Welcome to Space/Spawn, in which Spacegar and Barkspawn each choose a game for the other to play for the first time. In this inaugural edition Barkspawn has challenged Spacegar to play the co-op campaign of the greatest game of our generation, Saints Row: The Third.
Spacegar: The final act of the game, you as the leader of the Saints have to make some very serious and telling decisions about… Just kidding, zombies.
Barkspawn: ZOMBIES! Because why the hell not?! I know the zombie thing is pretty well played-out at this point but god, this game does it right.
SG: After some decisions that leave a bad taste in your mouth the final act of the game is possibly one of the greatest final acts in any game ever. You enter a computer, you fight zombies, you get a jet-powered motorcycle (if you want it) and you get the weapons that the game was keeping from you for the entire game.
BS: Even though - circling back to bitching about the limited selection of weapons - those high-tech STAG weapons that you were coveting for most of the game weren’t actually all that great. Cooldown? I don’t think so.
SG: No, the Apoca-fists. Also a sword, you get a sword! But it pales in comparison to the one-hit-kill of the Apoca-fists.
BS: Can’t argue with that.
SG: The final act is amazing. I’m not a fan of the phrase “pulled out all the stops” but in this case it’s applicable. An entire section of the map is taken over by zombies, STAG completely pulls a martial-law takeover, and you get to meet the mayor.
The mayor is Burt Reynolds. Spoilers.
BS: To quote my character: “BURT. FUCKING. REYNOLDS.”
Bandit is the mayor. Who needs you to take care of his zombie problem. Best video game mission ever? Best video game mission ever.
SG: Yep, Hooper is the mayor. However, can you get past the greatest obstacle in any game, ever: fucking Pierce?
BS: Ughh, that guy. He gives the worst side missions, thinks he’s hilarious, and worst of all completely hinders any missions where you’re required to bring him along. Really, nothing highlights the AI shortcomings in this game like having to bring Pierce with you. Seriously, how many times did we have to do that last mission because of him? “Get in the car, Pierce!! No, stop shooting that guy. NO, don’t steal another car. Why are you just laying on the ground now?! GET IN THE DAMN CAR.”
I feel like the phrase “Fucking Pierce” is now a permanent part of my vocabulary.
SG: Fucking Pierce.
So we decided to work on padding our experience out as much as possible, which lead to us doing all the assassination missions. They are some of the better optional content, obviously not that hard to kill a person in this game, but there is always a catch to bring the bad out of hiding.
BS: Yeah they do make a nice effort at kind of mixing up the types of assassinations. Some are definitely simple variations on “find this guy and shoot him” but others were kind of neat, like luring someone on to a plane and then parachuting out when it was up in the air or finding out that the target has multiple decoys walking around. My only issue is that sometimes the instructions for drawing a target out are way too vague - thinking about that one where we spent about a half hour beating up all of the overweight prostitutes we could find when it turned out all we had to do was grab one. Whoops. Also, we might be bad people. Let’s move on?
SG: The world of Saints Row 3 is totally different during the endgame. I mean zombies are definitely a reality, but also you have much worse problems if your law notoriety goes all the way up. Like a VTOL showing up. Also enemies apparently start carrying around RPGs, so you’ll be driving around and randomly see a rocket fly past you. As well a lot of the missions push you into 5 star notoriety, but damn does it ratchet up the tension. The tanks don’t hurt the intensity either.
BS: Yeah, this seems like as good a place as any to talk about some of the fantastically random encounters that pop up throughout Steelport as the game goes on. I mean, the whole thing is weird but at a certain point you kind of look around and go “is it … extra-bizarre right now? Or is it just me?” Stuff like cars driving off of bridges and exploding for no discernible reason, the number of mascots walking around (or driving golf carts, as they are wont to do) steadily increasing and SPACEGAR THAT REMINDS ME - THAT GUY! Remember that one guy?? That was … weird, right?
SG: This random guy in a Genki outfit (think cat superscientist) and an RPG walking around, blowing people up and hitting them in the junk with the RPG. Just amazing to see, like someone put that guy in there for us to just watch.
I’ve actually looked it up, and it looks like that was the ACTUAL PROFESSOR GENKI. Apparently he drops a lot of money if you kill him. I didn’t notice that, I just wish he’d dropped his clothing.
He didn’t. :(
BS: Hah, yeah that guy held our collective attention for probably a solid fifteen minutes. Just walking behind him wondering “Who is that guy? What compelled him to walk around in that Genki costume administering random beatings? What’s his day like?”
Anyway, at a certain point it becomes so difficult to get from point A to point B that you kind of feel compelled to move on with the story just to break the deadlock. Luckily there are some fantastic main story missions in this last stretch, which means it’s time to talk about MURDERBRAWL XXXI.
SG: So, I imagine it’s different in the single-player experience. As a co-op game, it’s very interesting. We basically took turns like a true tag-team fight working Killbane down. Then it gets to the end and I had let you work on finishing him off. The crowd is throwing tiki-torches and sex dolls, and I think I even saw a commode, to smash the guy with. Outside of the ring it wasn’t that interesting. Well until Angel, voiced by Hulkamania himself, runs in and hands you a gift like mana from heaven: a chainsaw! I mean a chainsaw, like from Doom.
