So Christmas is coming, lots of kids will be bubbling over with excitement at the thought of Santa rocking up with a whole new bag of toys. So why shouldn’t us slightly older folk have a new box of fun to play with? Well thanks to THQ, that’s precisely what we’ve got – a huge playground with a huge amount to do, with a bit of a story running through the middle for good measure.
Saints Row games have too often been classed as second-rate Grand Theft Auto rip-offs, but a couple of hours with Saints Row the Third proves that while the similarities are there, this is actually a top quality game in its own right. Unlike other games which start you at the bottom of the pile and insist you work your way up, SR3 pitches you as the boss of the Saints, a character which is customisable to a degree which surpasses anything you might’ve seen before. Whether you want to be a skinny guy wearing nothing but socks (with those parts pixelated out), a chrome plated girl in a pink tracksuit or a standard looking gangster type you’ll be able to do whatever you want – everything is up to you. But despite being able to spend an easy half hour deciding on your character, there’s a game to be played.
Starting at the top of the tree doesn’t make a massive difference in the long run – you still need to earn cash to buy your weapons, and you still start off with a relatively small amount of properties around the map. These properties (when bought) help you to increase your presence in the city, as well as providing some extra hiding places and giving discounts on weapons, outfits and suchlike. The weapons themselves are varied and satisfying, ranging from machine guns with firey bullets through to shotguns, rocket launchers and a giant purple cock.
Yes. Who needs a baseball bat when you can grab hold of a large rubber trouser snake and club people to death with it? Not only that, the game’s separate Whored Mode (spot the pun) pits you against waves of prostitutes, and it’s the start of a crazy session where the weapon of choice is your wobbly purple friend. If you find this puerile and immature, then you might as well stop reading now and look elsewhere for your gaming enjoyment. This is a true throwback to old fashioned laughs, and in a game where you can earn money and respect by throwing yourself in front of cars for insurance fraud, or throw a random passer by into a river for no reason at all you shouldn’t expect any subtle humour or witty in-jokes. This is full on, back of the classroom sniggering material, and if that’s your thing then it’s a winning formula.
There’s the rest of the open-city fun that you’d expect too, like the huge number of vehicles you can hijack and take for a ride, including motorbikes, sports cars and SWAT vans. You’ve also got helicopters, fighter planes and boats too so there’s plenty of variety on offer as you find your way through the game. Vehicles can be driven to one of your garages/helipads/moorings and saved too, so it’s nice and easy to retrieve a favourite mode of transport if you’re in the mood for something specific.
A game with such a sizeable environment brings issues, they always do. Getting in and out of cars is a tough business at times, especially if you park in an awkward place. By avoiding the possible problem of not being able to open your car door, you sometimes either appear a few metres away or on the roof which is an awkward moment when your car is seconds from blowing up. But at least, in the event of it blowing up, you can just get on your phone and get another one delivered to you provided it’s in your crib’s garage. Realistic? No. More fun? God yes.
But that’s Saints Row the Third to a tee. Everything in the game seem geared to make the game more enjoyable, a throwback to times when developers weren’t fussed about meeting convention, beating competitors with the same ideas or breaking boundaries. It’s good looking without being stunning, and the high quality voice work is let down only by a little repetition from the main characters. Let’s face it, how can a game that contains a Fart in a Jar as a weapon and a mission based on S&M gimp-pulled cart be anything other than great fun? Well, maybe if you’re one of those people who tuts and rolls their eyes at a knob gag then this isn’t for you, but I did warn you about that earlier…
But for those who appreciate some tacky humour, and fancy something that focusses on fun, blatant sexism and some of the most bizarre side-missions you’re likely to see then Saints Row the Third will be right up your alley, so to speak. Don’t expect Grand Theft Auto 5, don’t expect a flawless experience, don’t expect high-brow cutting edge wit, and definitely don’t expect much in the way of taste or decency. Just expect to have a laugh and enjoy pretty much every minute of what you’re doing. This is one of the best playgrounds you could want, and just as Christmas turns up we’ve got our very own set of toys to play with.
THQ have ignored gaming trends and given the rest of the gaming world a high five. In the face. With a giant dildo. Good work.
Reviewed on PS3