Saints Row: The Third is quite possibly one of the most disappointing sequels to an amazing game I’ve ever played. Let me back up, though, because if I don’t this game isn’t going to get a fair shake. Saints Row 2 is quite possibly my favorite game of this console generation. It had good game play, a well-paced plot, and a halfway decent storyline. It also was completely fucking insane, and a good counterpoint to the seriousness of GTAIV. I played the living hell out of Saints 2, and it’s one of the only games that I gladly bought every bit of DLC for. So, when I heard about the inevitable sequel to Saints 2, I was ecstatic. I sought out every morsel of info available on the game as soon as it was released, and I was extremely excited. More guns? Awesome. More customization? Fucking sweet. More crazy? Pile it on. However, once it was finally released, it was clear that this game was far from an improvement on Saints 2.
Now, I realize that it’s entirely unfair to judge a sequel solely on the merits of what came before it, but with Saints 3, not much has changed. The game play is basically the same (with the addition of the “awesome button”, a context-sensitive button that performs various over-the-top actions when pressed, such as suplexing people into concrete or drop-kicking your character directly into the nearest car), and the structure of the game is also very same-y. In Saints 2, you came out of prison and spent time gathering 3 people to take out the 3 major gangs in the city, and then once they’re gone you have to take on the big bad police force. In Saints 3, you land in the city and spend time gathering 3 people to take out the 3 major gangs in the city, and then you have to take on the big bad police force.
Mechanically, the plots are exactly the same, but the execution in Saints 3 is a massive detriment compared to Saints 2. Saints 2 took its time, building up threats and suspense, and for a game that was all about being an off-the-cuff GTA clone it also had some dramatic moments to it. Saints Row 3, on the other hand, blows its load almost instantly. We’re introduced to the Bond-villian type guy immediately, and then he’s dead 3 missions later (strangely still leaving his gang with territory in the city, though). Each gang leader goes down faster than a Saigon whore, and what dramatic moments the game tries to have seem forced and weird at best. There are times when it captures the ol’ Saints charm, the opening sequence and some of the missions with Nyteblade coming to mind. However, on the whole the game seems too concerned with being “crazy” and “out there” to actually deliver a solid plot. The game also feels rushed, with many of the diversions in Saints 2 being used as actual story missions. I can almost guarantee that about half the missions in this game were chopped out only to be sold later as DLC content. I mean, hell, I remember taking out one gang leader and then checking my completion rate, and it was already at around 40 fucking percent.
And then there’s the customization, or rather lack thereof. Saints Row 2 had an insanely deep customization mode that basically allowed you to make any character type you wanted, no matter how outlandish. Saints Row 3 reduces the amount of items available, and it also reduces the depth of the customization you’re able to do. Sure, they’ve added metal skin and shit, but where’s my ability to put a logo on anything? Where’s my ability to pick both an undershirt and an over shirt? And why the hell does customizing a car completely destroy my wallet?
In closing (because if I don’t end this, I’ll ramble on forever), is Saints Row the Third a good purchase? Yes, but only if either you’ve never played Saints 2, or if you’re like me and have played Saints 2 to the point where short of starting an entirely new game there’s literally nothing left for you to do in the thing. I would still recommend Saints 2 to a new player over Saints 3, as it’s cheaper and overall a much better game. Saints 3 just seems like a watered-down version of Saints 2. So far, the Saints games have followed the classic Star Wars sequel pattern. The first Saints game and A New Hope were a good way to kick off the series, Empire and Saints 2 were much darker and massively improved sequels, and Return of the Jedi and Saints 3 are highlight reels of high notes that attempt to tell a story but move too goddamn fast. Both ROTJ and Saints 3 do have some awesome moments, don’t get me wrong, but overall they feel much more shallow than their progenitors.
If Saints 4 gets announced as a prequel, we’re fucked.
Score: I give it 3.5 out of 5 cans of Saints Flow.