(THQ, tested on PS3, £37.99)

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INSIDE every sinner there’s a Saint waiting to get out.

This is not the sort of game you want little Johnny to be playing on the TV after Christmas dinner – in fact, it is political incorrectness taken to a new extreme.

Pornstars, actors and wrestlers including Hulk Hogan, Daniel Dae Kim (Lost, Angel) and Sasha Gray mix it up in a first-rate mesh of casting which perfectly complements the over-the-top gameplay to present the game you know you always wanted, but were afraid to ask for.

Snatching the sandbox crown which has been worn by the Grand Theft Auto series for far too long, it’s the sort of game you can swiftly plunge into without hesitation, and keeping coming back to over and over again.

Customising your character is almost as fun as the game itself, with variations ranging from the walking dead and a gimp through to the usual foxy temptresses and buffed-up beefcakes, complete with an array of tattoos, outfits and accessories to boot. And that’s just the characters – wait until you start pimping your ride!

The premise is simple enough – the Saints have to regain their turf and financial security after the mysterious Syndicate takes over your rival gangs in Steelport city, leading to numerous missions which generally involve violence heaped upon brutality, garnished with touches of sexuality and style. A perfect dish, best served napalm-hot.

Once the Saints are again a force to be reckoned with, things kick up another gear as you begin to amass an empire of real estate and a gang which isn’t afraid of unleashing bloody havoc at any opportunity.

The architects have listened to criticism of past instalments, and refined the driving mechanics to ensure they are much more responsive, which greatly enhances the gameplay, and the outrageous combat options include assault with a deadly sex toy or a huge suction device which uses people as literal cannon fodder, as well as the usual array of rocket launchers and the like.

The visuals are outstanding, blending cartoon violence with brutal realism, and the soundtrack includes some first-class tunes from the likes of Kanye West and Faith No More, which pumps along nicely while you’re busy blowing up bridges, going postal in a bank heist, mowing down innocent bystanders or parachuting out of your penthouse helipad.

If there are any criticisms to be had here, it’s that you can sometimes die inexplicably through a random fluctuation in the laws of physics, selecting your weapons can be a tad tricky, and getting to mission checkpoints isn’t always easy, but that’s not a bad thing when you’re looking at longterm playability. You might find yourself completing missions with a degree of similarity over the course of your escapades, but you’ll be having such a lot of fun doing so that you won’t really care.

Multi-player options include the option of fighting a never-ending hoard of streetwalkers or gimps, which is quite unlike anything you’ve ever seen in a video game, further compounding the feeling that Saints Row has finally found its own identity out of the shadow of the GTA line.

Laughably offensive, extremely violent, but above all, incredibly entertaining, and a refreshing change from the sombre themes of many games on the marketplace right now. Highly recommended.

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