It’s hard to do stupid smart. I know that, because Saints Row 2 did stupid stupidly. Saints Row: The Third does stupid in a way that would make idiot savants jealous. Yes, this is not my strongest opening to a review, but don’t let that deter you from engaging in the bizarre, incredible fever dream that is this latest entry in an unlikely franchise.
The Third Street Saints are huge now. They’re media icons, the biggest celebrities in the world, with their own clothing line and everything. As the game opens, they decide to rob a bank – wearing masks of themselves – with an actor who is going to play them in a movie. The heist goes bad, then crazy. Without giving too much away, the Saints end up in the town of Stillwater, desperate to take over and take down the local gang who would dare stand up to them.
Doing so includes the most ridiculous list of activities I’ve seen in a GTAIII-style game like this. You’ll be flying hover bikes and shooting lazer guns in no time. Repeatable side missions include a murder gameshow and a “destroy everything with a tank” mode. One of the earliest story missions has you recruit a permanently auto-tuned pimp by rescuing him from a BDSM club and escaping on gimp-driven rickshaws. Yes, this is exactly the game you don’t want ending up in the hands of young children.
What’s crazy is that it all works. Every aspect of the gameplay is fun, even a weird wrestling match towards the end. Driving and gunplay are both totally acceptable, and become ridiculous as you upgrade your character. Volition address everything with the exact right amount of seriousness, and the story is definitely more of the short and sweet variety than the drawn out, GTAIV style. Even your created character, who can be male or female and speak in seven different voices, somehow becomes identifiable and endearing. Sure, I just made my guy look like Samuel Jackson from Pulp Fiction, but when I changed him, it just felt wrong.
I really don’t want to write too much about Saints Row: The Third. If you thought something like GTA: San Andreas was fun, but too restrained, check this shit out. If you’re still on the fence, let me just tell you one more thing: Burt Reynolds is in here. After a certain point, you can call him up and he’ll come and hang out with you. Any time you want. Case closed.