A new standard for open-world games (?)
Saints Row: The Third is the most fun I've had in an open-world game. That statement has no caveats and is written without a doubt in my heart. Don't get me wrong, I have massive amounts of respect for the love and care that Rockstar puts into every one of their games. I appreciate their attempts to elevate the medium in various ways, and the innovations they have brought to the industry. But Saints Row: The Third isn't trying to do any of that. Volition has sidestepped the biggest problem most GTA wannabes run into: simply wanting to be GTA. SR:TT doesn't want to be GTA. Volition recognizes that nobody can to Grand Theft Auto like Rockstar can from an artistic (not necessarily technical) standpoint, so it sets out to do its own thing. And sweet mother of balls, what a thing this game is.
Attempting to explain any of the best moments in Saints Row: The Third would be a disservice on two fronts: For one, I can't begin to describe what happens in this game. And two, it would completely spoil all the best parts. This is sort of like the open-world equivalent of Bayonetta for me, in that even if you don't like the mechanics (in Bayonetta's case, characer action games, and in SR:T's case, open world games), it is well worth purchasing just to see all the crazy shit. Youtube does NOT do this game justice. You can't just google "saints row the third cutscenes" and watch them all in a row. No, you have to experience for yourself the glory that is realizing that a character is voiced by Hulk Hogan halfway through his mission set. You have to experience for yourself the opening mission, then the wonder that occurs when you understand that the game only goes up from there. And above all, watching it on youtube would rob you of the player-created experiences; the ones that you make yourself. For instance, this game would mean a lot less to me if I had simply watched somebody else piss a group of luchadores off with a series of crotch-thrusts, then blow them all sky-high with an airstrike before they could even fire. No. I made that happen, and that's why it's awesome to me.
Now, let's talk mechanics. This is the part where I try and convince you guys that this game is worth playing even if you feel like it's overly juvenile. First off, the shooting is incredibly accurate, in a genre that isn't really known for its gunplay. The driving is almost the exact opposite of GTA IV's cars, in that you can hop in a car for the first time and automatically know how to drive it. There is little to no learning curve with the vehicles in Saints Row: The Third. And in the car is what is quite possibly the best licensed soundtrack since the first Tony Hawk games. Mixing highly ironic choices with genuine classics, the radio stations in Saint's Row don't set out to introduce you to new artists like GTA does, but rather constantly remind you why you liked a song like Power in the first place. Also, the Adult Swim radio station deserves special mention for... well, the fact that they got to put an Adult Swim station in the game certainly speaks for itself.
In conclusion, you should come to Saints Row for the stupidity, and stay for the stupidity, but also for the quality of the action and writing. I feel obliged to mention that some of the side activities suck, but when you're dressing up like a cardinal to kidnap an actor who plays a vampire on TV, you'll be having too much fun to care.