This Is MY City!
Saints Row: The Third makes good on its promise of more over-the-top open-world antics, but can't quite capture the spark that made its predecessor an unlikely hit.
Published: November 23, 2011
Without a doubt, though, there was clearly an effort spent in updating the underlying engine. Saints Row: The Third still sports a slightly cartoony, exaggerated color palette, but there's a bit more in the way of detail in everything from the variety of animations to the overall look and feel of Steelport vs. Stilwater. The game seems to run at a better clip (even in co-op), breaking down into low framerates during major explosive moments, but otherwise stays fairly strong (though I was a bit saddened to see the option to turn on/off v-sync was removed; it's always off, and there's a decent amount of screen tearing). There's something to be said for finally taking over the whole city, screaming to your private hanger at the airport on a motorcycle straight out of Tron, grabbing a plane and just tooling around the massive purple phalluses that make up the new Saints-occupied skyline.
So things are smoother, cleaner and still a bit more detailed, yes, but there's another problem with Steelport: it just doesn't have the character of Stilwater. The individual districts all sort of bleed together (save for down town, where all the high rises and bustling streets really do give it its own identity), and there's no discernible visual indication of where you are and aside from bridges no indication that you're transitioning into somewhere else -- mind you this is after spending well over 30 hours in this world; normally by then I know most of the city like the back of my hand.
Things aren't quite so mixed on the audio front. All six of the main character voices (seven if you count the zombie) are delivered with such panache that I really did start to love my character, even if they didn't quite come off as the hell-bent psycho from the last game. All the side characters are voiced well (save for Shaundi, who, again, just feels like a throwaway character this time around and barely appears in the game compared to the rest of the cast), and while the guns are a little on the flat side, they at least sound different enough from each other that there's some meat to their general aural accompaniment.
The music -- particularly in the songs chosen for the main missions -- are fantastic, however. Volition really outdid themselves with the soundtrack (and this absolutely includes the instrumental music written for the game by Malcolm Kirby Jr.), skewing it heavily towards some 80s and 90s classics and offering the ability to create a mix tape of many of the songs heard on the radio stations, so you're never locked into hearing things as they play out in a car. A few of the songs (like the brilliantly placed "Just For Today" by Hybrid) don't actually appear in the game proper, which is a shame, but by and large it's great stuff. I did find myself pining for a talk radio station, but beggars can't be choosers.
There's plenty more I could talk about, but the bottom line here is that Saints Row: The Third was clearly designed around the idea of excessive fun. Volition has built a world that seems eager to be broken (or at least stressed) by how over-the-top it can be, and they obviously listed to fan feedback on some things -- chiefly among them the way the cars handle, which is now a bit more uniform, but aided by the ability to throw each and every car into a drift that offers its own risk/reward setup and rewards in the form of respect for some particularly long skids.