”