Published on October 6th, 2012 | by AdyCarter0
PC / OnLive: Saints Row: The Third Review
Summary: A truly fantastic, wonky game, falling just short of a perfect score, but well worth picking up.
When OnLive launched in the UK one of their very first offers was a free MicroConsole if you pre-ordered this game. Always being a bit of a fan of a bargain, I figured that I might as well grab it as it worked out a hell of a lot cheaper than buying a MicroConsole on its own. I hadn’t touched any of the Saints Row games since the first one and I have to admit I hadn’t really played that all too much as I bought it just prior to my first (of 6) Red Ring of Death episodes, critically I’ve always seen the previous games referred to as Grand Theft Auto clones, and this seems to be pretty common knowledge so I’m going to skip explaining what the game is like.
Anyways, fast forward a Month and the game finally unlocked (as it was my first ever pre-order I didn’t expect the nice little pop up message informing me that “Saints Row: The Third” is ready to play). Despite the fact it was 12am and I had work to go to in 8 hours I decided to fire it up and test it out…. something I would later regret when before I knew it 4 hours had passed and I ended up spending the next day at work shambling around like a zombie…
The game opens with the members of the Third Street Saints, whom have become something of a media empire and cultural phenomenon robbing a bank, accompanied with an actor whom intends to play one of the Saints in an upcoming move. A particularly genius part of their bank robbery plan involves robbing the bank while wearing giant bobble head masks of Johnny Gat, one of the Saints particularly know for his violent tendencies. The bank heist goes a little wrong and things get rather out of hand resulting in you sitting atop a bank vault, which is being airlifted by a helicopter while gunning down various attacking members of the local Police force and the helicopters that they have brought to stop you… You ultimately fail and end up captured and brought before the heads of an international crime syndicate, called (shockingly) the Syndicate on their private jet. They wish to take control of the Third Street Saints and take a large cut of profits, with refusal to agree to their terms resulting in death. Unsurprisingly you refuse and a firefight breaks out that escalates into the death of Johnny Gat, the scarring one of the leaders of the Syndicates’ face and a frankly insane battle through the skies as you free fall towards the city complete with hundreds of troops and various other items from the jet falling with you, the battle escalates to ludicrous proportions complete with highlights such as you flying through the falling jet, while falling, shooting everyone in it and flying out the other side…
If you hadn’t guessed by now, this game is nowhere near the “serious” style of the more recent Grand Theft Auto games, it instead focuses in over the top action and fun. The plot boils down to the Saints, lead by you, setting up in the Syndicate controlled town of Steelport with the aim of utterly destroying the Syndicate and taking over. In order to do this however you’ll need to build and consolidate your power base and work on taking out the Syndicate leadership.
Following the opening section of the game, which I detailed above, you get presented with the character creation system, you can probably lose hours to this, I spent probably in excess of 30 minutes on it, you can completely mess with every single aspect of your character through a really nice easy to use interface, although amusingly all my time spent making his face look like mine was pretty much pointless as I ended up spending the entire game wearing a giant pink cat mask (This came as part of the Professor Genki DLC which pre-order customers received free).
Once you’ve created your character you’re deposited in your first safe house and how you progress from here is pretty much down to you, in order to advance the plot and unlock further types of activity you can partake in missions offered to you through your phone, or you can head out and do whatever you feel like. Obviously the more you progress through the plot the wider the range of activities that are open to you. Your gang levels up through gaining “respect”, you can earn this in many, many ways ranging from completing missions through to speeding round the city in a car and managing not to hit anyone else, or by simply driving the wrong way down streets. You can then spend money on various new perks which are unlocked as you level up, from the ability to bribe law enforcement, dual wield pistols or improve your health through to upgrading your gang so that they all carry Sub Machine Guns.
In addition to the massive amounts of personal customisation from both the character generator and the respect system you can also customise your appearance further via visiting costume shops around the city and completing missions which often unlock new outfits. You can also customise the appearance of your gang and what type of cars they drive; Mine have ended up as bright pink Ninjas who all drive replicas of the car from The Dukes of Hazzard. In addition to those options you can also customise pretty much any car in the game and customise the majority of the safe houses you acquire during the game. As several of the missions present you with a decision around how to complete them you will probably find that towards the end of the game you’ve made quite an impact on the appearance and skyline of the city of Steelport itself.
The missions themselves are incredibly, incredibly varied and end up resulting in some fantastic and rather over the top set pieces, most of the missions result in the unlocking of a similar activity in multiple places dotted around the city, completing this will gain you additional money and respect. Rather than initially focus on specific missions I’m instead going to list some of the activities that you can partake in around the city and then spotlight a few missions afterwards.
Some of the event types include:
- Survival – These events trigger based on your location or actions (such as purchasing a costume shop) and involve you having to either kill a specific volume of enemies or survive for a set amount of time against overwhelming odds.
- Trafficking – You have to escort an NPC as they make several deals around the city, tracking down anyone who tries to rip them off and protecting them from rival gangs and the police.
