I’ve been mulling over this one for a while, all too often games are touted for being super realistic with their bleeding edge graphics and realistic bullet weights. Having bought Saints Row The Third last weekend on Steam I have had a while to revel in the sheer absurdity that Steelport offers. It’s like the gaming equivalent of a Michael Bay movie. Outside of its semi-realistic setting, the game is constantly pushing barriers into the absurd and, quite frankly, ridiculous.
So far, in my brief career as a Saint, I have: driven a tiger around town, rescued an auto-tuned pimp from a fetish dungeon, stolen a boat full of hoes and freed a naked giant from a secret lab. Pretty exciting stuff. If I had to sell the game to you, I would go with the tagline ‘GTA on speed’ which I feel sums it up quite nicely.
If you haven’t already, go read Ed’s last column where he talks about GTA IV as a satire on modern America. Saints Row is the opposite. It never strives to deliver a complex narrative on the state of society, however, it does offer a less complex satire on such things as consumerism and celebrity culture. By the time of this game, the once small Saints have become a media powerhouse, celebrities in their own right regardless of their flagrant disregard of the law, but I’m not here to deliver social narrative. Quite the opposite in fact.
Saints Row The Third is possibly the most fun I have had in a game since Just Cause 2. The game never pretends to be something it isn’t, I can quite happily leave my brain at the door and just enjoy the pretty lights and sounds without really having to worry about following a highly cerebral storyline or multi-layered character development. The characters are mostly all stereotypes and need only basic exposition. For example, the pimp Zimos, he’s every ‘pimp’ stereotype distilled down into a purple zoot suit and made to sound like T-Pain.
The game isn’t even particularly innovative in its mission design, with most activities being either driving somewhere or shooting at something and yet this never detracts from the game. I’ve essentially just given this game a terrible critical review, it has stock characters and basic mission design so why do I even like it so much?
Referring back to what Ed said in his previous column, ”A ‘‘game’’ is a folly, a frivolous pastime, unaccommodating of any afflatus that disturbs our enjoyment.” Saints Row has pretty much bottled this exact idea as well as, if not better than it has its stereotypes. As much as I love Skyrim, one of my major bugbears about it is that it’s kinda slow. There is no way I can jump into it for less than an hour whilst I am taking a break from work, it just doesn’t work that way.
Saints Row, to me, symbolises something that I all too rarely experience in gaming now, pure unadulterated fun. Sure I love highly complex, story driven games but sometimes after a long day of working on assignments and programming, I’m really not in the mood for paying attention to lines of dialogue. It’s also one of the reasons I love indie games so much, a lot of them are very simple and fun games (of course there are exceptions) that I can boot up for 30 mins and have fun with.
Games have transcended the boundary of being simply fun and crossed over into complex pieces of art. Whilst I don’t have a problem with that necessarily, I feel that we’re losing the fun sometimes. So long as we don’t go as far as modern art and selling games that offer little to no actual content whilst being a ‘ bold statement on individuality in an incorporated world’ then I’ll be happy.