Try as I might, I just can't loathe Saints Row: The Third the way the responsible grown-up in me feels he should.
The latest entry in THQ's open-world crime series – which many (perhaps unfairly) write off as a poor man's Grand Theft Auto – stars ultraviolent and vainglorious gangsters unfettered by any sort of moral compass in their fight against rival factions. It's pretty much everything that conservative video game detractors hate about the medium – extreme violence, sex, drugs – rolled up into one messy package. There's even something called a "whored" mode, for heaven's sake.
But I can't deny that I've enjoyed my time in the game's farcically depraved world.
Once you get over the notion that you're often responsible for the death of virtual innocents and police officers on an almost genocidal scale, it becomes plainly evident that the designers have an excellent understanding of what makes sandbox action games engaging.
Unlike May's similarly controversial Duke Nukem Forever – a dated, hopelessly chauvinistic mess that sits high on this year's pile of smelliest interactive turds – Saints Row: The Third features highly compelling, gleefully over-the-top action. Whether you're base-jumping from skyscrapers or going on tank joyrides through city streets, everything flows well and looks great. Even standard run and gun missions are a blast, thanks to intuitive controls and a pleasantly forgiving level of difficulty.
It's also surprisingly droll. It doesn't have a comedic sophistication on par with a Quentin Tarantino film, but I've nonetheless found myself frequently smiling at the raunchy exchanges that take place between gang members. They tend to come up with creative word lashings that become all the more funny if, as I did, you make the game's customizable protagonist a voluptuous Eastern European woman whose gender, attire, and harsh accent make her taunts all the more unexpected and amusing.
So I admit a slightly guilt-tinged respect for Volition's ambitious, outrageous actioner. It's not for all tastes, and I'm not sure that everyone who plays will laugh for the right reasons (if, indeed, there are any). But it entertains, and sometimes that's enough.
Saints Row: The Third
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows PC
Developer: Volition Inc.
Also reviewed in our attached photo gallery:
- Rayman Origins
- Dead Rising 2: Off the Record
- The Lord of the Rings: War in the North
- Disney Universe
- Need for Speed: The Run
- Tekken Hybrid
- Metal Gear Solid HD Collection
- uDraw for Xbox 360 and PlayStation