Saints Row: The Third review

Saints Row The Third PS3

The fact that Saints Row: The Third is crazy is no secret. Madder than a tumble drier full of gerbils. But only after spending some concerted time in its nutbar world do you start to realise that it’s also bipolar. One minute it’s loud, exciting and the life and soul of the party, joyfully throwing you into a massively OTT set-piece. The next it’s near silent – almost bashfully looking on as you dutifully plug bad guys in the head during a sequence that has all the atmosphere of an amateur poetry recital in outer space. It’s a combination that – along with the farcical insistence on introducing you to mini-games, essentially making the tutorial portion last nearly eight hours – makes this both gloriously fun and a disappointing letdown.

Let’s start with what it does well – which, conveniently, is also the beginning. The first hour or so is brilliant, incorporating an excellent opening mission, a massive set-piece and a decent story set-up. Robbing a bank in a set of oversized Johnny Gat masks goes spectacularly wrong, resulting in a shoot-out against a helicopter and the entire roof of the building being ripped off.

Captured, you end up parachuting out of bad guy Phillipe Loren’s private jet to rescue fellow Saint Shaundi before smashing back into the cockpit and dishing out some more hot lead justice. All the while, your surprisingly likeable cast is engaged in some genuinely funny – and self-referential (backup should arrive in “about two waves” of bad guys) – verbal jousting.

If the game continued in this vein it’d be good – excellent, even. But once you’re free to explore Steelport at your leisure, things take a turn for the worse. And bizarrely, this is partly down to the wealth of things to do. The city is filled with mini-games – some of which are great. Professor Genki’s Super Ethical Reality Climax is a gameshow with a pitch-black sense of humour: go through a trap-filled warehouse murdering mascots with an increasingly powerful range of weapons until the exit opens.

Trail Blazing – in which you plough through the city on a flaming quad bike, blowing up anything you come in contact with – is also massively enjoyable. In fact, a fair few of them are. But there are just so many it was inevitable that some would be utter guff, and the ‘Drive X to Y, wait while they do Z, drive them back’ activities feel like things we should really be spared in a modern sandbox game.