It’s fair to say that Rockstar tried to steal a little of Volition’s thunder with the unexpected release of the Grand Theft Auto 5 trailer, but guess what? Saint’s Row The Third stands on its own feet as one of the best open-world sandbox games to date.
If you’ve been paying any attention to the pre-release hype (and how couldn’t you, given that it featured Hulk Hogan, adult movie star Shay Laren and other Penthouse pets), you know that this game is anything but serious. It’s a balls-out thrill ride that will keep you glued to your console for days.
The game rockets you right into the action, starting out with a bank heist that goes rapidly awry. The game is divided pretty evenly between free-roaming adventure, where you can get up to a variety of unsavory business, and story-based missions. The missions are all designed as huge set pieces, and they’re challenging and fun. But the real meat of the game is in the emergent gameplay on the streets of Steelpoint, where crazy stuff is around every corner.
At any time, you might get into a fistfight with an old man playing dominoes, carjack a golf cart being driven by two guys in giant Red Bull can costumes, or stumble upon a cache of collectible sex dolls. The city is full of stores where you can buy ridiculous clothing, tattoos and other accoutrements. You can even spend $500 for plastic surgery to transform your avatar into just about anything. And yes, the game does, as rumored, let you set your dick size.
The game is overflowing with insane weapons – one of the first you get is a missile-shooting satellite that you can use to rain down hot death on your enemies from the heavens. You can also get Hulk hands that make enemies explode on contact, giant rubber dildos and more. Combat is clean and simple, and you can actually bring some strategy to battles if you think ahead.
The map is also full of activities to do for cash and “respect,” many of which are unlocked by completing missions. These activities have you covering allies from a helicopter, committing insurance fraud (a Saints Row staple), and even participating in an ultra-violent Running Man-esque game show. Throw in assassination missions and car thefts that you can undertake at any time and you’ve always got plenty of options.
One complaint I had with the game is that it seems to vacillate wildly between control and freedom – once you’ve gotten used to being able to make any choice you want, some of the missions feel like you’re being railroaded a bit into doing just one thing. But this is a minor quibble, and it certainly doesn’t do anything to make Saints Row The Third less of a must-play. This game was definitely worth the wait and is easily the best in the series. Xbox 360, PS3, PC