The Craziest Open World Game Yet Is Also One Of The Best
Saint’s Row The Third is easily the most ridiculous game I’ve played in a year that has already seen its share of mass destruction, dicktits, and Big Boners. Think about that for a second. This is a game so unrelentingly absurd, it’s sometimes difficult to tell the numerous glitches apart from conscious design decisions. But where so many other games grimace seriously through their campaigns, Saint’s Row The Third sports a shit-eating grin, laughing along with the player at the madness occurring onscreen. It’s this willingness to acknowledge and play into the madcap nature of video games that sets the Third Street Saints’ latest a step above and beyond its competition.
Nowhere is this better embodied than in the opening levels, which I hesitate to spoil in the event that you haven’t seen them yet. The Saints attempt to rob a bank and are foiled by a mysterious new gang. Suffice it to say, things quickly elevate to extreme levels, and before long you’ll find yourself plummeting from 35,000 feet without a parachute. It’s this kind of blockbuster excitement that Saint’s Row consistently brings to the open world genre in this latest outing, and although most of the subsequent missions never quite capture the fist pumping adrenaline rush of that first one, it isn’t for lack of trying. Before long you’ll be slinging Predator missiles at enemies, taking down armored brutes with their own chainguns, and engaging in dogfights over the streets of Steelport. This sense of scale has never really been attempted in an open world game before, and the devotion to hair raising setpieces is appreciated. Throw in the best of the industry’s numerous uses of Kanye’s “Power,” and you’ll have some of these missions burned into your mind for a long time.
That wanton absurdity is even more pronounced in the game’s open world, where it’s not uncommon to see gimps, prostitutes, luchadores, and Tron-wannabes parading the sidewalks all within a few blocks. The side missions make a welcome return from Saint’s Row 2, although now their completion isn’t necessary to progress the story. Without the added pressure of having to complete these missions in order to unlock story progress, they become even more fun. Most of these missions have been done in previous Saint’s Row games before, such as the series standard Insurance Fraud and the always amusing Tank Rampages. A few new missions pop up as well, but most of these are variations on escort missions and represent by far the least interesting part of the game. The most notable addition to the side missions is Professor Genki’s Super Ethical Reality Climax, which is still just a glorified survival match against a bunch of AI enemies. Still, even though most mission types are repeated, they're hilarious and entertaining.
Aside from completing missions, you can waste plenty of time purchasing real estate, adding new vehicles to your garage, assassinating evildoers, stealing cars, completing ambient challenges, finding collectables… the list goes on and on. No doubt this is a packed game, and while the quality of the content is generally high, the large volume of content has taken a noticeable toll on the stability of the game. Glitches run rampant in Steelport. Whether it's cars that launch other vehicles through the air, characters that lose their accessories when they enter a vehicle or a number of other sloppy inconsistencies, chances are you’ll notice at least a few flaws with the stability of the game. Thing is, most of these glitches do little to detract from the game. In fact, flying cars and spontaneously naked characters is kind of awesome. It almost feels like the development team left some of the wacky physics glitches and the like in the game intentionally because they support the madcap nature of the proceeding levels so well. Playing this game truly is insanely fun, whether it’s functioning as it’s supposed to or not. Only a few nasty glitches will hamper your progress, whether it’s by killing you spontaneously or by bugging out the AI or by performing vanishing acts with certain key story objects.
Glitches aside, this is one of the most purely fun video games I’ve played in years. Volition’s design team has outdone themselves this time in coming up with new and interesting ways to entertain. The wide variety of hilarious situations, both ambient and scripted, that permeate every minute of Saint’s Row The Third is what makes it one of the best choices for gamers this holiday season. It may not be the most stable game ever, but it is one of the most fun, and in the end that’s what every video game should aspire to.