This game, it’s got this problem of constantly having to cheat your expectations. The first few hours of the game really aren’t that epic, because they constantly play with your expectations. They need you to think it’s a normal game before they go epic or else you might not appreciate the epic. However as we get further into the game it just becomes an epic stew filled to the brim with meaty epicness.
BS: The last mission is kind of interesting, there are two paths to take and I was curious to see which direction you would go in. [You can either go after Killbane and let Shaundi get blown up along with Steelport’s ugly-ass prized statue or rescue Shaundi and allow Killbane to escape.] You made the call in our game since it was your first time playing and you went right for Killbane without really hesitating. Just out of curiosity, what was your thought process there?
SG: Fuck Shaundi. I mean do I need to explain? For me going after Killbane solved two problems at once.
BS: Fair enough. I’m not sure if having “Save Shaundi” as one of the game’s ultimate choices works out all that well because the game doesn’t do much to make you give a damn about Shaundi in the first place. Choosing to save her may be SR3’s canon “happy ending” but I don’t feel like having Shaundi sidelined all by herself in acute grief land for most of the game is necessarily conducive to the player forming a meaningful connection with her. I know she figures pretty heavily into the previous game so it seemed like they might have been banking on the fact that the player would have a previously-established relationship with this character.
SG: Apparently they totally changed her character from 2 to 3. She was a stoner with dreadlocks, and after Gat dies she became the Gat of the group.
BS: Shaundi is an odd presence throughout SR3 from the very beginning. It’s sort of strange but the first part of the game feels really emotionally uneven: your second-in-command, Johnny Gat, dies heroically to save Shaundi and the Boss and then it’s all “whoo hoo fun times isn’t jumping out of a plane awesome!?!” (Which: yes. Yes it certainly is.) You have this comic banter with Shaundi as the the plane Johnny was on crumbles around you and then they flip the script and for the rest of the game she’s completely somber and unable to move past Gat’s death. And the rest of the gang more or less carries on like nothing happened - not only do they themselves not seem to feel the weight of his death, they barely react to Shaundi so obviously grieving over the loss. It’s just weird to me that they tried to insert this ultra-serious emotional through line when the rest of the story is so lighthearted and only minimally rooted in reality.
SG: The best strength I see in SR3 was that it was a creative game. There are basically three types of gamers, those that want to win and use the best weapon, those that just want to play, and those that want to be creative while playing. What’s great about SR3 is that it lets you be so creative. You make your character, dress them up and spec them out to be killing machines, steal and upgrade a car to be “all you” and then listen to your own mixtape as you search the town for sex-dolls and gang operations.
BS: Haha, wait did we mention the sound effect that happens every time you find a sex doll? (I almost just typed it out phonetically but, you know, there may be children about.)
But I do agree with you that creativity is definitely where Saints Row shines. The combat and vanilla weapon selections have some obvious limitations, some of the side missions felt a bit more repetitive than others, and the story isn’t exactly bulletproof. And obviously: fucking Pierce.
But damn it, there’s a gun that shoots mollusks. You can wield a purple dildo bat or comically oversized fists that make people go “SPLAT” on contact. You can call in airstrikes on anyone or anything whenever your heart desires. There’s a character who decorates his apartment with a giant shark in a pimp hat. A shark in a pimp hat!! This is pure gold.
SG: In the beginning I really felt like it wasn’t that hard of a game and it sort of works because you are pushing your originality in how you play. Well, after completing the game I know it is plenty hard at times, even thuggish when it wants, but still it’s a game that stands apart from others by what it lets you do in attempting to create your own story.
BS: Well I’m glad you liked it! Finally, someone understands. Like I said in the beginning this game’s sensibility is certainly not going to appeal to everyone and I’m sure there are plenty of people still stuck on “but it’s just a GTA clone, wahh!” but damn it, this game just warms my juvenile little heart.
SG: Also the game has an aesthetic and sticks with it. So, we were talking about the problem with the human trafficking section but I’ve been thinking; I was thinking about Far Cry 3, the whole game you’re fighting these pirates involved in smuggling humans and drugs. Some missions have to do with Indiana Jones style adventure, some are forced stealth, some are all action; but this game has this huge dissonance between it’s idea of these petty wealthy college kids landing on this island and getting involved in this dangerous world.
Saints Row: The Third creates this space that’s so silly even when you see the Saints are involved in bad stuff it’s sort of in a clownish way. Maybe it’s just because the developers wanted a way around this gang stuff, but the game does a marvelous job of keeping the world right at the edge of the silly and satirical. No droning about America’s problems like in a recent GTA, yet not huge dissonance like in Far Cry 3. I like that, I think it just shows they know what their game is about and figured out how to build the game world to suit it. The game’s not a GTA clone, at least 3 isn’t, and it really holds up in my opinion. So, if anyone out there hasn’t played Saints Row: The Third play it, it’s definitely a classic.
BS: Final verdict:
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