The lights are on
I never played the first Saints Row and, though I played the second, without the online multiplayer I am not sure if I would have liked that game as well as I did (or even gotten all the way through it). Online multiplayer was still the mode of choice for my playthrough of Saints Row: The Third, but this is a game that demands your attention whether you play alone or with friends. Saints Row: The Third improved upon the formula in almost every way to make for the best entry in the series yet, and to deliver an unforgettable sandbox experience.
The story and missions, full of the kind of absurdity the game thrives on, are fantastically varied and humorous, taking the player to very strange places. There are some truly astounding missions, not least of which are the opening bank robbery and subsequent plane sequence from the very beginning of the game, which set the stage for the level of pure insanity the game descends into over time. The unified enemy, as opposed to the individual gangs from the second game, makes the narrative much more cohesive. This choice makes the main story seem much less disjointed, though the inclusion of some tragic moments do perhaps lose their weight when the game has almost entirely abandoned any pretense of realism.
The upgrades are well-paced, and building up your character into an invincible powerhouse of destruction is extremely satisfying. The activities are somewhat repetitive, especially after the action of the main story, resulting in a somewhat tedious experience, but there are gems among the activities that are just a blast to play. My personal favorite was the Professor Genki activity. The assassination missions and car thefts feel like they ended too soon; in the future, it would be nice to see more of these missions take the place of some of the activities, or the return of some activities from the second. The challenges are another excellent source for prolonging the game, focusing sandbox mayhem into certain goals like number of headshots and boats exploded.
The humor is definitely low-brow, but Volition obviously recognizes and embraces that fact, keeping the game humorous rather than childish. Volition has really carved out something special with the series at this point. Saints Row 2 was good for a playthrough, but Saints Row: The Third easily makes my top 10 (if not top 5) games of the year and leaves me wondering what Volition will do next with the series. Excellent gameplay, an action-packed set of missions, a patently absurd story, and online multiplayer add up to make a can't miss game.
Concept: Make the most absurd adventure in a sandbox world yet as the Saints take over Steelport.
Graphics: Saints Row: The Third looks good. The visuals seem to just meld with the style of the game.
Sound: Like the former game, Saints Row: The Third contains some great dialogue and a large variety of music to listen to, whether in car or jet.
Playability: Saints Row: The Third is one of the best controlling games I've played in recent memory. If you've ever played a sandbox game before, you're set. If you haven't, it will come to you in no time.
Entertainment: Fun from start to finish. Some of the activities may get repetitive, but just go base jumping from a friend's VTOL for awhile until you are ready to head back to the missions or activities left.
Replay Value: Moderate
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