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Saints Row: The Third Member Review for the PC

Tyrranis By:
GENRE Action 
M Contains Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Content, Strong Language

What do these ratings mean?

A return to the ludicrous

Ahh, Saints Row. Although many of us did not find your initial installment to be much more than a GTAIII wannabe, only more glitchy, there are those among the ranks of what we call the gaming community that enjoyed our introductions to the city of Stilwater, and the gang we would be calling family; the Third Street Saints. And lo, when Grand Theft Auto entered its fourth installment, opting for more realistic storylines, gripping drama and realism at the expense of the lunacy that it had so easily flaunted during the Vice City and San Andreas era, many of us turned our backs on the series. Lost, abandoned and without comfort, you took those of us in with your sequel, Saints Row 2, which allowed us to do things like throw ourselves into traffic for money, beat people up with street signs and shoot muscle-bound truckers in the groin.

And now, you have bestowed upon us the glory that is your third installment, Saints Row the Third, which, although somewhat regal in name, doth share not the attitude of the royal family, but more with the bratty children one sees if they do glance upon one of those godawful nanny TV shows that once made the rounds.

For those of you who have yet to grace the city of Stilwater with your presence, the Saints Row series has never been one for subtlety. Indeed, within the first hour of SR:TT, you will have robbed a bank in a Johnny Gat outfit, dived out of a plane, dived back into said plane, dived out again and robbed a national guard armory for weapons, including one big freaking bomb. After that, things do simmer down again, but you can look forward to other such balls-out action pieces such as using a tank in free fall, infiltrating a nightclub drugged and naked, a low speed shootout in rickshaws pulled by guys in pony fetish gear, driving around town in a car with a tiger in the side and shooting zombies for Burt Reynolds. I am not making any of that up.

The game kicks off two years after SR2. The Saints, with the help of the remaining Ultor employees (you having murdered more than a few during events in SR2) have turned into a mulitnational media group, getting money from merchandising, advertisements and even TV and movie deals. The Saints bring along an actor during aforementioned bank heist which goes wrong, and you end up arrested as, although you did pay off the cops, someone paid them more to bring you in. You are then put on a plane and faced with the leader of The Syndicate, a crime organisation that wants the Saints to fall in and give them money. This, naturally, causes Johnny Gat to start killing people, and allows Shaundi and you to escape. After a brief but memorable shootout in freefall, you end up in Steelport, a town more or less controlled by The Syndicate, and you decide to take it over, partly because the Syndicate is a bunch of jerks, but also because Johnny dies in the escape, and you're out for revenge.

One of the first things you'll come across is the character customisation screen. You can choose one of the templates the game provides you and work up from there or download a template from the Saints Row website, created by people playing Saints Row The Third: Initiation Station, a demo released a few weeks ago which consisted of the games character creation tools and clothing selection. It's a good way to make sure your character starts out the way you want them to look, but just be aware that the clothes you pick out there won't be added to your ingame wardrobe when you start the game. You'll need to buy them again if you ever change threads. Fortunately, the SRTT:IS does tell you which shops stock the item when you use it. The problem comes in finding the store.

After raiding said armoury for gang weapons (and a Reaper drone), you get into the sandbox mode proper. It is now that you'll notice a few changes. For one, the wheel weapon selection from the second game is back, but with improvements. For one, the system works a lot better on PC now, and for another grenades get their own wheel. It might take a bit of time to get adjusted to this system, but by this point you should be more than familiar with it, having just used it for the last half hour and all. For another, the Respect system has seen a major overhaul. Instead of unlocking missions with Respect, you unlock player upgrades, purchased with cash. These upgrades range from weapon proficiency and damage reduction bonuses to cash and respect bonuses. Given enough time and money, you can even make yourself completely invincible with infinite ammo for every weapon.

Weapons, also, can be upgraded seperately. These are not tied into the Respect system, though, and are instead purchased from gun stores. Buying an upgraded weapon means that if you ever pick up one of this weapon in the world, you will find it in the same upgrade state as you've reached. Some missions give you upgraded weapons for the duration of the mission, though. Don't worry, you won't lose your upgrades afterwards, and it does give you a taste of what you'll get if you do upgrade it to its max level.

You'll need a lot of cash though, but fortunately, that's not an issue. Unlike Saints Row 2, money is a lot easier to come by, and ways of spending it are a lot more prevalent. The problem with the way SR2 handled money is that, following the game's conclusion, there was never really anything to spend money on, and since you were still gaining ridiculous amounts from all the stores you owned, there was never anything to buy, as you could easilly buy everything. But, with the new upgrade system in Saints Row: The Third, reaching the point where you run out of things to purchase will take a lot longer than it would in SR2. They still haven't fixed the problem fully, but that's OK as there never really would be.

Vehicle handling appears to have improved since the last game, however I cannot say for certain as too many variables have changed for me to ascertain this. Whereas I bought Saints Row 2 on the Xbox 360, I pre-ordered Saints Row: The Third for PC over Steam. There is gamepad spport for the PC version though, so if you don't like the keyboard controls you could always go back to that. The controls, for me at least, are fine for keyboard, so it's not so much playable-vs-unplayable as it is personal preference.

Gameplay is mostly the same, though since the changing of the sprint button into an Awesome button (No, not this Awesome button.), things have gotten a bit more... dynamic? By holding down the Awesome button, certain actions get more, well, awesome. A simple groin attack (Yes, there is a groin attack button) can turn into a piledriver, for example. Entering a car gets faster with the button held, with the player jumping through the nearest window of the car, booting out the driver and assuming control. Even hostage taking gets better, with you diving onto them, forcing them onto the ground and pulling them up as a hostage.

The missions are your standard fare, with most of the Saints Row 2 missions coming back in full force. The only ones not making the leap are Tow Truck, Ambulance, Taxi and Race missions, leaving there more room for the new ones, such as Guardian Angel and S.E.R.C. Guardian Angel is the lesser of these, as its only instances are in the main story, but they do appear on the map if you want to try them again. S.E.R.C., or Super Ethical Reality Climax, is a game show run by the super genius man-cat Professor Genki, and are obstacle courses in teh style of a Japanese game show gone horribly violent. You have to run each course, shoot the signs not depicting pandas, the mascots and make your way to the end. Each event gives you a cash score that you earn at the end. You have to score a minimum cash value to leave, and after it is reached you can leave, or stay in and earn some more money.

Graphically, the game is fine, though it does need a good rig to run. I've got a 4GB RAM machine with a 1GB vid. card, and I had to turn the settings to Medium in order to get everything running silky smooth. An upgrade to your rig might be in order. And hey, if its any consolation, when you do upgrade, you'll be able to truthfully say your rig is strong enough to run the original Crysis. (Mine runs it at almost full spec, so any exceptional SRTT rig will be able to max it.)

All of this adds into the feel of Saints Row The Third, which if you haven't determined yet, is one of sheer insanity. The game is definately not taking itself seriously. From the fact that the flashbangs, when fully upgraded, turns into a fart in a jar, to the sheer scale of the violence in the game, everything shows that Saints Row The Third is going for over the top crazy action, rather than follow Grand Theft Auto's realisticly depressing feel.

Which is fine. The two series now complement each other greatly. If you're not into one, odds are the other will suit your needs.

So, if you're in the need of a crazy neon antidepressant after a bout with Grand Theft Auto IV, this game might just be for you.

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