I recently wrote a very positive article about Saints Row: The Third believing it to be the top dog for open world games. Having played it some more, well its certainly the best of its kind that I’ve played.
Each of the side quests and activities provide the player with some action. There’s no need to deal with needy friends or relationships… Saints Row sticks to being an action game. There’s still plenty to kick back and relax with such as customizing your character’s body, clothes and vehicles, purchasing buildings. You can also just go explore the world, uncovering new locations and searching for the many collectables in the game. So its a nice blend, providing something for when you want a breather after some high octane missions yet all actual activities are very much action based.
Perhaps one of the strongest parts of the open world is that it works hand in hand with the missions. Through missions you are introduced to new open world activities but neither is forced on to you. Well that is aside from a chunk of the game where you’re constantly doing the first of each type of side quest. For the most part they were fun but it was quite a long break from the story with no option for the player. However aside from that section, which was maybe an hour or so of gameplay, the two compliment each other nicely without either forcing your hand on to what to do next.
Looking back at GTA IV, I felt this was an issue. The same with San Andreas as well to be honest. All too often in these games you were phoned up with a new missions. Saints Row 3 does also phone you up from time to time to participate in survival activities, which I do have a little bit of a gripe about. When the phone goes you are instructed to press ‘Y’ to answer so of course, you do. This then gets the ball rolling on the activity. Eventually I ended up just ignoring the phone, but either the initial “Press Y to answer cell phone” message should have stated that it was for an optional side quest or even better, I would have excepted a “yes / no” option after answering. I’d happily take a minor respect hit for declining rather than “oh bugger, I never meant to accept a survival mission”.
The social activities in the GTA titles do provide an accept / decline option but the difference is declining too many outings affected your relationship with that character, having an effect on the game. This is an issue as the player is punished because they want to do something else in the game at that time. After all what’s the point in an open world if you’re taking away the player’s ability to choose what to do next? Making matters worse, the activities aren’t always that thrilling. Lets face it, if you wanted to play a game of cards or bowling simulator then there’s better games that load much quicker.
One of my criticisms of open world games is that by trying to provide so much content it can detract from the quality of the game. I’d say that Saints Row is also guilty of this. None of the activities are brilliantly done, for example the helicopter sections are often flawed by providing the player with a poor position and/or angle from the helicopter to take out enemy vehicles before they approach the enemy.
What I am particularly pleased with is that there is very little dependencies on AI path finding. All too often I’ve played games where potentially fun little open world activities are ruined due to the player having to constantly wait for the dithering bot, getting trapped by objects, stopping to tie their shoe laces every five minutes or more likely, getting themselves needlessly killed. From a technical point of view, Saints Row the Third is just as bad. Most missions where I’ve failed have been a result of trying to run and help out someone in my party. As such I’m not sure if it was a conscious decision to avoid these situations for the side content but regardless, I’m ever thankful for it.
So there’s still some room for improvement but compared to the (limited) open world games that I’ve played, it is the most fun. Rather than trying to add in a host of realistic tasks like meeting friends, getting the groceries and going to the gym everything is focused on being part of a top action game. I buy open world games to shoot people in the face, drive like a maniac and blow shit up. Saints Row the Third provides this and tbh, GTA IV buried it.
I’ve uploaded a video of a mission involving team mates. I know its not a great performance from me, but my team mates proved more of a nuisance than asset. This is why I’m glad the open world doesn’t require you to rely on these numpties!