If Volition has proven anything with the Saints Row series, it’s that the third time’s the charm. Just as Saints Row: The Third was the high point in the franchise, its third DLC, Trouble With Clones, is the climax of the game’s downloadable offerings. This success is due in part to the subpar quality of the previous DLCs (both disappointing affairs that didn’t quite capitalize on the successes of the main game). The Trouble With Clones gets a bit closer to capturing the brilliance of Saints Row: The Third, and although it doesn’t quite reach this high watermark, there’s enough here to satisfy fans of the series.
Despite being the best DLC for Saints Row: The Third, Trouble With Clones is still not a fantastic piece of content; it is still plagued by issues that hampered its downloadable brethren mixed with some flaws of its own. The recurring problem with The Third’s DLCs include their short length, and in this regard the Trouble With Clones is no different; this latest piece of content strings interlinked missions that total up to about an hour of playtime. Admittedly, this DLC does provide the player with an enjoyable hour of Saints Row’s signature brand of crazy, but this brief helping of fun still doesn’t quite match up to the $7 asking price.
Much like the last DLC (Gangstas in Space), the main appeal of Trouble With Clones is the ludicrous premise. A comically nerdy scientist (and Third Street Saints super fan) is on a mission to clone the late Johnny Gat; a mission that doesn’t quite turn out as planned. The scientist’s intent is to bring his hero back to life as he was before his demise, but instead, Johnny comes back as a giant mutant with a destructive urge to avenge the death of his girlfriend Aisha (who died in Saints Row 2). Naturally, this is where you, the player, comes in. As the leader of the Saints, it’s your job to stop the mutated Johnny’s rampage before he does more damage or gets himself killed. In true Saints Row fashion, this involves car chases, battling in a strip club, and firing insects at your crazed fans. The setup is capitalized on rather well, and it’s another good sign of just how far this series has come from its roots as a simple GTA clone.
Now you, too, can wield the power of the Kamehameha.
A well-written DLC is hardly surprising, though. Volition have already shown (with Gangstas in Space) they can deliver on the writing front with DLC. The Trouble With Clones (like its predecessor) is very amusing; it has one or two standout moments of hilarity peppered by more chuckle-worthy gags. One slight let down is the modicum of dialogue from the game’s protagonist that provided the comedic highlights of Gangstas in Space and much of the main game. Most of the humor from Trouble With Clones is derived from the gameplay scenarios and story moments rather than witty voice acting.
Clones excels in the gameplay aspect. Gangstas in Space delivered funny dialogue but simply bored as far as gameplay went. The Trouble With Clones strikes a better balance in this regard. The writing keeps you giggling, but the gameplay entertains just as much. This is only true for the second half, though; the opening is by no means bad (and access to your full arsenal makes it better than Gangstas) but by no means special. The DLC starts off with a defense of a strip club, an interesting scenario impeded by artificial constraints that sap some of the fun. The mission forces you to stay inside the club but spawns enemies outside, enemies reluctant to enter. There is a lot of enjoyment to be had getting up close and personal in Saints Row due to its great melee weaponry, but this aspect is taken away from you here.
Menacing purple pods? Sure, nothing will go wrong.
The Trouble With Clones contains a few moments like this, where slight gameplay issues threaten to sour an otherwise enjoyable moment. This is a flaw carried over from the main game; Saints Row’s gameplay couldn’t always match up to its imagination, but this slight drawback was completely forgivable thanks to the game’s accomplishments. The much smaller scope of Clones means there’s a lot less to balance this continuing problem out, and that is why it has a greater impact here. Trouble With Clones does have some great moments, but there simply aren’t enough to stop it from being brought down by flaws in movement and the AI.
A great second half does manage to salvage a lot of the DLC’s potential, though, and a creative gameplay twist just before the finale makes for one of the most memorable moments in the Saints Row franchise. The best bits in Saints Row shine when Volition fully invests in the lunacy and let you do something you just wouldn’t expect from any other open-world game. The moment that supplies this feeling in Clones doesn’t quite last long enough, but it’s still good enough to make the gameplay stand out as much as the game’s premise. To talk about the specifics of this moment would spoil it somewhat; put simply, this moment captures what Volition do best, empowering the player in brilliantly ludicrous ways.
With a lackluster opening (from a gameplay angle), a few too many flaws, and too short a play time to warrant a wholehearted recommendation, Trouble With Clones is not quite the DLC that Saints Row: The Third deserved. Nevertheless, some truly great gameplay moments and a vastly enjoyable second half make this easily the best Saints Row DLC. It still doesn’t match up to the grandeur of the the main game, but it gets close enough to guarantee an enjoyable return to Steelport.
Developer: Volition Inc.
Release Date: March 20, 2012
Number of Players: 1 (Campaign), 2 (Cooperative)
Platforms: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), Playstation 3, PC