If that question made you laugh, utter some version of "hell yeah," or type "Saints Row 3 dildo" into your Google image search box, you and SRTT will get along famously. If you shifted uncomfortably in your seat, grumbled about kids these days, or fired off a how-dare-you email in the general vicinity of the Massively tip box, well, you can probably skip the rest of this week's MMO Burnout.
It's also a load of outrageous fun if you've got an irreverent streak to go along with your sandbox affinity.
It's equal parts cheeky plot device and a clever delaying tactic that puts off character creation until you've had time to jump in and get a feel for the gameplay. After you've left a trail of bodies in your wake and are released into the game's character screen, you'll find the sort of nirvana that's usually reserved for fans of ridiculously robust MMO avatar options.
Gameplay proper is a familiar mixture of story-based missions and a seemingly endless chain of sidequests. Steam tells me that I put nearly 15 hours into beating the game's primary narrative, and yet I've completed only a paltry 20 percent of the achievements and unlockables, to say nothing of the second ending.
See, even thought SRTT goes to great lengths to offend, gross out, and ultimately tickle your inner (wo)man-child, it's also a rock-solid play experience whether we're talking about the third-person shooting mechanics, the air and ground vehicles, or the ability to wander far and wide through the game world and always stumble across something interesting to while away the hours.
You want to basejump off your megalithic skyscraper headquarters or streak down a city street buck naked? Be my guest. You can race cars, call in airstrikes, and pimp out your vehicles and gang member NPCs with an absurdly awesome array of visual and functional customization. You can also purchase businesses to supplement your income and take over neighborhoods from rival gangs, eventually turning the whole of Steelport into your personal playground.
That is, until the military shows up and declares martial law, at which point its back to ever more ridiculous (and ridiculously fun) set pieces.
Combat is standard action sandbox shtick, although I will say that I've never seen a game that features so many ways to blow stuff up. Upgrades, new shinies, and weapons of both mass destruction and of a more personal nature frequently find their way into your character's possession, and it's a credit to Volition that the game never seems faceroll-easy even though you're constantly winning the war of escalation.
Progression is level-based (with a 50 cap), and experience points are granted for completing story missions, side quests, and repeatable activities. Perks and attributes may be purchased each time you level, and the fact that your character upgrades are obtained with the same money that's used on the vehicle, gang, and gear upgrades mentioned above means that there's always a reason to ride around looking for trouble even if you're not in the mood for a story mission.
It's also worth noting that while Saints Row The Third is a single-player game at heart, Volition has included a serviceable co-op mode. The bad news is that the devs have axed the FFA PvP multiplayer from Saints Row 2. The good news is that Player Two may participate in all of your missions and earn credit for completing them in her own campaign. As mentioned earlier, I played the PC version of SRTT, but the game is of course available for both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. In terms of the quality of the console port, I was completely impressed. I had nary crash nor a problem with jaggies or junked up camera angles for the entirety of my time in Steelport.
Ultimately Saints Row The Third is well worth the money if you like open-world games and you're not easily offended. And hey, you've got just enough time to give it a look-see prior to Saints Row IV's impending August release!
Burned out on MMOs? That's OK; there are tons of other titles out there featuring MMOish open worlds, progression, RPG mechanics, or a combination of all three. Massively's MMO Burnout turns a critical eye toward everything from AAA blockbusters to obscure indie gems, not to mention a healthy dose of the best mods.