Review | 11/14/2011 at 4:09 PM

Saints Row: The Third Co-Op Review

Unapologetic Chaos

Flames erupt from my customized Peacekeeper as I jump over a gap in the bridge. The sleek car’s jet-black exterior reflects the nighttime city lights as I race through crowded streets. This is one of the first cars I 'jacked in Steelport, and it’s also my favorite. The stenciled “Police” decals are still faintly visible on the door. I  installed some purple highlights to mark it as a Third Street Saints ride. I’ve added some other features as well...

I earn respect as I drive through oncoming traffic, narrowly avoiding head-on collisions that could send me flying through my windshield. Kanye West’s “Power” is fading on the radio. It’s quickly replaced by Schooly D’s “ATHF Theme Remix” - why wouldn’t it be? As I drift through a turn my tires squeal but hold tight to the road. Like most of the vehicles in my garage, the Peacekeeper has excellent control. I’m not sure where I’m heading, but one things for certain, something is going to blow up when I get there. That happens when I’m around. A lot.

My cell phone rings. I’m told the Morningstar gang is trying to encroach on one of my prostitution operations. I could ignore it and do something else, but I really hate those guys. I follow my GPS to the front of a garish cathedral. Jumping out of my car, I let my vehicle careen at full speed through an intersection. I turn away from the sound of smashing steel and screaming people. The cries of the citizens of Steelport mean nothing to me, and they love me all the more for it.  

Opulence.  I has it.

I quickly equip my 45 Shepherd pistols, old friends. One of the first things I did when I reached Steelport was fully upgrade these workhorses. They are as good, if not better than, most of my other weaponry. I approach the hated Morningstars, recognizing their black and red colors. The male members wear suits, while the females wear lingerie. Classy. It doesn’t matter. They’re all armed and on my turf. They are clearly hassling Zimo’s whores, roughing up my merchandise. My purple trench coat ripples behind me as I take aim at the nearest thug and fire.

The 45 Shepherds bark to life as I pull off head shots with precision aim. The merch runs for cover as the remaining gangsters return fire. I shred them to pieces and close the distance. My time in Steelport has hardened me. I’m almost impervious to gunfire. As I finish off the last thug more red and black cars arrive.  Lambs to the slaughter. 

Instead of aiming at the gangsters I focus on their vehicles. My 45’s explosive rounds blow through the metal, causing the cars to catch fire. Morningstars dive from their burning vehicles - too late. The first car explodes in a windstorm of fiery death, instantaneously taking the other vehicle with it. A rocket soars by my head.  Someone’s shooting at me from behind. Oh no they didn’t...

It really is.

I turn to face my attacker and see another Saint has joined me. I’m assuming he’s a Saint, because he’s firing past me and taking care of the Morningstar stragglers, sending the smoldering wreckage of their bodies skyward in yet another rocket-born fireball. We both earn cash and respect as the ravaged shells of cars, men, and women crash down around us.

“Very nice!” I say in a thick Russian accent, clapping my hands in approval. My new comrade is decked out as a giant cat. Not a sexy cat. A mascot cat. He puts away his rocket launcher and gives me a little "raise the roof" action. I guess we’re friends now. We have no time to sit around and talk about how cool we are, fresh Morningstars are arriving by the truckload.

These trucks carry giant abominations of men: Olegs. They look like Mr. Incredible’s angry backwoods uncle. Lesser Morningstars are spilling out the the cabs as the behemoths heft their chain guns and pour lead into the fray. Not surprisingly, the police have decided to join in. A helicopter hovers overhead, an airborne sniper’s red laser sight finds me. Foolish. Now he has my undivided attention. Mascot Cat is thundering rockets into the Olegs as if he were a modern-day Furry version of Zeus. I empty a clip into the choppa, blowing it out of the sky. I turn my attention to a weakened monstrosity, and kill him brutally, up close and personal. Now I have a chain gun...

Like this, but with more cleavage.

