Friday, 3 February 2012

More games need to lighten up

There are very few legitimate opportunities in life where you can write the words ‘pulsating dildo machine’ in a relatively guilt free manner. So I will apologise now if I offend anyone particularly sensitive for indulging myself in this way today. It’s the literary equivalent of swimming with dolphins.

Such a phrase would seem completely out of place in a world that is rapidly filling up with overly gritty titles like Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3 and Grand Theft Auto 4. The latter game in particular took a step in the opposite direction from the cartoon-like style and tone set by previous entries in the series, such as San Andreas and Vice City.

It’s a real joy then when something completely silly and fun rears its head above the meandering waves of macho realism that seem to be dominating the mainstream gamescape. Saints Row The Third doesn’t try to be serious, realistic or macho. It just gives you a world and tells you to have fun however you want from the very start. The protagonist can be anyone you want, from a hardened gangster in a slick suit to a transvestite leather fetishist that enjoys beating things with a four foot long sex toy.

Story missions don’t see you struggle against oppressively strong antagonists who leave a wake of immeasurably bleak circumstances behind them. Instead they are over the top joy rides that see you base jumping, flying VTOL jets and even raiding a ship to steal prostitutes. This particular boat raid mission has an element of Deal or No Deal thrown in, except you are opening shipping containers with the hope of finding a trafficked lady or two.

Opening shipping containers amidst a gun fight switches up the slightly monotonous chore of gunning down waves of baddies; however things took a turn for the funny when I opened the first container only to be greeted by a pulsating dildo machine instead of my terrified prize. Saints Row The Third is punctuated with similar semi-offensive props that reinforce the mental, nonsensical and humorous tones that make the game so different and fun to play.

The unexpected presence of this grotesque gadget in the middle of my mission was enough to make me giggle and continue on, knowing I was playing a game where the random and unexpected could truly happen. Who cares if these are static events that don’t change between playthroughs? Whereas most games are disappointingly predictable in terms of random cupboard dressing, Volition seem to go out of their way to keep the unexpected constant and fun. It might not be humour to suit everyone’s taste, but the complete lack of effort to make this game straight-laced places it high above GTA4 in terms of fun.

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