As much as I love Battlefield 3 for its heightened realism and terrifying, palm-moistening online play, there are times when I just want to unwind after a hard-day’s work. Not enter a warzone filled with snipers and AT mines around every corner. Even GTAIV and Skyrim feel like work sometimes. If I wanted to go play darts, I would head down the pub. And while Skyrim is a stunning game, spending three hours wandering around snowy slopes only to get pummeled by a giant? It’s hardly therapeutic.
Enter Saints Row. A franchise almost entirely dedicated to balls-out nonsense. It’s childish, sleazy and packed full of things that either make you grin - or roll your eyes with embarrassment. But you know what? Damn it’s a hell of a lot of fun.
If GTAIV aims to be hyper-reality, Saints Row is ANTI-reality. You’ll be charging around town with Hulk-fists, punching rag-dolls into next week, wearing a pink ninja outfit, and screaming out “I'm God here!”
Saints Row The Third continues the saga of one gang’s rise to power in the fictional city of Stilwater. After your actions in the previous game, the purple-clad Third Street Saints crew are enjoying life on a high, raking in millions of dollars, and sporting their own clothing label and energy drink. But naturally, all this fame and fortune has also made them a target. Numerous new gangs have come to town, all trying to change the tide in their favour.
Immediately into the game, you find yourself wearing a ridiculous disguise and caught up in the middle of an over-the-top bank heist. It’s only after fifteen minutes of eye-popping gun-play that you even enter the avatar customisation menu to physically create your character. It’s a genius way of throwing players into the action, showing them the controls and setting a scene before the chore of having to decide what you’ll look like.
However, in Saints Row The Third, it’s possible that the character customisation is actually one of the best bits in the game. There are literally millions of different combinations for players to try out, most of which all end with hilarious results. You can be an obese clown hooker with dreadlocks, or an Ethiopian midget geisha in a tracksuit.
Basically, if you can imagine it, you can look like that in Saints Row with enough time and patience. Online you’ll often run across hilarious cameos that players have painstakingly crafted; including Will Smith, Eninem, Pamela Anderson, Marlon Brando, the Joker and what I think must’ve been Dante from Devil May Cry.
Players can even select their choice of voice, walking style, combat technique and interactions with fellow members of Stilwater. Every vehicle you drive can be customised to this same level of painstaking detail as well, from colour, to body modifications through to what sort of tyres it has..
Fans of previous Saints Row shenanigans will be pleased to hear that a lot has been improved in this third instalment. Although the graphics have never been Saints Row’s strong suit, there have been some dramatic improvements to the texture wrapping, lighting, and character animations this time around.
A lot of critics have complained over The Third’s unpolished visuals, but considering the amount of detail happening on screen at any one time, I think a small amount of bitmap popping and clipping issues are easily forgotten. This game isn’t a work of art. It’s more like watching a million-dollar fireworks display in the hope that something will go horribly wrong at any minute.
There have been other improvements since the previous Saints Row too. The Third has more than twice the amount of dialogue from its predecessor, a lot of which have been voiced by well-recognised talent. The sassy ex-pornstar Sasha Grey, Daniel Dae Kim from the TV show Lost, Burt Reynolds from Boogie Nights and… Hulk Hogan… from, um… Hogan Knows Best. The game feels a lot slicker than Saints Row 2 as well, with faster loading times, cleaner menus, and a faster interface with customisations and cut-scenes.
Furthermore, all of the melee combat has been given a massive steroid shot in the arm this time around. Players can expect to perform outlandishly brutal take-downs such as the face-plant, the crotch-kiss, or the nut-cracker. I doubt these need explanations. If they do, you probably shouldn’t play this game. Let’s just say that whacking old-ladies over the head with a giant purple shlong or squashing people’s heads in with your arse muscles is pretty much common-place here.
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