I’ve come to the conclusion that the highest compliment I can give a game is not to show pictures of its amazing graphics or discuss its amazing storyline or talk about the various character ability trees it makes available… it’s to sit down and play the game from start to finish. (Well, not the *HIGHEST* compliment… the highest compliment is to start it over again after the credits roll… but, still, a pretty high compliment.)
There are a number of games that I absolutely adored but found myself stressed out playing them (LA Noire, specifically when you go to a house to report to a guy that his wife has been murdered and you step over a tricycle to get to the door… I had to put the controller down and it took me a couple of days to pick it back up) or frustrated at the forced stupidity “required” by the storyline (Deus Ex, specifically the creation of a truly stealthy character… WHO WALKS DOWN THE MIDDLE OF THE HALLWAY IN CUT SCENES??? BRAVO SIERRA, DUDES!!!).
If I can sit down and play a game and, yes, beat it then that says something about the game that all the technical accomplishments in the world won’t communicate.
All that to say: I beat Saint’s Row: The Third.
Now, I’m not particularly *PROUD* of having done so. The storyline is… well… to call it “over the top” wouldn’t do justice. We’re well within “crossing the line twice” territory. Some might say we’re in “tap dancing on top of the line” territory (we’re not… but some would say that). It’s a videogame sequel to a sequel to a game that carved out its own sandboxy Grand Theft Auto feel but, seriously, they’re not really the same kind of games at all.
Playing Grand Theft Auto IV, for example, I got the feeling that, underneath everything, the writers were trying to say something about War and what it does to the people who survive it.
Saints Row? Well, here’s a scene from the first 20 minutes. You’re parachuting and holding your comrade after jumping out of a cargo plane that you’ve just escaped. The plane then wheels around and it’s going to ram you. So you tell your comrade that you’re going to drop her, shoot out the windshield of the plane, run through it, find another parachute, jump out of the plane *AGAIN*, and then catch her again.
And then you proceed to do just that.
That’s one of the more or less safe for work things you do in the game. There are a *LOT* of things that happen that, erm, aren’t. Why worry about that, though? It’s too cool, too stupid, too awesome, too over the top. There’s no real moral to the story, no redeeming social value… it’s just a fun romp with fun missions driving fun vehicles and blowing up fun explosions. Don’t play it around the kids but, after they’ve gone to bed? You’ll find that it’s one heck of an effective way to wind down. More to the point? You may even find yourself playing to the end and seeing the credits roll.
So that’s my recommendation for you this week.