A Long and Winding Road to the joys of Saints Row: The Third

I Slash Dragons: Terrible Segue Set-ups

I don't know if you guys heard this, but Skyrim is pretty awesome.

I'm rocking a pretty badass Nord warrior in Skyrim right now. One-handed melee and shield focused and surprisingly more than capable of going toe-to-claw with the random dragons that tend to show up from time to time. Also, I'm a werewolf and occasionally take the opportunity to wreck bandits, vampires, and the occasional necromancer because fuck it, I'm a werewolf. I tear shit up because I can.

And that's all awesome. While I despise Oblivion to the core of my soul and with every fiber of my very being, Skyrim is pretty much everything I wanted out of Oblivion with none of the bullshit. Well, aside from Bethesda's inability to perform proper QA on their titles. World size be damned, there are just some things that aren't tolerable. But I'm getting off track of what it is that I want to talk about. And what do I want to talk about?

Something Else

Fuck. This. Game.

Yes, I opened with a different game entirely. But bear with me, because there's a comparison to be made here (no matter how flimsy). Just like Oblivion nearly made me give up on The Elder Scrolls, there was a time, many years ago, when Grand Theft Auto: Vice CIty nearly made me give up on the vaguely named open world crime genre to which it belongs. The game was fun, to an extent. Juvenile humor mixed with a cavalcade of characters that are all assholes, tied to a narrative that's pretty much Scarface without the being killed at the end. Well, in theory, anyway.

My problem with Vice City came down to one thing; at its core, the game is not fun to play. Sure, it's easy enough to jump ramps, crash cars, piss off cops, and generally be a dick to everyone within the city limits, but that's where the fun starts and stops. The missions are all clumsily designed, tightly scripted, and a major pain in the ass to complete. At least, that's what I remember about them. I never actually beat the game because there was one major story mission about midway through that I could not beat no matter what I tried. Here, let me paint you a picture:

"Lance got his ass captured by Diaz, and now his goons are working him over. I have to save him from a junkyard hideout. What's the best way to go in there? Through the front? I guess; I haven't seen any readily available helicopters up to this point. Well, here we go."

*Cue a montage of abject failure that stretches across a solid week of evening play sessions.*

"Fuck. Me. Sideways. This is getting ridiculous. All right. Try this again. Once more, with feeling!"

Phase 1:

Drive straight into the junkyard and eject from vehicle as it's shot up, turning it into a flaming death torpedo and take out the goons in the front. Check.

Phase 2:

Run like a madman through the junkyard murdering everyone I see as I'm shot up and get to Lance. Check. Also, I have five health points left. Five. Out of a hundred. Check.

Phase 3:

Miraculously get to a nearby car with Lance in tow. Escape the junkyard with a menagerie of kamikaze psychopathic drivers tailing after us. (Because Rockstar thinks this makes for a fun obstacle, apparently.) Check.

Phase 4:

My car is on fire. Fuck. Bail! Check.

Phase 5:

Jack another car as those psychopaths continue to fly around me like stopping me is equivalent to preventing the moon from crashing into Earth. Check.

Phase 6:

Holy shit, I've never gotten this far before in the multitude of hours I've spent playing this damn mission. Hey, there's the hospital! Oh, thank Christ. Check.

Phase 7:

OK, stop the car, get out, stand on the glowing mission end-point. Check. Also, FUCK YE--

Phase 8:

Get hit by kamikaze car. Die.

Phase 9:

...

Phase 10:

There is no rage face image macro that could illustrate the burning hatred infecting my soul.

Is that picture clear enough? Well, long story short, after that little spirit-crushing moment, I couldn't bring myself to seriously play another minute of that game. I had put up with its shabby gameplay long enough. And when San Andreas proved to be more of the same mission design stupidity tied to poor gameplay that Rockstar chose to pile even more gameplay on top of (instead of, you know, actually fixing shit), I washed my hands of the whole thing. Fuck you, GTA, and good night.

WHAT ARE YOU EVEN GETTING AT?

Don't shout. I've gotten there.

Back when Saints Row 2 came out, I decided to give the genre another whirl. Sure, GTAIV had come out, and it had fixed shit, but a lot of it was shit that had already been fixed in the original Saints Row. Also, GTA had started taking itself seriously, which is hard to do when you're still trying to work juvenile humor and half-assed social commentary into your game world. Not exactly what I wanted.

Now, Saints Row 2? We're getting there, but it's not quite there. I loved the character creation system and the side activities, but I didn't like the way that game progression was tied to the completion of those activities. The game could also be a bit schizophrenic in tone; it was trying to be sillier while also maintaining a certain level of levity brought by its connection to the original game. At least, that's the only way I could figure out the tone since I hadn't played the original Saints Row. It's fun, but it's not quite there.

