I would have started this review with some vaguely semi-humorous opening statement, but in the case of Saints Row: The Third, the sheer insane nature of the title speaks for itself and requires no introduction, so I'll get straight to it.
So as you can gather, this is the third installment of Saints Row, brought to us by the twisted minds of Volition, and once again we take the role of "The Boss" in order to, once again, go from rags to riches in the name of the The Saints. In this iteration, The Saints' own Stilwater and their gang is now a global consumer brand which everyone has accepted without question, you'll find Saints branded merchandise, Japanese energy drink commercials starring Pierce and fans littering the streets of the city.
The action kicks off with you, Shaundi, Johnny Gat and actor Josh Burk, researching his part of a criminal for his role in the Saints movie, about to rob the Stilwater bank. Everyone is dressed up in Johnny Gat clothing, including over-sized Johnny Gat bobble heads as no one would suspect the Saints robbing anything disguised as one of their more prominent members.
Obviously things don't go to plan, you all end up in jail and are introduced to your competition for the duration of this game, The Syndicate, they want a huge slice of your action and you don't have a lot of options. Fronted by a Belgian waffle, a hulking luchador masked wrestler, an emo cyberpunk and femme fatale twins that look like they could suck a golf ball through a garden hose. After some explosive mid-air action you're let loose on the streets of Steelport, and this is where you can go to town cocking about or actually complete the mission objectives to further the storyline.
Though before you start any rampant mayhem, you'll have to go through your character customisation screen first - here you can select what gender/race/voice your avatar will possess throughout the game. Fat, thin, muscular; tall, short; big norks, tiny sausage; it's all here for you to play around with. You can also download, view and load user created characters if you're about as creative as a digestive biscuit. All sorts of celebrity lookalikes are here that tie in with the selectable taunts and celebrations available, such as the Hulk Hogan crowd pleaser, the Macarena dance and other wacky variables.
The community is obviously very creative with this customiser as we've seen 50 Cent, Vin Diesel, an attempt at Niko Bellic from GTA IV, various WWE wrestlers, Eminem, 2Pac, Duke Nukem; the list goes on and on. While some require a little imagination to see the doppelganger properly, some creations are pretty bang on their real life counterparts and it's great to see this as an integrated feature in a game like this.
One community member in particular sticks out from the rest of the field in this area, I suggest you look up on Youtube a member called marcusgarlick. Not only does he showcase his creations but also leaves a creation formula for anyone else who wishes to clone the work, not only for Saints Row 3 but for many other games that allow character customisation. Well done that man.
Alongside your main story progression missions, you'll have side missions from a number of 'Activities' available via your Saints phone: these range from escort missions, rescuing "some ho's", partaking in a spot of insurance fraud, driving with a tiger in your passenger seat, sniping from a helicopter to what may be the most awesome side mission ever deceived, Professor Genki's Super Ethical Reality Climax.
This whacked out game show pits you in a gauntlet run of obstacles and mascot suits with the aim of shooting certain Genki signs and said mascots in order to accumulate money - at the end of the run you are given the choice to take on a hulking brute of an end boss for a juicy Brucie bonus, or run with the money you already have.
Interesting side note and semi 'spoilerific' tid-bit here, you'll notice throughout the population of Steelport that there are number of 'whack jobs' out there happily mulling around dressed up as a mascot dog, or bear, or can of energy drink. If you come across one of these said nutters dressed as Prof. Genki (a cat with a big purple head, glasses and lab coat), then promptly take this f**ker down with extreme prejudice - just make sure to pack plenty of ammo as he has the health pool of a tank, but will drop $300k for your trouble upon shuffling off this mortal coil.
Aside from the main campaign which can be rocked out solo or with a friend cooperatively online, you can also partake in some 'Whored mode' action. In this mode you're given a certain weapon or vehicle and have to dispatch the wave of enemies without dying; this may be simply shooting scantily clad ladies, swiping at ankles of dogs with a dildo bat as you've been shrunk in size or fending off a wave of mini energy drink cans while a big boss can is making his way towards you.
The sheer variation of each wave in this mode is as equally disturbed in the head as the main game. However there is no competitive multiplayer option to Saints Row the Third but the game has more than enough content to chomp through to not notice it's lack of attendance in the title.
While playing through I was never really greeted with any offensive visuals, everything looked good and never seemed out of place. The city is well designed, from broken run down shops and ghetto's to the bright neon lights and electronic billboards of the city centres, even the smoggy industrial area felt it served a purpose in the game. All the characters are pleasing to the eye, and yes if you really want to, you can run around as naked as the day you were born; thankfully Volition have drawn a line at some point by giving you a pixelated gentleman's sausage or lady garden + bra.
All of the main characters through the game have convincing voice acting and do bounce well of each other - one example of this is while doing a mission with Pierce and a particular song comes on the radio while driving. This prompts the duo to go into a spot of, well, questionable karaoke while they reminisce of high school days and easier times; it's quite the moment when you come across this and helps to make a connection with your lovable rogue that is 'The Boss'.
Now the quality of this moment is totally dependant on which gender/voice style you choose; I left it with the standard male/American offering to play through, however you are also able to choose from an English 'Lock Stock' style, Zombie, and the equivalent female voices. So no doubt the chorus of 'What I Got' with your zombie-voiced protagonist going 'Argle Bargle' will split your sides with laughter.
Overall Saints Row: The Third is quite the positive experience all round; I experienced very few negative moments in the game. Granted, due to the nature of these sandbox style games a few loading issues emerged and the odd frame rate drop appeared here and there, but nothing that detracted from the experience.
Even our old friend Mr. Scenery Pop-Up dropped by to say hello for a cup of tea, but none of these got in the way of what this game excels at, putting a huge grin on your face from cocking about doing crazy things, and I defy anyone to find something more enjoyable than performing a DDT on an old granny as she's crossing the street then strutting your stuff Ric Flair style.