Good news! I am officially done playing Saints Row III. Bad news: I only got as far as acquiring the Penthouse before I quit. For those of you who haven’t played the game, this means that I’ve pretty much gotten a solid taste of the game but didn’t want to stick around for any of the plot or gameplay outside of the premise. As you can guess at this point, I didn’t like Saints Row III. Why not?
Saints Row III has some good qualities- a wonderful sense of humor, an entertaining premise, and a really great tutorial level, but overall the game’s a stinker, in my opinion. The reason is because of a style of design that I would like to label “Add-In Content.” We all know what DLC and other types of content additions are. Often enough, there’s either not enough time or space to include some great content in with the main game, or the company is looking to make some additional cash off the fans of the game. If you’re willing to pay more, you’ll get more experience from the game. It’s a pretty great system, speaking from both sides of the argument- it allows fans of the game to achieve a better experience than the casual player but doesn’t cripple the game for the players who aren’t willing or able to pay for the additional content, and it allows the developers to continue to develop for a released game for money instead of pro bono. Win-win, everybody is happy. However, one thing to keep in mind in this type of development style is that Add-In Content is not a primary development style- it’s a secondary style, something to be layered on top of the in-game content. This is where Saints Row III (SR3 from now on) seems to forget what its trying to do, and causes a lot of headache for its trouble. So, what’s going on?
Simply put, SR3 offers the player a wealth of downloadable content. It looks like there’s some kind of internet deal where SR3 looks at the internet, says that based off of my games or some other arbitrary factor that I could have a whole bunch of different equipment and skins for free! Let’s download all of it! So, after the tutorial levels are done, instead of being introduced gradually to the various weapon systems, the vehicle systems, so on and so forth, I had to spend a full ten minutes of sitting at my computer, clicking the OK button as twenty thousand different pieces of equipment become available to me, which all include an animation and no option to skip. I’m at the point in the game where I should have one handgun and one machine gun and all of a sudden I’ve got weapons pouring out of my ears. I’ve got a clown shotgun that honks at me when I shoot it, a bazooka that shoots mind-control octopuses, and a freaking jet, complete with a gun that appears to shoot a focused beam of fire. (Imagine this to be like Balefire from the Wheel of Time series, if you’ve ever read it.) Thus, any attempt at introducing me to the game’s mechanics at a slow and reasonable pace is shot to hell. I no longer have any control over how the game is paced and I’m just dumped into more options that I even know what to do with. All of this extra content breaks the flow of the experience and really reminds me that I’m sitting at a computer playing a game- because nothing says “Gangster” like a flying motorcycle that’s shaped like a broomstick that shoots fireballs, right?
It feels to me like the team spent so much time developing an engine, and then when they finally had a sandbox to play in, they designed the tutorial levels and then were already mentally done with the game and said, “Fuck it, let’s just dump as much material as we can on these guys and call it a day.” The mission structure makes no sense; the content is unmanageable and a gigantic clusterfuck, and the game has no flow. Overall, SR3 gets about a 2/10 in my book, just because I don’t even want to try to work with the game for long enough for it to become interesting. This game is a cheap GTA clone whose developers thought that the hidden dildo in Vice City was the best thing ever and wanted to make another game just to highlight it. The game’s a hacky cash cow tailored to wank off the fans of the series, so unless you’re super into the game, just stay the fuck away or at a maximum play the tutorial and then fuck off. I should have bought and played Sleeping Dogs instead- the game’s not great but pretty much anything’s better than this.