Which brings me to the game I really want to talk about.

Well, it's about fucking time, asshole.

Fuck you. This is my blog post and I'll take all the meandering time that I want, Mr. Header McDouchebag.

It's pretty obvious from the opening moments that the third Saints Row is a very silly game.

Saints Row: The Third is, in short, everything that I could have ever wanted out of this genre, whether you call it open-world crime, anarchy simulation, or dicking around in an urban setting (that's the technical term). First off, the game doesn't take itself seriously at all; it starts of ridiculous and just gets more and more insane as time goes on. There's actual character progression now, which effectively transforms your character from a standard-issue Claude Speed chucklefuck into a nigh invincible god (so long as you aren't taking melee damage or in an exploding car). Even then, you aren't standard issue. Sure, you can be a milquetoast, if that's your thing, but you can also be Prince if you want. Or She-Hulk. Or a giant Smurf with a Cockney accent. Why?

Because. And that's really all the justification anything in Saints Row: The Third gives. Screw logic; things happen because they can.

And speaking of things happening? Those missions! Oh, those glorious missions. While the core story might not win any awards, the set pieces used to tell that story are an insane mix of anything-goes insanity that the characters just take in stride. And sometimes, these set pieces are punctuated with some of the most brilliant uses of licensed music in any video game ever. It's one thing to include old music on radio stations for irony's sake; it's quite another to actually use these same songs in a context that suddenly make perfect sense and are surprisingly earnest. And this is to say nothing of the actual mission structure, which is very well done, with intelligently-placed checkpoints and a rich variety of activities aside from the ubiquitous shooting of dudes.

And yes, while you might argue that GTAIV didn't suffer from a lot of the issues that plagued the PS2 games, that ship has sailed for me. Rockstar lost me with their bend-over game design of the Vice City era and failed to win me back with their bizarrely inconsistent tone of the adventures of Niko Bellic. And as for GTAV? The one trailer that they've released makes it sound a lot like GTAIV. I mean, sure, people are making a lot of the fact that we might actually get to fly planes in GTA again, but Saints Row: The Third has plenty of planes to fly, including a VTOL with a microwave laser. At this point, any attempt at injecting the gameplay insanity of San Andreas back into GTAV is just going to feel like they're cribbing Saints Row.

It's bizarre to think that the series that established a style of gameplay might be playing catch-up to a series that started off as an also-ran, but there you go.

Saints Row: The Third even has Burt Reynolds. Not Burt Reynolds as Avery Carrington or someone else. He is Burt Reynolds, and you will bow before him because he just is.

But why'd you start off talking about Skyrim?

Because everyone's talking about it these days. I thought I was obligated to at least write a paragraph or two about it. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some tigers that need escorting.

22 Comments
23 Comments
Posted by Hailinel

I Slash Dragons: Terrible Segue Set-ups

I don't know if you guys heard this, but Skyrim is pretty awesome.

I'm rocking a pretty badass Nord warrior in Skyrim right now. One-handed melee and shield focused and surprisingly more than capable of going toe-to-claw with the random dragons that tend to show up from time to time. Also, I'm a werewolf and occasionally take the opportunity to wreck bandits, vampires, and the occasional necromancer because fuck it, I'm a werewolf. I tear shit up because I can.

And that's all awesome. While I despise Oblivion to the core of my soul and with every fiber of my very being, Skyrim is pretty much everything I wanted out of Oblivion with none of the bullshit. Well, aside from Bethesda's inability to perform proper QA on their titles. World size be damned, there are just some things that aren't tolerable. But I'm getting off track of what it is that I want to talk about. And what do I want to talk about?

Something Else

Fuck. This. Game.

Yes, I opened with a different game entirely. But bear with me, because there's a comparison to be made here (no matter how flimsy). Just like Oblivion nearly made me give up on The Elder Scrolls, there was a time, many years ago, when Grand Theft Auto: Vice CIty nearly made me give up on the vaguely named open world crime genre to which it belongs. The game was fun, to an extent. Juvenile humor mixed with a cavalcade of characters that are all assholes, tied to a narrative that's pretty much Scarface without the being killed at the end. Well, in theory, anyway.

