Saint's Row: The Third is currently available on Instant Game Collection courtesy of PS+ in Europe. Been holding off playing it, to heighten my appetite for open world games in anticipation of GTA V. Looks like I shouldn't have bothered in this case. Saint's Row: The Third does nothing for me as a world simulation and open world game. In the first couple of hours, the flatness of the world and shallowness of the gameplay put me off so much, I said to myself: 'Delete it, and never play it again!'.
Well - I ended up playing the whole damn day away anyways. The feedback loop of activities (aka minigames), earning cash, and leveling up and customizing my dude & rides & guns & properties is addictive, and despite the shallowness of the gameplay and the flatness of the world and its inhabitants, surprisingly fun. It certainly helps that the juvenile humour gets enough chuckles per hour out of me to be of entertainment value, rather than being a further deterrent, which it easily could have been.
I finally get why some people like Saint's Row: The Third better than GTA IV. They just enjoy it differently, not as a world simulation and immersive open world experience - a kind of virtual life of crime simulator - but rather as a minigame collection and wicked barbie & ken doll & dreamhouse customizer. Still - in hindsight, I find it rather distasteful how Saint's Row: The Third got the official or inofficial GotY nod by so many. It's shallow and flat and juvenile. All the richness in content variety and colorful absurdness should never be able to make up for what it lacks in those most essential regards.
Oh well, feel free to lecture me why Saint's Row: The Third really is a masterpiece of videogame design. Beyond it being a fun collection of activities and utter absurd hilarity, it does absolutely nothing all too well. Gunplay, driving, flying, melee combat, movement - everything is shallow. The worldbuilding and the writing of story and characters - flat, with nothing else but over-the-top absurdity going for them, and that's not usually a quality I tend to put on a pedestal. I guess that's what makes revering Saint's Row so hip. Its qualities are contrarian to contemporary values of criticism.
What says you?