Disappointment in Space
If there was one game of 2011 that embodied the spirit of pure fun, it was probably Saint’s Row: The Third. The game was stylish, ridiculous, and managed to deliver some exquisitely over-the-top experiences in an entirely self-aware manner. It’s therefore a pretty big letdown to see it become another of the great AAA games out there that has been saddled with DLC that feels tacked-on and poorly made.
Gangstas in Space acts as an epilogue for the main game in which, as the boss of the Third Street Saints, you take on the lead role in the titular action film. However, you are placed under the directing ability of one Andy Zhen, an obnoxious Hollywood movie-maker who adores you, but despises your co-star Jenny, who is cast in the role of alien princess Kwilana.
One of the biggest problems with Gangstas in Space is that it doesn’t feel like it has the character of the original Saint's Row: The Third. A lot of the necessary groundwork is laid for some great Saint’s Row 3 missions, and attempts to recapture the spirit of the main game can be seen shining through here and there, but the DLC never really manages to match up to the inventive outlandishness of the main story mode. There’s just no equivalent here of excellently nonsense moments in the main game like a character voiced by Hulk Hogan telling you to ride around in a car with a tiger avoiding animal rights protesters, or breaking a man who speaks entirely in autotune out of a fetish club.
There are some efforts made to make you feel like you’re really part of a summer action movie, with explosions and gunfire playing a big part, and to the DLC's credit its retro film-strip effects and triumphant music do help create an exciting atmosphere, but after the experience of the game proper, they don’t feel all that special.
A few laughs can be found in the humour of Gangstas in Space, but it largely tries to get by on the same two jokes over and over; the fact that Zhen is a jerk, and the fact that the film the characters are making is of a very poor quality. They both feel spread pretty thin. The whole journey is also hampered by some very poor pacing. Missions will quickly shift from high octane action to reserved quietness in the blink of an eye, and with the DLC only being three missions in length, not long after it’s just got going, it’s brought to an abrupt finish.
In terms of gameplay Gangstas in Space is to an extent what you’ve come to expect from Saint’s Row: The Third. There’s a reasonable mix of outdoor, indoor, and vehicle combat, but the weaponry introduced in the DLC is pretty underwhelming. The new guns, which are mandatory in certain sections, are simply the firearms from the main game, but outfitted with an annoying cooldown mechanic.
Honestly, being tasked with using these guns feels worse than being given no new weapons; pausing for your gun to cool down during a battle might be fine if you had a more powerful or quick-firing gun, but when the game demands you do so with pistols or SMGs, it feels needlessly boring. Standing around doing nothing just so a arbitrary bar can drain is a dull experience, and a later mission that has you participating in bland and predictable on-rails shooting may be even worse.
As someone who was a big fan of Saint’s Row: The Third, it’s sad to see an epilogue to the game that just doesn’t do it justice. Ill-advised pacing, poorly designed gameplay, and a lack of the humour and absurdism that made the main game so great, make this DLC stand out as frustratingly lacking. What enjoyment there is to be had in Gangstas in Space stems from those moments where you can see traits of the main game peeking through, and in the vague elements of an action blockbuster it offers up.