My problem with Vice City came down to one thing; at its core, the game is not fun to play. Sure, it's easy enough to jump ramps, crash cars, piss off cops, and generally be a dick to everyone within the city limits, but that's where the fun starts and stops. The missions are all clumsily designed, tightly scripted, and a major pain in the ass to complete. At least, that's what I remember about them. I never actually beat the game because there was one major story mission about midway through that I could not beat no matter what I tried. Here, let me paint you a picture:

"Lance got his ass captured by Diaz, and now his goons are working him over. I have to save him from a junkyard hideout. What's the best way to go in there? Through the front? I guess; I haven't seen any readily available helicopters up to this point. Well, here we go."

*Cue a montage of abject failure that stretches across a solid week of evening play sessions.*

"Fuck. Me. Sideways. This is getting ridiculous. All right. Try this again. Once more, with feeling!"

Phase 1:

Drive straight into the junkyard and eject from vehicle as it's shot up, turning it into a flaming death torpedo and take out the goons in the front. Check.

Phase 2:

Run like a madman through the junkyard murdering everyone I see as I'm shot up and get to Lance. Check. Also, I have five health points left. Five. Out of a hundred. Check.

Phase 3:

Miraculously get to a nearby car with Lance in tow. Escape the junkyard with a menagerie of kamikaze psychopathic drivers tailing after us. (Because Rockstar thinks this makes for a fun obstacle, apparently.) Check.

Phase 4:

My car is on fire. Fuck. Bail! Check.

Phase 5:

Jack another car as those psychopaths continue to fly around me like stopping me is equivalent to preventing the moon from crashing into Earth. Check.

Phase 6:

Holy shit, I've never gotten this far before in the multitude of hours I've spent playing this damn mission. Hey, there's the hospital! Oh, thank Christ. Check.

Phase 7:

OK, stop the car, get out, stand on the glowing mission end-point. Check. Also, FUCK YE--

Phase 8:

Get hit by kamikaze car. Die.

Phase 9:

...

Phase 10:

There is no rage face image macro that could illustrate the burning hatred infecting my soul.

Is that picture clear enough? Well, long story short, after that little spirit-crushing moment, I couldn't bring myself to seriously play another minute of that game. I had put up with its shabby gameplay long enough. And when San Andreas proved to be more of the same mission design stupidity tied to poor gameplay that Rockstar chose to pile even more gameplay on top of (instead of, you know, actually fixing shit), I washed my hands of the whole thing. Fuck you, GTA, and good night.

WHAT ARE YOU EVEN GETTING AT?

Don't shout. I've gotten there.

Back when Saints Row 2 came out, I decided to give the genre another whirl. Sure, GTAIV had come out, and it had fixed shit, but a lot of it was shit that had already been fixed in the original Saints Row. Also, GTA had started taking itself seriously, which is hard to do when you're still trying to work juvenile humor and half-assed social commentary into your game world. Not exactly what I wanted.

Now, Saints Row 2? We're getting there, but it's not quite there. I loved the character creation system and the side activities, but I didn't like the way that game progression was tied to the completion of those activities. The game could also be a bit schizophrenic in tone; it was trying to be sillier while also maintaining a certain level of levity brought by its connection to the original game. At least, that's the only way I could figure out the tone since I hadn't played the original Saints Row. It's fun, but it's not quite there.

Which brings me to the game I really want to talk about.

Well, it's about fucking time, asshole.

Fuck you. This is my blog post and I'll take all the meandering time that I want, Mr. Header McDouchebag.

It's pretty obvious from the opening moments that the third Saints Row is a very silly game.

Saints Row: The Third is, in short, everything that I could have ever wanted out of this genre, whether you call it open-world crime, anarchy simulation, or dicking around in an urban setting (that's the technical term). First off, the game doesn't take itself seriously at all; it starts of ridiculous and just gets more and more insane as time goes on. There's actual character progression now, which effectively transforms your character from a standard-issue Claude Speed chucklefuck into a nigh invincible god (so long as you aren't taking melee damage or in an exploding car). Even then, you aren't standard issue. Sure, you can be a milquetoast, if that's your thing, but you can also be Prince if you want. Or She-Hulk. Or a giant Smurf with a Cockney accent. Why?

Because. And that's really all the justification anything in Saints Row: The Third gives. Screw logic; things happen because they can.

And speaking of things happening? Those missions! Oh, those glorious missions. While the core story might not win any awards, the set pieces used to tell that story are an insane mix of anything-goes insanity that the characters just take in stride. And sometimes, these set pieces are punctuated with some of the most brilliant uses of licensed music in any video game ever. It's one thing to include old music on radio stations for irony's sake; it's quite another to actually use these same songs in a context that suddenly make perfect sense and are surprisingly earnest. And this is to say nothing of the actual mission structure, which is very well done, with intelligently-placed checkpoints and a rich variety of activities aside from the ubiquitous shooting of dudes.

