Review: It's big, it's sprawling, it's got purple sex toys you can beat people to death with. It's Saints Row: The Third
Games, like other artistic ventures, have the capacity to teach, to inspire, to evoke emotion; films like Citizen Kane demonstrate a perfect understanding of how to craft a timeless and engaging narrative whilst also portraying fleshed-out characters. Programs such as The West Wing can demonstrate the ability to address moral quandaries and titillate us with tales of political and diplomatic intrigue.
And then there's Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
Some may look at Saints Row: The Third as an opportunity to have the same tired conversations about questionable content in games that's been raging for decades. There is a great deal of content in the game that will offend, but with two rather notorious games in the series already it is hard to say whether they've crossed the line any more than they have previously. The truth is the Saints Row series doesn't do much more than fill the gap Rockstar left when they decided to take GTA down a more realistic path.
One great new feature of the game that differs from the previous installment is it functions on PC; the port of the previous game was so appalling the ability to play The Third at all comes as a bit of a shock. Once in the game you'll notice the shiny DirectX 11 support makes this a very good looking, albeit stylised, port. Despite the inherent console-iness, the engine does the job admirably. The only issue with presentation we found was AI civilians, police, army units & enemies are all clones of about three or four models from each group.
The game starts explosively and in the typical Saints fashion of total insanity. You create your character in immense detail and soon enough an excuse is made to find a new setting so you're not bored with the old game map.
The missions are diverse, with locations and objectives varying greatly. Sometimes you’re blowing up buildings, sometimes you’re shotgun in a helicopter firing rocket launchers at cars, then you’re rappelling down a building and sniping enemies as you dangle. The weapons are also quite varied, with the introduction of the awesome new predator drone, which is pure and unadulterated fun. The rest of the weapons will leave you feeling pretty ‘meh’, but upgrades are available and give the guns more punch. And yes, yes, there’s a purple dildo melee weapon.
Amongst the chaos, the core of Saints games is territorial and financial control, so you'll need to be mindful of your influence in the world. This will inevitably become greater in a linear fashion, but it is nice to change the game world as you progress. The story is suitably ridiculous, but given the game features in-depth character customisation we felt attached enough to our character to be engaged in his rise to the top.
Underhanded compliments aside, SR3 is one of the best two-player online co-op experiences available. There is endless fun to be had completing the campaign as well as just blowing stuff up and going on the run from rival gangs and the authorities. You can compete in co-op activities, work together to complete them and it all fits together beautifully, because the game accommodates two players from the ground up. We weren't playing the final code, but for the most part the online experience was bug and lag free.
The game also has a great cinematic flair; the cutscenes are astonishingly well directed at times and certain parts of the game scream, "I'M A TRIPLE-A TITLE, BITCHAAAAS". Then people talk. The dialogue is so bad, but in the best way possible, really. It is the kind of bad you try for. The bad you laugh with, not at. Well, for the most part anyway.
The final note we'll make is this: at the end of the day The Kardashians may be a show centered on moronic attention seekers whose only real purpose appears to be thieving a combination of nitrogen, oxygen and a number of other elements and chemical compounds from the good people of Planet Earth, but mindless trash can be awesome to watch. It can also be a helluvah lot of fun to play.