Gangster activity in space sounds like a great excuse to wreak more havoc in the city of Steelport, but the reality is not as enticing as the premise may lead you to believe. This bite-size chunk of mediocre content is yet another piece of disappointing DLC for Volition’s otherwise excellent open-world title. Gangstas in Space is a step up from the Genkibowl VII outing, but its short length and substandard missions mean it’s not worth your seven dollars.
Gangstas in Space still retains The Third's nonsensical nature.
Genkibowl VII lacked a lot of what made the main game great; Gangstas in Space does remedy this but only to a small extent. A huge part of The Third’s brilliance was its writing and humor, and they remain intact transitioning to this sci-fi adventure. As far as pure writing quality goes, there are some jokes and amusing story scenarios on par with the core game's. As far as gameplay goes though, Gangstas in Space doesn’t hold a candle to Saints Row: The Third, which contained a fantastic amount of varied gameplay in its story mode and plenty of memorable gameplay moments; Gangstas in Space starts strongly in this regard but questionable design decisions make this an ultimately forgettable experience.
Saints Row: The Third managed to avoid ever being dull with its diverse and creative arsenal; this meant that any generic shootout could turn into something devilishly fun. With Gangstas in Space, Volition have made the odd decision of taking those firearms and purple, phallic bats away, forcing you to use certain guns; this takes away a lot of the sandbox freedom that made The Third unique. The weaponry in Gangstas in Space keeps in line with its sci-fi setting; however, players get the feeling that Volition is holding back. Alien weaponry gives Volition a great excuse to experiment with some outlandish armament designs that could have made this DLC so much more entertaining, but in their place, we just have standard laser weaponry. While cool in theory, lasers do not radically differ from normal guns – in fact, they feel worse.
Not even blasting invading alien aircraft while barreling down the freeway in a Humvee can save this space gangster from mediocrity.
It was entirely possible in Saints Row: The Third to upgrade your arsenal with infinite ammo, never needing to be reloaded; in the case of your typical pistol, assault rifle, and submachine gun, this worked perfectly. Standard munitions turned into unstoppable death machines, which let you just hold down the trigger and fulfill those power fantasies so many of us seek from gaming. This may have negated the challenge to a large degree, but The Third was never about challenging the player. The main aim always seemed to be making you as powerful as possible and giving you the tools to create as much fun as you like. Players attached to their upgraded weapons in Saints Row: The Third will not respond well to Gangstas in Space’s boring laser guns. Infinite ammo is still intact, but their tendency to overheat make them far less fun to fire. This wouldn’t matter if the level design and enemies forced you to play in a more tactical way, rather than just a constant barrage of shooting, but this is not the case; in the end, the weaponry lacks the ingenuity you expect.
The best thing Gangstas in Space has going for it is the premise – a real plus point. The setup is rather fantastic, but the execution is terribly disappointing. You, the leader of the Saints, have been chosen to play the primary role in the sci-fi action movie ‘Gangstas in Space.' It’s a simple idea, but it gives a lot of room for Volition to experiment with the narrative. The story of the DLC is very entertaining, albeit short-lived. You are clearly a terrible actor and your co-star Jenny is obviously a good deal better than you, yet the insane (and quite hilarious) director constantly heaps praise over your stilted performances while persistently berating Jenny. Your avatar will frequently break character, forget lines, go wildly off-script, and every time the director will love it; if Jenny makes one slight mistake or improvises in similar fashion, she, on the other hand, is met by instant abuse. This leads to a growing resentment from the two leading actors towards the director and to some great dialogue and amusing situations. It’s not always funny, and the joke gets a bit old, but it’s the standout part of the DLC. Sadly, the premise is given so little time to develop. It takes about an hour to get through Gangstas in Space’s meager three missions, and none of these quite capitalize on what could have been.
Can you handle this much purple?
The movie aspect of this DLC is actually very well done. Every time you act out a scene, the screen is covered with a classic film grain effect; it’s cheesy but fits the Saints Row tone perfectly. The parts when you are not botching the dialogue are just as well done, though. Backstage areas break up the shooting segments in the second mission, giving you good reason to look around. The fake film sets that Volition let you walk around are a really cool addition thanks to some funny Easter eggs. The most entertaining part of the DLC, however, is the authoritarian director. The clearly deranged, and obviously inept, director of Gangstas in Space is a very entertaining character with the ability to adapt and change what you are doing mid-scene, shouting numerous commands to "cut" or try something else. Unfortunately, he never encourages you to try anything remarkable in terms of gameplay.
Gangstas in Space is not a good piece of content. Although the dialogue is genuinely witty with a particularly good setup, boring gameplay and a brief play time make this DLC one to avoid. Volition are taking steps in the right direction, but until they manage to fully capitalize on what made Saints Row: The Third special, the DLC will continue to disappoint. Gangstas in Space has its plus points, but its problems mean it just isn’t worth the seven dollars Volition are asking. You can complete the three missions (and net all the achievements) in about an hour, and after that, there is no option for replay without changing to a different character – an even worse value proposition. Gangstas in Space retains the humor you expect from the Saints Row franchise, but it completely lacks any of the creative and surprising gameplay moments that made The Third so amazing. If you love Saints Row, you may find some entertainment worth meriting here, but this gangsta will be far outweighed by a sense of disappointment.
Developer: Volition Inc.
Release Date: February 21, 2012
Number of Players: 1 (Campaign), 2 (Cooperative)
Platforms: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PlayStation 3, PC