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They're No Saints, But They Know How To Have A Good Time

Volition, Inc is one of my favorite game development companies.  I haven't forgotten the marvelous job they did on Descent: Freespace.  These days, I understand they've been making Grand Theft Auto clones, like everyone else.  Pity.  However, they're redeemed somewhat because they made what some could call the epiphany of a GTA clone series: Saints Row, a series that focuses heavily on the "fun" aspect.  I picked up Saints Row: The Third for a bargain $10, and I haven't regretted it.

The "insurance fraud" mission is an excellent example of the ridiculous fun to be had in Saints Row: The Third.

If I were to say that there was a chink in the armor of such a quality experience of this, it would be the ridiculous infeasibility of the whole scenario.  It's a game where you're the leader of a hyper-violent gang whose exploits have, contrary to summoning the National Guard to put them down for good, made them world-famous household names with their own wildly popular fan merchandise.  In short, a gangbanger's wet dream made infeasible reality.  To make the whole thing work, I find it helps to adapt two premises, headcanon, that make the game work a bit better:

Headcanon #1: You Are Deadpool

Deadpool is a somewhat low-tier Marvel hero, popularity-wise, so I'm not surprised if you haven't heard of him.  He's basically a superhero (and I use the term "hero" lightly) who, in addition to being an accomplished fighter, essentially has two super powers.

First, he has a ridiculous "healing factor."  Like Wolverine, he can heal pretty much anything that happens to him.  However, Deadpool's healing factor makes Wolverine's look mildly pathetic.  He heals so much and so fast, he has come back from being completely incinerated at least once, and has cancerous tumors all over his body including his brain which has a large part to do with why he's so mentally unstable.

I guess things are improving a bit for Deadpool's popularity: he has a game in development.

His second power, if it can be called such, is his "third wall breaking" capacity.  The dude knows he's in a comic book, and has fun with that.  Of course, everyone else in the Marvel universe regards this speculation as insanity.

Both powers appear to be possessed, in full, by the protagonist of Saints Row: The Third.

Like many games who have opted to take the easy way out of placing heath kits everywhere, you heal from all the damage you take so long as you have not taken any damage within the last few seconds.  However, Saints Row 3 seeems to take this to an extreme: you soak tons of bullets without any apparent ill effect.  Feasibility dead, unless, superpowers.

In a comparison example, when Nico in Grand Theft Auto 4 has a head on collision that sends him flying through the window of his car, there's a good chance he's not getting up from that.  As the Saints Row protagonist, the recovery procedure for flying through a windshield is to stand up, dust yourself off, and jump back in the car.

As for third wall breaking, at no point have I actually witnessed the protagonist of Saints Row 3 address the camera.  However, he (or she) generally doesn't give a damn about anything that happens in the game, to the point where it seems implied they're aware you're playing a character in a video game, and this explains their willingness to do all the fun-but-ridiculous crap.

Coincidentally, both me and my brother opted to play a character with silver skin and a Cockney accent.  As far as I know, Deadpool doesn't have either, but hey, we both know we were playing a guy with superpowers here, and given the alternative voices were "zombie," "black gangbanger," and "douche," I think the choice of voice was clear.

Headcanon #2: Cloning Is Real

Not just cloning, but full on body-mind transfer cloning.  There's a few reasons why this is necessary.

A canonical example in another game: Borderlands.
First and least-most, because a lot of the models are reused.  When you go to clear out a stronghold of gang members, there will be about 15 of them milling around, and 2-3 models between them, which means you're going to be killing the same person at least five times.  Of course, this is such a common sin in video games, brought about by technical limitations, it's hardly even worth mentioning.

The second and greater reason is just how much bloodshed you get away with.  Non-player characters complain about dying, but you're never really held accountable for all the killing you do.  You gun down about 200 swat members within the first hour of the game but, when you're dragged into jail by the cops, it turns out the reason why you're being incarcerated is not for all that killing but rather because someone paid the cops off to a greater extent than your own gang.  (Never too late for a renegotiation, guys.) It's not too uncommon for me to fall off a road in a car and run over two dozen pedestrians, which might attract a mild one-car police chase if one happens to be around.

It works out if I insert that cloning is real.  If someone dies in the game, instantaneously they pop out of some cloning facility somewhere and probably curse the inconvenience of having to go through the morning commute again.  That's about how much stigma is attached to gunning someone down in cold blood in this game.

As for the game itself...

Honestly, there's not a whole lot to say about it.  It's yet another third-person shooter taking place in a big, open-world sandbox, quite capably executed with all the bells and whistles.  Your primary goal is to wrest control of the city from rival gangs by performing missions, defeating the gangs at rival strongholds, buying territory, and basically being a third-wall breaking, hyper-regenerating, joyriding, punk ass bitch with zero regard for human life.

So, basically, Saints Row:The Third is Grand Theft Auto 3 or 4 without as much pretense of realism.  Admittedly, as much as I dislike the lack of significance that comes with that territory, it's such a blast to play that you're left wondering if GTA is the one doing it wrong.
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