|System: Xbox 360, PS3, PC|
|Dev: Volition, Inc.|
|Release: November 15, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Sexual Content, Strong Language, Use of Drugs|
The side-missions, on the other hand, seem to have been pared back from previous entries. While there are some truly standout concepts in the main story arc (//deckers.die and Murderbrawl XXXI are personal favorites), most of the other activities just task players with driving to a location and shooting some people. Sometimes the people come to you, instead. Also, when the game first gives the impression that it's opening up, it takes the opportunity to introduce you to its entire retinue of side-missions, few of which are of any lasting value (though Mayhem missions return and Trail Blazing is a blast, as is Dr. Genki's Super Ethical Reality Climax, a game show that involves shooting mascots and avoiding flames and electricity).
All of this is powered by a new engine that looks, for lack of a better term, glossy. It's a good thing, in that the graphics have character and don't appear overly staid, and the darker color palette of Steelport feels appropriate (though the crumpling effect on damaged vehicles is a little hit-or-miss.) But the engine sometimes seemed to be too much for the hardware to handle. On the Xbox 360, at least, the game would consistently chug when driving at high speeds, never to the point where it seriously affected gameplay, but it became apparent during less visually demanding sequences, when the game's frame rate spiked, that aiming was definitely affected by a sort of visual lag.
Sound-wise, stuff blows up well and gunfire is satisfying; melee attacks have a meaty crunch to them, to the point where it can draw a wince when the protagonist delivers a particularly deadly soccer kick to a downed enemy's head. The soundtrack is mostly composed of licensed music, all found on the radio except during specific mission sequences that just seem to call for a certain song. At those times, the developer's choices generally adhere to the title's absurdist nature. Joe Esposito's "You're The Best" while chainsawing through hordes of Mexican wrestlers at a pay-per-view event? Very Saints Row.
Lastly, there are the multiplayer options. No competitive play, here, unless leaderboards count. The Whored mode offers wave-based enemy slaying, but it feels pretty bare when compared to the tower defense-infused Horde mode in Gears of War 3. It's good for a laugh or two, though. The crux of multiplayer in Saints Row: The Third, however, is its co-op campaign. Besides being jump-in/jump-out, and allowing players to bring their own characters along for the ride, it consists of the entire single-player campaign, played with a partner. Players aren't forced to stick together, able to go wherever they wish in the open world, though they are given the option to tackle missions together when one player activates them. It's a lot of fun to just run around with a buddy and wreak unchecked mayhem and destruction. Or, you know, play through the missions.
The big issue I have with Saints Row: The Third is that it doesn't feel like its content, varied though it may be, has much of a purpose outside of the main campaign. The open world really seems to exist more as a way to prolong the experience by forcing a player to travel to the origin point for the next mission rather than simply having it begin outright. While it can be enjoyable to unwind by just cutting loose in the sandbox, the world isn't densely packed enough with compelling, secondary content to draw the player's attention while they're traversing the city from point A to point B. Saints Row: The Third is still a lot of fun to play, and it absolutely takes its story-telling and presentation to the next level, but it feels like a step backward for the series with regard to justifying itself as a sandbox experience.
CCC Contributing Writer