By the time the dust settles most of the bodies and blood have faded into the ether. Reinforcements arrive. The Third Street Saints patrol the area. I look over my gang members. I have to be honest, it’s made up of scantily clad females and ninjas. By my design. I pick a ninja armed with a rocket launcher and order him to follow me. Then I make a quick call on my cell phone and a brand new, fully customized Peacekeeper is delivered directly to my location. Mascot Cat freezes in place briefly.  After a few seconds, an attack helicopter descends from the sky. I guess we’re flying. Very nice, indeed. 

*      *      *

That’s just a few minutes of Saints Row: The Third. I’m sure you’ve seen the videos by now. It’s over the top, crazy, and most of all, fun. And even more importantly: you can play the whole game with a friend. Start to finish.   

There’s a storyline in SRTT, and it’s perfectly serviceable. The plot is simply a device used to initiate some set pieces that range from “push start to skip” to “very impressive." It adds humor to the game, and that’s all it really needs to do. At times you will be faced with game changing decisions. Each will offer a specific reward.  I really didn’t care about the moral outcome, I simply chose whichever upgrade appeared to be the most fun.

Ninja? Check. Dual wielding SMG's? Double check. Women with guns and low cut tops? Triple check.  Naked lady statue? Quadruple check.  Let's do this.

You’ll find many felonious side activities in Steelport. There are several Town Takeover missions that come in varying difficulties and levels of debauchery. These could include eliminating gang activity, racing through a course on an explosive ATV, or protecting fellow gang members with massive air support. You can bring a pal along for the ride in all of them. Co-op is easy to access if you have a friend. If you don’t, you can leave your game open to random strangers joining in your game, or you can jump into another player's world. You may want to turn off friendly fire. Just a suggestion.

The host controls the story progress. Money, Respect, collectibles, and completed Town Takeover activities will stay with your character when you leave a host’s game. If you’re in an advanced player’s game, you won’t earn story progress. If you’re on the same mission, story progress should apply to both characters. You know the drill. If you’re playing with two characters who are in different areas of the story, let the character who’s less advanced host until you’ve synced up. You will have access to all of your gear if you’re a guest, so long as the host has unlocked a crib, garage, etc. Don’t be a jerk and use your superior skills, weapons, and vehicles to nerf their missions. Unless they want you to.  

When you complete tasks, or do anything, really, you’ll earn money and/or respect. Consider respect your XP, and money, well, your money. As you gain respect levels you unlock several perks and upgrades for purchase.  These upgrades could make your homies stronger, your weapons mightier, or even upgrade your stronghold, which in turn gives you more cash and respect bonuses. Or you could just say “eff it” and start beating up the first pedestrians you see. That’s how I spent the first couple of hours.

The insane part? My character is a 65 out of 100 on the character creator boob-o-meter!

There are some technical issues that can be a little irritating. The same button is used to purchase property, take human shields, and get into vehicles. This can cause some unwanted chaos at times. The story missions feel very disconnected from their cut scenes and the rest of the game. The screen wipe cutaway is jarring at times. There are the usual little nit-picky things that come from an open world title like this, but nothing particularly egregious. Even when something weird happens, it rarely detracts from the fun.

SRTT is adequately long, but not incredibly so. It took me about 24 hours finish the story, with 79% of the overall game completed. I didn’t try to stomp through the story for a review, either. I played at a leisurely pace, succumbing easily to distractions.

That brings me to the much talked about Whored Mode. This is a fun little co-op side note, but nothing more.  The waves of enemies are funny, but there’s not a lot to it. You have to use a preset character, so you can’t even show off all your hard work you put into making your own crazy persona. You don’t even earn money or respect. You’re simply awarded points that don’t really mean anything. It amounts to nothing more than a moderately fun waste of time.

Overall, Saints Row: The Third does exactly what it promised to do, and it does it well. It’s a fun romp as a single player adventure. When you add a second player it becomes one of the year's better co-op experiences.  This chaotic waltz is best enjoyed with a friend.

This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.