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Saints Row: The Third is a good time on steroids. Even a hardened multiplayer loving gamer such as me can see the sound entertainment logic behind running around an imaginary city naked dominating enemies with psychic sea creatures. Some will dismiss all this frivolity as just that, a feel good flash in the pan, but there is actually a lot more substance here than such a verdict would suggest.
Saints Row heads out of familiar territory in other ways too as we leave Stilwater and make for the city of Steelport. We find three gangs going happily about their business, well as happily as these things ever are, and are soon tasked with upsetting the apple cart and wining over the city.
Although everyone starts in the same city with the same basic character, it's soon evident that customisation is the engine at the heart of Saint Row: The Third. From what you want to wear to what you want to drive, the generic out-of-the-box experience soon starts taking its own path.
It's because of the depth of this customisation that Saints Row: The Third becomes its own game (read: wacky bonkers in a good way). There are enough choices and flexibility to all this to make it feel worth while investing it.
Previously I've spent hours honing my Modern Warfare 3 load out or my Battlefield setup but usually just gone with the default settings for adventures games. In Saints Row I must have spent as much time messing around with different looks, often chuckling to myself at the bizarre combinations, as I have actually playing the game proper.
The danger of all this (highly entertaining) insanity is that you will become bored.
Gameplay helps make sense of all this with a set of missions that are as hilarious as the get-ups you can go around in. Some favourite moments for me were babysitting a tiger, having a sex change and not forgetting the incident with the chainsaw and the wrestlers.
Around this central thread -- if you can call a wonderful grab bag of loosely relate ideas a thread -- are a range of side quests that are equally diverting. Here you'll find yourself stealing cars, committing Insurance Fraud as well as a wide range of traffic misdemeanours that will be familiar to those who have played the previous games.
The danger of all this (highly entertaining) insanity is that you will become bored of yet another bonkers plot point or mission objective. However, Saints Row: The Third is a step ahead of us again and offers all manner of incentives to keep on playing. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, which in Saints Row means rewards.
Money earns you territory, weapons and upgrades. Respect will unlock special abilities. Misbehaving will earn you respect. It's a wonderfully un-vicious cycle where activity grants access to more agency which in turns leads to more activity. It's the sort of mechanic that is usually reserved for top tier multiplayer games.
Saints Row: The Third pulls all sorts of cheap shots, but it does so in the name of entertainment.
Provided they are taken with a pinch of salt even the juvenile characters and childish dialogue don't grate too much. I was happy to forgive the swear-happy civilians and general unproblematic approach to issues of identity, gender, violence and grown up life in general.
The story itself is also not great, and takes a real dive at the end. But playing the main campaign cooperatively again makes this less of an issue -- and being able to do that via system link is a big tick in my multiplayer gaming box.
Saints Row: The Third pulls all sorts of cheap shots, but it does so in the name of entertainment without too much backslapping or bravado. Because of this it ends up endearing itself to the player rather than alienating them. I'm left with a real soft spot for Saints Row: The Third, which I really didn't see coming.
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