- Professor Genkis’ Reality Climax – In which you are a contestant on a murderous game show, you must work your way to the exit by avoiding traps, killing costumed mascots and gaining a high score, all while listening to a constant commentary on your actions by a pair of pundits covering the show.
- Escort – These come in two varieties, in one of them you have a limousine and act as a mobile brothel, picking clients up while their demands are serviced in the back site while you avoid any paparazzi and in the other you have to drive a tiger(!) around for long enough to toughen you up, while evading Animal Rights activists.
- Trail Blazing – Again there are two variants to these, in one you’re on fire on a quad bike and have to speed round a specific route as fast as you can, hitting into as many pedestrians and other vehicles as you can to earn more time and in the second variant you’re in a virtual reality race, the best way to describe these would be as a cross between the lightcycle scenes in Tron and the bonus stages in Sonic 2.
- Guardian Angel – Armed with a sniper rifle and sometimes a rocket launcher its your job to protect the life of a friend from afar, picking off anyone and everyone who may harm them.
There are also a multitude of other activities, really far too many of them for me to go into, as mentioned earlier most of the missions follow the format of one of these activities, with a few fantastic exceptions. At one point in the game you have to hack into a computer mainframe and in order to these you use a virtual reality chair. The hacking then takes place in a virtual environment where your opponents play havoc with your avatar (you spend a chunk of the level as a toilet) and they have network related abilities such as being able to lag you or DDOS you, the minibosses in this area take the form of a variety of different minigames including a Zork style text adventure, debugging some code and a final boss battle that wouldn’t be out-of-place in a game like Darksiders. Later in the game you get offered the chance to do a favour for the Mayor… now I won’t reveal who the mayor is, but the mission itself involves you getting dropped into a quarantined area of the city where a zombie plague has turned everyone into a mindless zombie, determined to devour you. This mission alone puts the entire of Dead Island to shame, its hilarious, challenging and really, really good fun.
There are in excess of 100 different types of vehicle to drive in the game, ranging from your average cars right through to speedboats, tanks, aeroplanes and VTOL jets, depending on the choices you make in the game you might even end up with a hoverbike. Your choice of weaponry is also pretty damn incredible, in addition to all of the regular guns, rifles and rocket launchers you would expect (and you can upgrade these!) there are multiple different alternate weapons, from your melee items like swords and your heavy weaponry like a fly by wire rocket right through to your totally off the wall and overkill choices such as a fart in a jar, a target painting device for an air strike, a gun that fires mind controlling squid (again from the Genki pre-order pack) to the Penetrator, about which the less that is said the better….
Graphically the game looks really, really nice, at no points did I wish it was slightly better detailed, however the game does seem to struggle with the frame rate at various points, oddly this doesn’t seem related directly to the amount currently going on, but instead I guess to how densely populated the area of the city it’s currently rendering is, if it wasn’t for these minor frame rate issues I would have to say that this is a perfect example of OnLive at its best. With these issues though you do feel a little let down, as surely the immense processing power of the cloud could avoid a little slowdown in places. Control wise the game feels perfect, I’ve predominantly played this on the MicroConsole and via a controller but I have on occasion fired up the PC client and played it that way. The game makes use of the OnLive achievement system and even goes as far as to automatically record brag clips for some of the achievements which is a nice feature that I wish more developers would use.
In addition to the main game there is also another mode entitles “Whored Mode”, this is a riff on the “Horde Mode” from the Gears of War series and sees you engaging in round based combat with hordes of enemies, sometimes they are on fire, sometimes you have a tank, each round is different!
You may have noticed this review has been pretty damned positive so far, but because I know you saw the score at the top of this page you know it didn’t score a 5 out of 5. Now comes the explanation as to why, despite supporting Co-Op, which functions very well, there is absolutely no way at all to play with specific people, you simple choose to do multiplayer and are randomly lumped in with some, there is absolutely no friends list support, or “private” multiplayer where you could issue passwords, just a giant free for all which is sadly almost entirely full of small kids playing the trial and begging you to buy the full game. I would absolutely love to be able to team up with a friend and play through some missions but despite countless attempts I always get some random tool.
The second and minor issue that affects the score is that there appears, even a month after launch, to be two rather annoying bugs with the game, the first is that many of the achievements do not trigger correctly and those that do trigger sometimes for absolutely no reason. The other bug, which seems less frequent but is perhaps even more annoying for this it effects, some players for some reason never get the ability to recruit homies when they are driving around, resulting in their gang feeling more like a one man operation, some people have reported not even been able to call up some of the homies in their phone leaving them unable to use features such as the vehicle delivery service.
A bone of contention for many on OnLive is the lack of DLC for titles, at the time of writing there are multiple items of DLC available for OnLive, ranging from a cheats pack to shark gun. The developers had announced an array of major DLC adding much more content and many more missions to the game, and most of them have made their way to OnLive.
This truly is a fantastic game, falling just short of a perfect score but well worth picking up, if you are interested in seeing the game in action, click here to visit my OnLive profile and check out some of my Saints Row brag clips or click on the button below and test out the trial yourself.