And yes, while you might argue that GTAIV didn't suffer from a lot of the issues that plagued the PS2 games, that ship has sailed for me. Rockstar lost me with their bend-over game design of the Vice City era and failed to win me back with their bizarrely inconsistent tone of the adventures of Niko Bellic. And as for GTAV? The one trailer that they've released makes it sound a lot like GTAIV. I mean, sure, people are making a lot of the fact that we might actually get to fly planes in GTA again, but Saints Row: The Third has plenty of planes to fly, including a VTOL with a microwave laser. At this point, any attempt at injecting the gameplay insanity of San Andreas back into GTAV is just going to feel like they're cribbing Saints Row.

It's bizarre to think that the series that established a style of gameplay might be playing catch-up to a series that started off as an also-ran, but there you go.

Saints Row: The Third even has Burt Reynolds. Not Burt Reynolds as Avery Carrington or someone else. He is Burt Reynolds, and you will bow before him because he just is.

But why'd you start off talking about Skyrim?

Because everyone's talking about it these days. I thought I was obligated to at least write a paragraph or two about it. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some tigers that need escorting.

Posted by MikeGosot

I came here to say that YOU'RE FLYING TOO CLOSE TO THE SUN LITTLE ICARUS! And that header is sure a douchebag.

Posted by Claude

I like the part where you say fuck you this is my blog post. Saints Row: The Third is getting a lot of love from the users of Giant Bomb. Maybe one day I'll give it a try. I've never played a Saints Row game before.

Posted by EuanDewar

Saints Row the Third is the fucking pinnacle of video games. I get, that people want videogames to evolve to be more mature and have storylines that put it up there with the greats of cinema and the like but when videogames were conceived all those years ago with the purpose of being entertainment they couldn't even imagine it becoming this balls out crazy fun.

I seriously don't get where you go from here in terms of making things crazier, this game covers it all.

Posted by Animasta

you really can't be she-hulk, even if you set the muscle meter to 100%, which I did before murderbrawl

Posted by kingzetta

during the credits the THQ staff sing "what I got" it's pretty great

Posted by Cornman89

God damn you. Every day I feel myself inching closer to buying Saint's Row: The Third. But I really shouldn't because it's the holidays, and I need that money to buy stuff for other people.

Also Skyrim is rad. Seventy hours in with my Nord rogue/warrior/mage, and there are entire cities I haven't set foot in yet. Indeed, entire regions of the game world. How does this game exist?

Posted by MikeGosot
@kingzetta said:
during the credits the THQ staff sing "what I got" it's pretty great
It's just the main character voice actors, not the THQ staff.
Posted by kingzetta
@MikeGosot said:
@kingzetta said:
during the credits the THQ staff sing "what I got" it's pretty great
It's just the main character voice actors, not the THQ staff.
ooh still a lot people.
Posted by MikeGosot
@kingzetta said:
@MikeGosot said:
@kingzetta said:
during the credits the THQ staff sing "what I got" it's pretty great
It's just the main character voice actors, not the THQ staff.
ooh still a lot people.
Yeah, it was cool. The zombie voice singing is the most awesome thing ever.
Posted by Ravenlight

Yo, Saints Row: Numero Three-o is pretty good.

Posted by Hailinel

@MikeGosot said:

I came here to say that YOU'RE FLYING TOO CLOSE TO THE SUN LITTLE ICARUS! And that header is sure a douchebag.

Yeah, I have to work to keep him in line.

@Claude said:

I like the part where you say fuck you this is my blog post. Saints Row: The Third is getting a lot of love from the users of Giant Bomb. Maybe one day I'll give it a try. I've never played a Saints Row game before.

If there was ever a Saints Row to start with, it's this one. Even the opening crawl recap at the start is ridiculous.

@EuanDewar said:

Saints Row the Third is the fucking pinnacle of video games. I get, that people want videogames to evolve to be more mature and have storylines that put it up there with the greats of cinema and the like but when videogames were conceived all those years ago with the purpose of being entertainment they couldn't even imagine it becoming this balls out crazy fun.

I seriously don't get where you go from here in terms of making things crazier, this game covers it all.

I'm all for games with mature storylines, but I also appreciate games like this that just nail the crazy and emphasize having fun over everything else.

@Animasta said:

you really can't be she-hulk, even if you set the muscle meter to 100%, which I did before murderbrawl

Yeah, you can't make a perfect facsimile, that much is true. But that character creator is still amazing.

@Cornman89 said:

God damn you. Every day I feel myself inching closer to buying Saint's Row: The Third. But I really shouldn't because it's the holidays, and I need that money to buy stuff for other people.

