Not a Coyote Review: Saint's Row the Third
Saint's Row the Third: Why SR3 is Baller & You Should Give it a Try
From the man, nay, legend that gave us the Coyote reviews!
A little while ago there was a Coyo-- I mean a Steam Sale, and the featured item was a game called Saint's Row the Third.
Now, I'd heard of Saint's Row before, and my initial impression was that it was an uninspired GTA clone so I never really gave it a fair shake. Shame on me, what sort of reviewer am-- Wait I was a spoiled teenager at the time NEVERMIND.
So having nothing better to do, I whipped out my (mom's) credit card and bought the game (along with Saint's Row 2 for $3). With the size of the advertisements they had hanging outside of E3 2011 it had to be good, right?
Well, maybe the banners had nothing to do with it but it was a good game. A really good game.
It was also ****ing ridiculous. Saint's Row the Third has an unbelievably outlandish sense of humor, and I think it is a credit to the game's creators that they managed to be both wacky and funny at the same time. That isn't easy to pull off, ask Duke Nukem Forever. No actually, don't. Don't even acknowledge Duke Nukem Forever.
One of the very first missions in the game has you and longtime companions Johnny Gat and Shaundi taken captive aboard a posh airliner by a Belgian crime lord, the leader of the syndicate that rules the gangs of Steelport. He offers you the chance to be his bit-- subordinates if you promise to turn over 80% of your earnings to him. You and your team respond appropriately. Next thing you know you're gun-battling your way through the airliner to a daring escape via the back hatch and the sky. As you free fall through a cloud of cars and cargo containers dodging debris to catch up to your noticeably parachuteless friend Shaundi, you have to fight off squads of enemies skydiving after you.
Eventually the plane turns around and tries to ram you out of the sky, and you have to shoot your way through the windshield (do they still call them windshields on planes?) and “fall” through the plane itself, flying right back out the back hatch, setting off an obligatory barrel of explosive material which causes the plane to explode and fall into the ocean.
I don't wanna spoil anything, but you end up surviving this part and get to continue playing the game. But man, it totally jumped the shark just now. How is it supposed to top something like that?
Well that's the trick. It doesn't try to. The game routinely presents outrageous situations but it never calls attention to them, tries to make the next one “more epic” or tries to tell you “LOL LOOK HOW FUNNY THIS IS GUYS XD XD XD XD”. These moments just happen and you don't expect them because they're spaced out across (slightly) more serious-minded missions. You know you want to take down the leader of the city's technologically-oriented gang, and you know there's gonna be a lot of driving around and gunning down his people involved, but you don't expect that to finally finish him off you're going to throw yourself into cyberspace and do battle with his avatar in a video game (inside a video game).
And you don't expect that, while trying to recruit new homies for your gang you're going to have to bust into a BDSM mansion, rescue a potential recruit, and then have him carry you to freedom in a rickshaw (in full bondage gear) while you fight off your pursuers, all sitting in gimp-driven rickshaws of their own.
It's actually quite a deviation from the original games, which despite being laden with humorous moments still attempted to maintain an air of seriousness. I think part of it probably comes from Saint's Row wanting to differentiate itself from Grand Theft Auto, a game that heavily reigns in goofiness in favor of a darker, more serious tone.
Not that SR3 can't be serious... sometimes.
But that's not the only thing that sets SR apart. The character customization in the game is actually staggering, almost literally so, as in when I saw how much you could do with your character I stood up and kinda stumbled backwards a bit, then sat down again.
When you make your character you can choose between making a male or a female, but this choice is entirely superficial. You have so many sliders at your command that you can make any sort of person you desire, and even if you choose to be a petite little anime girl nothing is stopping you from choosing a deep male voice for your character. Hairstyles? Sure, you can give Arnold Schwarzenegger a pair of pigtails. And every piece of clothing, whether a men's sport coat or a revealing cocktail dress, can be worn by anyone or anything at any time, anywhere.
You can finally be the transvestite furry crime god that you've always dreamed of being.
So yeah, flawless game, right? Well, no, not really. The game has a couple of hangups.
One of the most common criticisms I hear about the game is that it wasn't as good as Saint's Row 2. Specifically that it wasn't Saint's Row 2. And you know, they do have a point.
In Saint's Row 2, your character has just come out of a coma and now wants to take back the city they lost. You start with nothing but a faded legacy and work your way up to becoming a dominant force by rolling over everyone in your path. You know, classic story.
