Following the tread marks of its predecessors, Saints Row: The Third is an open-world action-adventure, in an urban setting of speed and violence. No longer struggling against rival crime families and meddling authorities, the Third Street Saints now rule the city of Stillwater -- and have everything to lose.
Persevering in their gangland domination through the first two urban adventures, the Saints have risen from the criminal underworld to become a household brand name -- and a well-marketed one at that, with t-shirts, bobble-head dolls, and other tchotchke eagerly bought up by the amenable (if not adoring) Stillwater populace. A municipal treasury's worth of wealth and power at their disposal, the Saints now have easy access to over-armed tanks and laser-equipped experimental aircraft, as well as any car they happen to fancy on the busy city streets.
Much of the game's main narrative, however, takes place away from the relative safety of Stillwater. Trouble begins as an organization of criminal gangs from other cities, known as the Syndicate, invites the Saints to join. The Saints decline, choosing independence over new allies, and thus make a new enemy instead. In retaliation, the Syndicate captures the player's character, a high-ranking member of the Third Street gang, and takes him far from the safety of his Stillwater home turf, to the city of Steelport. A stranger in a strange place, the player's hero must learn the layout of the land, seek out the local head of each Syndicate gang, and eliminate its leader. So far, government authorities have held back, content to let the rival gangs thin one another's numbers, but they too seem likely to join in the mayhem as the street war heats up.
Those who embrace the absurd can make all kinds of ballistic mischief, away from the main storyline. Players are free to explore the city as they wish, on foot or behind the wheel, engaging in Grand Theft Auto-spirited urban sandbox antics. Powerful character creation tools and a variety of costumes and accessories encourage personal expression. Beyond mundane muggings and carjackings, characters can assail innocent passers-by with gratuitous groin punches, or perform pro wrestling-inspired takedowns. One of Professor Genki's new creations is a pick-up mounted cannon that can suck pedestrians off the sidewalks and then shoot them out, a city block or more, as flailing, rather messy projectiles. Player characters who choose to try shooting themselves from the device would do well to remember to aim for clear skies and pack a parachute.
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