Saints Row the Third: what it’s got

, | Game diaries

In the second season of Louie, there’s a long scene of Louis CK in the car singing along with The Who. Anyone can relate to the scene. We all know what it’s like to rock out in the car. But it’s brilliant for its couple of extra layers of meaning. This is a middle-aged man digging on The Who as if he was a teenager in his first car. It’s a scene about how some songs connect us with other parts of our lives, like childhood. But there’s still more going on here. The scene, which has no dialogue and runs the entire length of Who Are You?, starts out being about Louie. But he eventually involves his daughters, who are riding in the back seat, in the action. Before the song is over, it becomes about him sharing his enthusiasm with them, singing to them, playing with them in the mirror, nerding out while the roll their eyes. It is the arc of a man’s life in one song, from youth to fatherhood.

Okay, maybe I’m reading too much into the scene. But it’s great for a reason, and not because I want to watch Louis CK listen to songs by a band I don’t even like.

In Saints Row 2, if you drive long enough while a certain song plays, your character will sing along. What a wonderful touch. Saints Row 3 ups the ante. There’s a longish drive early on, just after the basic mission about how to customize your car. If you’re like me, you couldn’t resist spending all your money. In this case, my otherwise boring four-door sedan is now candy pink, with bright gold rims and yellow tinted windows, with a cool vent in the hood, and a slight boost to the engine power. If you’re like me, you’re now in a car you love because you got to make very particular choices about it. Fancy pants videogame commentators will call this “player agency”. I call it a bitchin’ ride.

As you drive to the next waypoint with Pierce, one of the new gang members who will be along with you for much of the game, he takes control of the radio. Sublime’s What I Got starts playing. Even if you don’t recognize the name, I guarantee you know the song. And the two of you sing along. Together. But you don’t just sing. Developer Volition let the voice actors have a great time just messing around while the song played. They talk to each other. They make comments and joke around. They’re buddies. They connect. It’s a wonderful bit of personality, and if you aren’t in love with Saints Row at this point — as an entire enterprise and not just a single game — it will never work for you.

Up next: Okay, but how good is the actual, you know, game? On a scale of 1-10?