It's no secret that I hated
Genkibowl VII, Saints Row: The Third's first pack of downloadable content. The various mini-games felt slapped together with no rhyme or reason. At best the pack was disjointed, at worst it's a series of reskinned side quests that weren't fun the first time around. I went into this this second piece of DLC skeptical; bracing myself for the worst. What met me on the other side of the download was an incredibly charming romp that gave me hope for the future of Saints Row expansion packs.
Despite what the title wants you to believe, Gangstas in Space actually takes place on Earth. In Steelport, to be exact. Don't expect to go planet hopping in this expansion pack; this is just another set of action-oriented levels with a sci-fi tint. Thankfully, this time around you aren't forced to complete inane mini-games and side quests.
Good news: You got the starring role in a big budget movie! Unfortunately, the crazy director has forced you to fight for your life in a series of punishing scenes. These play out through a series of shoot-em-up style missions. This is a fantastic return to form for Saints Row: The Third. While the storyline isn't as involved as what you saw in game's story mode, there's a solid hour of fun content with its own self-contained narrative. I'm not sure it's worth $7 on its own, but those who purchased the season pass will be breathing a much-needed sigh of relief.
Things start out innocently enough, with your Third Street Saints character shooting a path through a busy construction sight. Cut! That take wasn't good. Let's do this thing again with more feeling ... and explosions. And just like that, you're playing through the same scene, only this time around everything is amplified. That's the kind of thing you can expect on a movie set.
Before long you've infiltrated the alien ship. Of course, you're not actually in a UFO. You're on a film lot, where the studios shoot episodic television (including a not-so-subtle nod to Lost), pornography, talk shows and more. This is where you get to fight off the alien horde, which is really nothing more than extras in bad costumes. You run through the corridors trying to shut off computers and locate a way off the ship.
This is where Gangstas in Space really shines. All along the way we're treated to behind-the-scenes interruptions. You'll see extras standing around waiting for their scenes, a craft service table set up and cameramen everywhere. Despite being little more than corridors, the level designs here are inspired. Saints Row: The Third is one of the first games that can pull off meta without being completely unbelievable.
Eventually you escape the enemy ship, thanks to a small alien warplane you pilot to safety. But don't rest yet, because it's up to you and a friendly purple alien to fly around Steelport uploading enough information to stop the attack on Earth once and for all. This allows you to fly around in a brand new vehicle and avoid a new batch of enemies. Complete all this and you'll have new friends and vehicles waiting for you.
Clocking in at just over an hour, there isn't a whole lot to do or see in Gangstas in Space. Thankfully the game's breakneck pace fits in a lot of funny story beats and memorable set pieces. It's also fun to hear the characters attempt to act, often forgetting lines and breaking character. The increasingly aggressive battle between Jenny and the director is also fun, even resulting in a satisfying resolution. Although there is a deeper message in these levels, the DLC shies away from going too dark. This is a light and entertaining story that fits perfectly with the vibe found in the rest of the game.
Gangstas in Space is definitely a step in the right direction. The game nixes the controversial side quests and mini-games for a few genuine story missions. Unfortunately, the three missions are over right when things are starting to get good. A strong supporting cast and action-packed set pieces make this Saints Row DLC easy to recommend.