We could start with the dictionary definition of fun, but that's not very Saints Row, is it? Not unless this particular dictionary flips you a V-sign before launching out of a cannon, writing the words over the clouds, parachuting back down with a prostitute and landing in a penthouse. That explodes.
Saints Row The Third is a relief, like stretching after being locked in a box for hours. It's an end-point for the evolution of a series that began life as a straightfaced and somewhat crass GTA clone, but with this iteration finally emerges from that shadow. Saints Row The Third feels fresh, and the reason for that is the value developers Volition place on three little letters: f-u-n.
The game doesn't so much do its own thing as attempt to do everything (except be serious). It's why the dictionary definition wouldn't have helped anyway - what Saints Row is all about is unique to videogames. Every single game depends on the player's agency, but this thing is obsessed: encouraging it, indulging it, rewarding it. It wants you to do, well - anything.
Let's be clear: this isn't a revolutionary game, and 'go anywhere, do anything' remains a sandbox catchphrase rather than a literal description. But this is a special game.
Every single weapon has a uniquelyanimated melee attack that smashes your target right in the sack (or crack, equality fans). No messing, and no coy camera angles either - there's no doubt where the shotgun barrel is being slammed, or what its effect will be on the unfortunate. Ladies get the same groin-bruising treatment, and crumple in exactly the same way.
Give a player a nice, neat open world and they'll enjoy it for a day. Give them the tools to author total havoc in an unscripted world while acting like a sociopath, and they'll do it forever. Call it empowerment, escapism or moral corruption, the fact is none of us will ever pilot a jet through an urban centre, nevermind call an airstrike on a traffic jam. You probably wouldn't want to.
From one angle, these things seem like exactly what games should deliver - experiences we'll never know in real life, dialled up and with no strings attached.
Possibilities are key. You just wouldn't think of doing half the things you can here, and that's its best surprise. Why not hit people with a giant purple dildo? Headplant someone and land in a perfect pose? One mission involves a rival gang's boatful of hookers.
You can blow it up, filling the water with silicone and STDs - that's science fact - or you can assault the boat and rescue the poor ladies, reinstalling them at the Saints' base and raising your own gang's 'morale'.
In recent years, choice in games has usually meant some grim binary decision about whether to incinerate an orphanage or cut off your best mate's knackers. Developers are obsessed with consequence.
In Saints Row it's a choice between a fat lass in a spacesuit or a beefcake in a bikini; an octopus gun or a manapult; a jet or an ice cream van. The only disappointment, in fact, is that the sex appeal slider - which affects the size of each gender's relevant organs - seems far too realistic when maxed out on the male characters. Or maybe that's just us.
You wouldn't play this in front of your mother, but that's not exactly what entertainment's about (sorry, mum). In fact, it's exactly why it's so precious. Saints Row is full of things that, in an everyday context, would simply be crass and offensive.
There can't be a single ethnic group it doesn't lampoon, while no stereotype is left unused. Come release, untold millions of innocent virtual citizens are going to come to a very messy and violent end indeed. And so what?