Saint’s Row is a weird little franchise. It’s a GTA rip off, there’s no getting away from that, and that’s pretty much all the first game was. Somehow, since then, it’s taken on a life of its own. While GTA is pretty crazy it maintains a certain amount of verisimillitude in which the humour and craziness takes place.
Saint’s Row II got a little crazy but by the time we find ourselves in the third of the series. Saint’s Row III has finally completely gained its own identity and that identity is balls-out, batshit loco crazy.
This game is FUCKED in the head – in the best possible way.
Normally I play a game completely through before posting a review but here I really don’t feel I have to. In the few hours I’ve found to play already I’m sold. I think I’m even going to play it before Skyrim because frankly, this bloody thing is wonderful.
Do we particularly care? The game opens with two of the craziest, most ludicrous gunfights I have ever seen in a game. With content that strong who cares about story really?
Alright then… basically the Saints – after the end of SRII – rule the city, they have a shitload of money and a financial and media empire, even their own energy drinks. Their ascendency, along with a badly targetted bank robbery, brings them to the attention of The Syndicate. The Syndicate is an international crime organisation with some serious chops and when the Saints reject them they are not happy. So unhappy, in fact, that they decide to fuck with the Saint’s shit and take their empire away from them.
Rather than coming up from the street as in so many of these games, this is a story of reclamation and revenge and that’s delicious.
You have plenty to do, activities, missions, self-selected missions, storyline, purchasing and building your empire. That’s what I love about these kinds of games, the ability to feel that you are genuinely working to take over a city and build an empire. Something missing from other, similar games where it feels more arbitrary. There’s plenty to do, plenty to keep you busy in the game and it’s all fun and relevant. The only game that’s felt remotely as complete when it comes to empire building on the street, and that’s GTA: Vice City.
This is a pretty standard third-person sandbox game, so if you’ve played any of those you’ll find this easy enough to get into. No real surprises involved. Cars handle easily which, after GTAIV, was very welcome. The system is improved over the previous SR games and feels less clunky and sluggish on foot, which is also nice.
This is a crazed, drug-fuelled dream of a city. It’s the extreme end of ludicrous action, Crank meets Shoot ’em Up meets the worst/best excesses of Hong Kong cinema with a healthy dose of hollywoodised gang culture. The city itself is a cariacature as much as the personalities that inhabit it. Nothing, nothing, NOTHING is taken seriously but, rather than being a loner you do feel part of a gang, a family. Despite the silliness, you do feel part of something bigger.
Nothing massively wonderful about the graphics, but they don’t need to be. The character customisation is a great compromise between accessibility and complexity and – while it’s not graphics – the option to have a British accent on your character is very, very welcome. The main thing is, it runs smooth and fast and it’s just as complex as it needs to be and no more.
On the plus side
- Crazy as fuck.
- SR finally feels like its own game.
On the minus side
- Graphics aren’t up to true next-gen snuff.
- A refresher course on the controls and a little hand-holding would have been nice.
- How can they top this?