Saints Row: The Third takes place in the city of Steelport, a bustling burg with its own share of gang violence. You play as the leader of the Third Street Saints, a gang who aims to take out the rival gangs of Steelport and gain control of the city. Things get really edgy when both the rival gangs and the military start going after The Saints and there are plenty of twists that force the player to make tough decisions on the fly. The story has its share of tense moments, but it's the Saints' wacky collection of characters that seals the deal when it comes to narrative. Auto-tuned pimp Zimos, hacking expert Kinzie, and disgruntled wrestler Angel are just a few of the absolutely hilarious characters that bring out the diversely goofy nature of Saints Row: The Third. You'll no doubt find a favorite, which is great considering how essential the team is to the player's character, The Boss.
Very much like its predecessors, Saints Row: The Third is an open-world game in the homage of Grand Theft Auto. There are missions to complete, side-quests to unlock, vehicles to drive, pedestrians to butcher, and plenty of wacky, cut-loose fun that the open-world design has created for years. What makes Saints Row: The Third different from the rest is its sheer, devil-may-care vibe. While Grand Theft Auto has always had drama and struggle as the focus of its world, Saints Row: The Third does everything in its power to completely negate that precedent. There is not a moment in Saints Row: The Third where it takes itself seriously. One moment you'll be hijacking cars and giving chase to rival gang members, the next you'll be diving into cyberspace and defeating enemies with a Mega Man-esque buster cannon. Saints Row: The Third catches self-referential humor and pop culture parody at every opportunity. It's by far the funniest open-world game released in recent memory.
Mission structure is a critical importance to an open-world game, and thanks to Saints Row: The Third's insane amount of goofiness, developing house Volition Inc. really let themselves go wild when designing the objectives and missions in Steelport. You get the archetypal escort, destruction, and racing missions, but for every straightforward mission, you'll find a brilliantly inventive and creative one. One mission requires you to drive dangerously while avoiding being distracted by a tiger in the passenger seat. Another might involve running through a parody of Japanese game shows while dodging gunfire from men in hot dog suits. One of the most fun and creative missions involves throwing yourself in front of traffic for insurance money. One especially major aspect of Saints Row: The Third is the options. While other games hold back the more destructive items until you earn them, Saints Row: The Third offers them almost immediately. If waiting for a tank in GTA made you feel let down, don't worry: Saints Row gives it to you in the first few hours. It's these kinds of wacky and crass missions that truly show what Volition was aiming to do with Saints Row: The Third: pretty much whatever they wanted. If any game offered the feeling of a full-fledged sandbox world, one where anything is accessible for use, Saints Row: The Third comes ridiculously close.
Upon completing a mission, players are rewarded with cash to spend on new outfits, skill upgrades, weapons, and more. Missions also net players Respect, which is the experience of Saints Row: The Third which unlocks more skills to purchase and upgrades to select. Respect is earned remarkably frequently, whether in missions, finding hidden loot, or even just driving recklessly throughout Steelport. It's incredibly addictive just exploring the city and discovering a gang to take out or a new vehicle to try out. Adding to the colossal amount of things to do in Steelport is a micro-management minigame, similar to the villa of Assassin's Creed II. Players can buy property throughout the city, which can net them hourly income to spend on things. The more turf bought, the higher the income. Saints Row: The Third also includes Achievement-esque Challenges, assassination missions, employable gang members, and so much more. A fun and destructive cooperative element will also keep your friends on board. With a main quest of around twelve hours long (with multiple endings and critical decisions to make throughout), it may seem a little brief, but every door that opens in Saints Row: The Third is worth passing through. That 100% completion is well-worth going after.
Saints Row: The Third's world is massive and remarkably diverse compared to other open-world games, but its graphical fidelity is the only thing that really brings it down. Noticeable frame rate issues and cluttered textures during the more intense battles were frequent enough to make some of the more prominent setpieces a bit tougher to withstand. Cutscenes look great, though, and the character designs are wacky and funny to check out. Glitches did rear their ugly heads too, however, so it's a shame that Saints Row: The Third can't hold onto its graphical polish the way that open-world games like Assassin's Creed can. The sound design, on the other hand, is fantastic. The voice acting brings in plenty of big-name voice actors like Hulk Hogan, Burt Reynolds, and Natalie Lander for the ride and their performances are spot-on, complimented by some witty and laugh-out-loud writing. Along with the voice acting stands a diverse soundtrack featuring the likes of Deftones, The Black Keys, Kanye West, Faith no More, to name a few. Players can even make their own preferred playlist with the vehicles' mixtape feature. Though its graphics can present some discouraging technical issues, Saints Row: The Third manages to keep its head held up high among the biggest open-world games in the biz, proving its juggernaut status without any setback.
Saints Row: The Third throws subtlety out the window, focusing on over-the-top, goofy activities instead of the drama that has arisen in other open-world games. A captivating collection of entertaining characters, plenty of high-quality voice acting, excellent mission design, and a near-bottomless amount of content help Saints Row: The Third make a name for itself in the open-world market. Volition never breaks the rules of the sandbox archetype, but they've bent them so much that the cracks are shown pretty easily, especially in terms of the graphics. If you can ignore those visual missteps, you'll find one of the most fun sandbox games in recent memory. Saints Row: The Third is a fantastic game whose crass humor, obscenity-laden dialogue, and giant phallic weaponry hide a rich and deep action game that will keep players hooked for weeks. Pick it up today.