Good God, the hits just don't stop coming. I had absolutely, positively NO intention of playing Saints Row The Third. I don't like sandbox games, and I definitely don't have time for one right now with a record high FOUR games sitting unopened and un-played. I was about to launch into MW3 or Ace Combat or just replay Batman or Uncharted, when out of the blue a friend decided he needed to buy Saints Row immediately. I'd overheard a lot of talk of the insanity of the game: the outrageousness, the bombast, the full frontal nudity. My interest was piqued, and as luck would have it, my philanthropic friend decided to let me borrow the game a day after he bought it. So here I sit, after beating Saints Row The Third with 17 hours invested, telling you all: DON'T MISS OUT.
You can keep your brooding Eastern European protagonist GTA, I'll take the V-TOL.
Instead of talking about Saints Row's merits in separate categories, I think it's better to just say what makes it worth playing over most other sandbox games. Before continuing, know that the sum of SR's parts may not be greater than the big boys on the block like GTA, but broken down individually SR does almost everything better than GTA.
You know how you watch a movie, and when the people in it are playing a video game, the game they are playing looks so ridiculous and over the top? If you're like me you roll your eyes and say "Ok Hollywood D-Bags, you OBVIOUSLY have never played a game if you think that's what they're like. Do your homework cocksuckers!" Well... Volition has made the game that appears in those movies. They have made (successfully at that) what can only be described as the greatest video game parody of a video game ever. Consider it the concrete, unabashed monument to the "games are games, not art" argument. It blows my mind Saints Row the Third got green-lit in this day and age when games lack the "fuck you, we'll do it cuz we can!" swagger embodied by games of the 90's. Yet SR is not a game that will be a flash in the controversy pan. It does not rely solely on it's exploitative exterior to prove itself, and here's where things get real: the game IS at it's core a very well done game in it's own right.
This game doesn't exist! Oh wait.
The game controls great, on foot or in car, helicopter, jet, v-tol, or whatever means of transport/murder you prefer (Take notes Rockstar). The customization is fantastic. The story is engaging and ever escalating, with memorable (believe it or not) characters that make so little sense, that you no longer care that nothing makes sense. The graphics are very acceptable for a game of this scope, with excellent explosions. The soundtrack hits it's high points with specific songs saved and used for dramatic effect during missions. Crashing a rooftop pool party butt-ass naked, by way of a parachute, while Kanye West blares never felt better! At surface level what you may assume is SR is basically a GTA clone with better control, customization, stat tracking, and game mechanics. Luckily, if you play for just 10 minutes you will realize Saints Row the Third decimates GTA in the most crucial area: FUN.
Saints Row is straight up fun. Bottom line. Missions are built around this mantra. Want to get an awesome indestructible tank to cut lose on the streets? No problem, you'll get that after an hour of play. Buy an airport 2 hours in? That comes with a prop plane, jet, oh and an A-10 Warthog clone that can level anything in your path. I played the first 3 hours not even understanding what my health bar was, and not needing to worry about it. This isn't a game of tactics and cover. Nay, it's a game of cock punches and DDTs, attack choppers and UAV controlled missile strikes, up-gradable auto shottys and an army of helper ninja on the streets. The best part is all this will be experienced within the first couple hours, and it only gets better from there. By games end you'll have entered a Tron universe, taken a chainsaw to a wrestling match, murdered undead, and engaged in about 2 miles of free-fall combat.
Makes sense to me.
There's really not much else to say about this game. It is a game that is just the pure expression of mindless fun. The mission variety keeps the whole thing moving along, and if you're the completionist type SR has you covered with tons of extra things to do after end game. The fact that this game got made is astounding. That it's this compelling is miraculous. If nothing else Saints Row the Third has made me realize just how much I hate Grand Theft Auto 4. For all their posturing and pomp, Rockstar forgot what made GTA so uniquely enjoyable: FUN. Volition has brought fun back to the sandbox, and done it with a healthy dose of solid controls and outlandishly unique and enjoyable missions. Congratulations Saints Row the Third, you are now the best Grand Theft Auto in the series.