Warning: This game came out in 2011 and I'll be talking pretty extensively about it. EXPECT SPOILERS!
A few days ago, I completed a gaming goal that I was working on since late 2011. My goal was to get 100% completion on Saints Row The Third, including every single Achievement. It took a lot of time, more money than I expected thanks to downloadable content, and it was completely worth it.
I'm not really gonna talk about the process of getting 100% completion, because the end of that writing would be “and then I did donuts in an airport for 40 minutes”. That's pretty boring, and not really the point. I want to talk about why I decided to perfect the game, and revisit it after taking a long break.
I've been a fan of the Saints Row series since the first game, and was completely enthralled by Saints Row 2 back in 2008. So I was unbelievably hyped for Saints Row The Third, so hyped that I broke a years-long streak of not renting games in November 2011. I couldn't afford my own copy until 2012, but as soon as I got it I literally did not want to put it down. I convinced friends to buy copies to play co-op, I downloaded and uploaded characters to SaintsRow.com, I even obsessively hunted down all the original music in the game AND THEN obsessively tried to find out who composed it.
Well, I say that last one as if I'm not still doing it. I'm still trying to find out where some of this fantastic original(?) music came from. But I digress.
So, I liked the game so much that I didn't want to play anything else. Why not play it to completion then? To the point where I could say “this is one of my favorite games ever, and I've gotten everything I can get out of it”. And I did.
Due to the unstoppable train of games coming out and my backlog glaring at me, I knew I couldn't realistically play the game forever, as badly as I wanted to! So after completing the main story mode three times, I've pinned down why I like Saints Row The Third so much. It's not just a great game, I think it's a game that other open-world games should be taking lessons from. Let me explain.
The licensed soundtracks in open world games rarely stand out to me, just like the radio in real life. This one, however, grew on me in a way I wasn't expecting. The KRHYME station introduced me to rappers I'd never heard of like Yelawolf and Robert Raimon Roy. It encouraged me to find what other good, new rap was coming out in 2011.
I couldn't recognize any of the tracks on the electronica station by name, but they're all extremely catchy, and perfect driving music. Continuing the standard set in previous Saints Row games, the classical station is filled with some of the most recognizable songs of the genre. And Adult Swim has perhaps the best station in the game, spanning multiple genres and having genuinely funny ad breaks and DJ banter.
The radio isn't what makes the game really special though. The use of licensed music in missions is brilliant. This entire mission is memorable because of the music (open in Youtube, copyright won't let me embed it).
I was bored of Power by the time this game came out. Couldn't stand it anymore, from it being all over the radio and used in every other video game trailer/movie trailer out there. This mission still gives me goosebumps because of how perfectly the music is used.
It isn't just the few setpiece moments either. As opposed to many open world games, the missions are neither dead silent nor “spiced up” by a radio song you've already heard. No, there are original compositions everywhere in this game, from mission music to amazing store tracks to excellent end of mission themes. The music is used so well in this game, and the effort put into using an ORIGINAL soundtrack in this type of game is admirable. Well, at least I think it's original. I've been sleuthing around for a while to see if it's just a lot of lesser-known acts that were licensed out, or if it was produced in house?
Voliton, please respond to my emails on this. The people want to know.
Every open world game gives you cash for completing missions, even if you don't know why or where the money actually came from. What do you usually do with that cash? Buy more weapons and body armor. Saints Row The Third actually has reasons for you to seek out the cash, really good ones in fact!
It's easy to piss off rival gangs, so how about having safe spots everywhere? Buying stores gives you that security, basically allowing you to call "base!" where enemies can't attack you, like playing tag when you were a kid.
Buying stores also gives you an increase in the money you gain every hour, which lets you buy upgrades for your character more often. The steady increase in the amount of money you earn is balanced by the steady increase of prices for upgrades. Some upgrades are locked until you get enough experience, which encourages players to either complete Saints Book missions or progress through the main story, because these activities result in higher experience gains.
The game encourages you to keep doing activities, build up your character, and drain your wallet. It's one of the few games in this genre where money is really important, not just a way to get better guns or refill your ammo. The whole system is genius.
There's always something to do.
It's incredibly tough to put this game down, because there's something around every corner. A new sidequest, a building to buy, collectibles, enemy strongholds to bust up, in-game goals to progress toward, and so much more. Even if you're just wandering around aimlessly, you'll get calls to come help in a random turf war! Again, many open world games give you your main quests and a few scant side missions. Saints Row The Third is stuffed with content, and most of it is fun to do. And if it isn't fun, it's at least profitable due to that great economy. I can rarely play this game in small chunks because of the constant allure of "one more thing to do" being right around the corner, at all times.
So, that settles it. If Saints Row The Third isn't the best open world game I've ever played, it's damn sure in the top 3. It's cheesy, but I feel like completing the game fully is a way of showing appreciation. Like, “thanks for making one of my favorite games ever, Volition”. I rarely take the time to perfect a game and I've never been a hardcore Achievement seeker, but when a game is this special and still fun to play multiple times, it's worth it.
It was a little bittersweet getting that last Achievement and uninstalling the game from my hard drive after so long. I can't explain the feeling, but I guess it's always tough letting go of anything that's been in your life for years.
I'll probably replay the game in the future, but it's time to move on to other things. Hopefully Saints Row IV gives me the same feeling as this game did. Or if not, I hope some other games realize what made Saints Row The Third such incredible fun and a true highlight of the genre and TAKES NOTES. Because I'd love to spend the time getting 100 percent on another game that's worth it.