To use a Goodfellas analogy, if GTA IV is Ray Liotta's Henry - a troubled, conflicted mobster - then Saints Row: The Third is his degenerate, psychopathic partner Tommy.
He's unpredictable, and offensive to just about everybody (especially women), but blessed with an ineffable charm and a twisted sense of humour.
The third instalment in THQ's madcap sandbox crime caper is never going to win any awards for subtlety or sophistication, yet its madcap, ultra violent gameplay and genuinely witty dialogue make it one of the most blinging jewels in OnLive's crown.
Saints be praised
Where the game stands out over its two predecessors is in its surprisingly compelling narrative. While the first game was content to be GTA: San Andreas with GPS and the second was happy to distract you with endless, somewhat scatological side-quests (hosing down buildings with sewage springs, grimly, to mind), the trilogy ends with a story that, while never less than utter lunacy, does hang together.
It starts with the Saints being celebrity 'gangstas', complete with their own clothing brands and a begrudgingly friendly relationship with the cops - "Put down your weapons, then sign them for my kids" is the kind of smart one-liner you'll encounter right from the start.
When the opening mission takes a sour turn, however, your gang has its bank account wiped out, its crucial Respect (the game's XP system) annihilated, and one of its most celebrated members is missing and presumed dead.
It's a neat setup to bring you back to the traditional Scarface-esque 'rags to riches' tale that crime games thrive on, as well as a solid excuse for you to rebuild your avatar from scratch - tweaking everything from his forehead size to his accent.
From then on, the game's characters begin trickling missions to you via your in-game smartphone, and for the first couple of hours these collectively act as a tutorial to the many wild and wacky side quests you'll be picking from alongside the lengthy main story missions.
Running the gamut of criminal pastimes, from dealing drugs and fighting pimp wars with rival gangs to decimating city blocks with a tank and even taking part in an ultraviolent game show, Saints Row: The Third is utterly lacking in dullness.
The whole enterprise is held together by a robust third-person shooting system, hyper-real physics that don't afford you modern luxuries like cover, and driving that's more Burnout than Gran Turismo.
You can also enjoy the full action in co-op, though we'd recommend playing with a friend as the random partners we encountered behaved, well, randomly.
A little too gritty
While Saint's Row: The Third is unquestionably one of the most ambitious, eccentric, and downright dirty experiences available via OnLive, its charms are let down somewhat by the service's quirks.
The bizarrely dark default contrast makes anything taking place inside or at nighttime a squinty chore, especially on handsets (where the overcrowded action can make for a baffling experience)
Even ratcheting up your device's brightness barely makes a difference, and there's a definite need for a contrast or gamma slider (as seen in other OnLive titles like S.T.A.L.K.E.R).
Meanwhile, although the framerate on a decent broadband connection is remarkably solid, there are no touch screen controls for the game - so make sure you've got a USB pad or OnLive Wireless Controller to really get the most out of this gloriously insane sandbox.