In Saint's Row 3 your gang is already a global brand name. A botched bank robbery involving extremely well-armed tellers results in your incarceration, and you get sprung by the very organization you tried to rob. That's when the airliner thing happens. Next thing you know you're in Steelport and you decide “hey, let's just take this town over then.” There's no real motive for you to want to do so aside from revenge.
It just seems like they spent so much time making the missions amazing that they forgot to make sure the story was all that good. A major character is killed off-camera in the first fifteen minutes just to give you a reason to hate the bad guy.
And then you end up killing this bad guy... About an hour into the game. That allows one of his lieutenants, a giant of a man named Killbane, to muscle his way into leadership of the syndicate. Problem is, who cares? The new guy isn't some bigger threat (well he is literally but) and he's never actually done anything to you directly. In the past he was a dick to one of the homies you meet in this game, but that's really it. Sure he then proceeds to shoot rockets at your dead homie's funeral procession, but that's the one reason you have to hate the guy and it just doesn't really feel strong enough considering you all make it out of that alive. Except your dead homie.
So the problem ends up being that you have all these hilarious things going on, but that's really all that's keeping you in the game. It's hard to care as much about the characters in SR3 as you did in SR2 so all you want to see is what comes next.
And the regular enemies aren't all that inspiring, either. The gangs in this game are bland and homogenized. You have the Morningstar, the Deckers, and the Luchadores. What's the difference between them? Well, the Morningstar drive red cars, the Deckers drive blue cars, and the Luchadores drive green cars.
Okay, so that's not fair. They also wear different outfits. But they all use the same guns, their cars all have the same style of paint jobs (mostly black trimmed with their gang colors, and a colored star on the roof) and the only difference between their regular units are their 'specialists,' that is to say, the types of people they send after you when you hit a 3-star wanted level. Morningstar have irritating snipers in helicopters, Deckers have... anime girls with sonic rollerskates and giant electro-hammers, and the Luchadores have a very large guy with a fully-automatic grenade launcher. Other than that though, it makes absolutely no difference who you have after you.
In SR2, each of the three gangs of Stilwater were extremely diverse. They had their own vehicles, gang symbols, taunts, compliments, fighting styles and were generally more thematically complete. When you saw one of them, you knew who they were and what you were dealing with.
In SR3 none of the gangs have any sort of solid “theme.” The Morningstar are supposed to be... European businessmen. Why are they called the Morningstar? I don't know. They have a star on their car I guess. No wait, all three gangs do. They attack you with pistols and submachine guns and shotguns and occasionally have snipers show up to shoot at you from helicopters.
The Deckers are supposed to be a cybergang. Well, aside from their leader looking like he spends too much time at a radioactive Hot Topic and the inexplicable inclusion of sonic rollerblade anime girls, they do nothing even remotely connected to being cyberguys except in missions where they “hack” something, which amounts to one of your friends telling you “omg the Deckers have hacked something.”
The Luchadores are somewhat reminiscent of the Brotherhood from SR2... except lol no they're not. They have a big truck in their vehicle lineup, but that's it. They never bust out any wrestling moves or use thematic weaponry. They have big guys who carry full-auto grenade launchers for whatever reason, but when it comes down to actually fighting then most of the time you just find them using the same guns as the other two gangs.
Those are probably my biggest hangups with the game. There are a few other things that kind of irk me, like Volition's inexplicable infatuation with Cartoon Network's Adult Swim and their horrifically annoying overuse of Alex Borstein as “the hilarious high-voiced reporter,” essentially reprising her role as “Asian Reporter Tricia Takanawa” from Family Guy every five minutes to remind you in a hilaaaarious way of the thing you just did.
Well hey, that's a lot of complaints. Are you saying this is a bad game?
No actually, in fact it's very good and really should be experienced if just for the various, ridiculous missions and the excellent humor. It's even fun to just hop into the game, dress up as a pirate, and cause untold devastation from the sky as you call down airstrikes on people dressed as Saints Flow energy drinks. The game is as ridiculous as you want it to be, and I think it does a good job of not taking things too far.
Which makes me a little worried when I hear that Saint's Row 4 is confirmed and cited to be “even wilder” than Saint's Row 3. Please don't overdo it, guys. And please don't give Tim and Eric any more fame than they already have.
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