Also Skyrim is rad. Seventy hours in with my Nord rogue/warrior/mage, and there are entire cities I haven't set foot in yet. Indeed, entire regions of the game world. How does this game exist?

You really should play it. It is goddamn amazing. I mean, yeah, I can do a lot of things in Skyrim, but it just doesn't have the same propensity to be utterly ridiculous. And I'd actually get back into Skyrim, but I'm still waiting for that patch that will hopefully fix the horrendous save file-based lag in the PS3 version. (How the game shipped with a bug that bad, I have no idea.)

Posted by RenegadeSaint

I have to staunchly disagree with your assessment of Vice City. One of my all-time favorite games thanks to the amazingly realized setting, fantastically cliched characters, and unbelievable freedom. I also never had any issues with the difficulty or gameplay. Regardless of our differing opinions, The Third sounds like pure joy.

Posted by Slow_pC

I enjoyed the hell out of saints row and it is one of those games that I want to 100% ... not many out there make me say that these days.

Posted by TheDudeOfGaming

Yep, Saints Row The Third is a crazy game. Not as good as the second one, but it's funny as hell.

Posted by TEHMAXXORZ

@Ravenlight said:

Yo, Saints Row: Numero Three-o is pretty good.

It'd better be, I used my free trial of amazon 'Prime' just so it would be delivered by tomorrow. Looks awesome though, so I'm pretty confident I'll dick around on it, despite its quality.

Posted by ShaggE

There's a mission in every GTA that I like to call the "Nope" mission. It ramps up the difficulty; I say "Nope" and freeroam from there until the next GTA. I'm so glad that SR3 doesn't have that.

Posted by Ravenlight

@TEHMAXXORZ said:

@Ravenlight said:

Yo, Saints Row: Numero Three-o is pretty good.

It'd better be, I used my free trial of amazon 'Prime' just so it would be delivered by tomorrow. Looks awesome though, so I'm pretty confident I'll dick around on it, despite its quality.

The quality of the dicking around is the game's greatest strength.

Posted by Hailinel

@RenegadeSaint said:

I have to staunchly disagree with your assessment of Vice City. One of my all-time favorite games thanks to the amazingly realized setting, fantastically cliched characters, and unbelievable freedom. I also never had any issues with the difficulty or gameplay. Regardless of our differing opinions, The Third sounds like pure joy.

I wish I could agree with you; I enjoyed Vice City up to a point, but that point was absolutely devastating to my enjoyment of the game. That being said, I can easily understand why you and others enjoy the game so much.

@ShaggE said:

There's a mission in every GTA that I like to call the "Nope" mission. It ramps up the difficulty; I say "Nope" and freeroam from there until the next GTA. I'm so glad that SR3 doesn't have that.

The difficulty curve in The Third is very well done. And if you have a mission that's just too hard? Level up a bit, and suddenly you have more health, firepower, homies, and ridiculousness on your side. The game knows how to let the player just have fun.

Posted by deathstriker666

Yup, hated Vice City as well. Looked like crap, played like crap. Great selection of music, but terrible audio design. Horrible AI and horrible shooting. Loved San Andreas though. The AI and the shooting were still bad, but I felt almost everything else was much better. Also, you could swim and not drown to fucking death all the time. The first GTA game I ever had the heart to finish

Posted by Little_Socrates

On Team "Really Love Vice City," but, yo, SR III is pretty dope.

Also, I'd recommend spoiling as little as possible about the game, guys. Between the Bombcast and my roommate telling me about Burt Reynolds, I actually had literally every awesome thing in Saints Row the Third spoiled for me, which was a huge bummer.

Posted by Hailinel

@Little_Socrates said:

On Team "Really Love Vice City," but, yo, SR III is pretty dope.

Also, I'd recommend spoiling as little as possible about the game, guys. Between the Bombcast and my roommate telling me about Burt Reynolds, I actually had literally every awesome thing in Saints Row the Third spoiled for me, which was a huge bummer.

Burt Reynolds was actually revealed in a trailer prior to release.

Posted by Little_Socrates

@Hailinel said:

@Little_Socrates said:

On Team "Really Love Vice City," but, yo, SR III is pretty dope.

Also, I'd recommend spoiling as little as possible about the game, guys. Between the Bombcast and my roommate telling me about Burt Reynolds, I actually had literally every awesome thing in Saints Row the Third spoiled for me, which was a huge bummer.

Burt Reynolds was actually revealed in a trailer prior to release.

I generally even avoid trailers of a game to avoid spoilers. I just didn't have time to play the game before it was all spoiled XP. Kind of shocking.