Let me get this out of the way: do not buy this for kids. In fact, probably only buy this for adults you know to be mentally stable. So, we're clear? Good – because Saints Row: The Third is stupidly fun.
At first glance SR3 is a cheap Grand Theft Auto clone. But where the latter has pushed into realistic scenery and intricate storylines and social commentary, SR3 just wants to blow things up. If GTA is a problem child on Ritalin, SR3 is that child with a big bag of sugar.
The story and the missions that you ‘should’ do really are secondary.
For example, my day starts with skydiving off the side of my penthouse hide out, HALOing my landing before assaulting a number of civilians and police, stealing a car, driving straight into a rival gang, calling my homies and shooting everything. Kinda typical really.
On the story side it's fairly simple. Your gang, the titular Saints, are being muscled out by a syndicate led by an evil Belgian. After an opening bank-robbery sequence the action suddenly takes a more insane turn (if that's possible) with your gang shooting up an airliner and then partaking in a brilliant send-up of Uncharted.
The gameplay is simple and the buttons take no time at all to learn. You may accidentally throw a grenade instead of sprinting from time to time, but it doesn't usually do any harm.
A lot of the game is based inside your virtual phone. Here you will find Saintsbook, a directory of side missions, like assassinations and cars to steal, that require a little work to get at. There are also achievements like driving in the wrong lane, killing mascots or streaking (go to a clothing store or crib, remove all your clothes then run around grossing people out).
The phone can also be used to launder money and call in NPCs from your ever expanding (and customisable) gang to help with fights.
The city is broken into suburbs and each area is owned by a different gang. Buying properties and doing activities – such as selling drugs, rescuing hookers or just blowing stuff up with a tank – allows you to slowly take over the area for the Saints. Some of the properties help you out, like clothing stores.
The Rim Job auto shops (see what they did there) not only fix your car, but can customise it to your specifications (think faster, tougher, new paint, bigger wheels, retractable spikes). All of the cars are then saved to your garage and can be dropped at your location by calling up a lackey.
There are also plastic surgery clinics dotted around the city. At these places you can completely change your character’s appearance and voice. Walk in as a tall thin woman with olive skin and walk out a fat short man with iridescent blue skin without skipping a beat. Yes, the game lets you have metallic skin colours. You can also have the voice of a zombie. This is clearly not LA Noire.
And just in case you may have had some doubts, Professor Genki's Super Ethical Reality Climax game show – where your character runs a gauntlet of traps while heavily armed mascots try to murder you – will convince you that this is not a game for the weak of mind or heart.
Needless to say that SR3 is rated R18 (contains violence, sexual themes and offensive language) so seriously, don't let kids play this game! For everyone else, just enjoy.
Lasting appeal: 8
Available on PC,PS3 and Xbox 360.