Saints Row 3 might just be “sleeper hit of the year”. I don’t say that lightly, especially not with titles from big publishers. But this is a game which gets so much right and doesn’t get bogged down in trying to be gritty or edgy. Instead, it’s a boldly-coloured world filled with absolute insanity that makes just enough sense to be both fun and a game where you constantly want to see what’s around the next corner.

Its brilliance comes from the sheer variety of things to do. There are story missions, which tell an interesting tale with some likeable characters, made even better by the fact that you design your own character. You even get to pick the voice — 3 male, 3 female and a “Zombie” voice which sounds like the Tazmanian Devil and is incredibly entertaining when everyone else talks to them normally. (You can also switch voice at any time in-game by going and paying for plastic surgery, though, so if you do eventually want to understand what your character is saying, you can.)

Then on top of that there is all this other shit to do. There are properties to own, which bring in an hourly income. There are “activities” which range from insurance fraud (basically Burnout Paradise’s Showtime mode, only with your ragdoll instead of a car) to Tank Mayhem (exactly what it sounds like). There is a ton of clothing and cars to collect. There are side missions requiring you to steal specific cars or assassinate specific targets. There are a ton of “Challenges” to complete. It is basically what we came to expect from the Grand Theft Auto series in the PS2 era with a next-gen lick of paint, a good story, a good structure and a good sense of progression.

The story missions are probably the highlight, because unlike GTA, they often take place in specifically-designed interior areas rather than parts of the open world. This means that they can be more effectively designed as “levels” with setpieces rather than the rather freeform gunfights that GTA often descends into. It also helps that the combat feels much better than GTA, too, with straightforward aiming and melee combat, plus the inclusion of a “punch in the nuts” button, which is to be applauded.

But the beauty of the game is that any time you tire of story missions, you can go and do something else. There is always something else to do, and it is always fun. I lost count of the number of times during my lengthy play session today where I felt a genuine smile creeping across my face at the sheer absurdity of what was going on. But somehow it never quite felt like “HAY GUYZ LOOK HOW WACKY WE ARE” — the game is set up in such a way that the cartoon violence and insanely over the top antics are just par for the course.

Oh, and you can quite literally engage in Underpants Mayhem by stripping down to your smalls (or indeed going completely nude) and tearing shit up. Bravo!