GC 2011: Hands-on with Saint’s Row: The Third

Gamescom 2011

Saint’s Row: The Third is all about having crazy good fun. If you’re the type of person who spends hours on end in sandbox games finding new and creative ways to murder the populace of whichever city you’re supposed to be saving, or exploring the various routes through the streets in a dumpster truck because it lets you smash through traffic better than anything else, then you should pay close attention to this game.

My hands-on time included a main story mission and about an hour of free-play on a small urban island within the Steelport city limits.

The mission, entitled Bank Heist, saw our player character joining the Saints on a bank robbery in Stilwater. By this stage in the gang’s career, they’re celebrities with advertising deals, clothing lines and excited fans who will beg for an autograph at any opportunity (including in the middle of said bank robbery). The mission goes smooth at first – the Saints enter the bank, cock-sure and ready to make some easy money – but when they open fire, every bank teller pulls out their own weapon and a skirmish ensues. This is not how it’s supposed to happen for criminals of such high repute; this is usually easy. As the gang made their way through the building to the vault, they encounter dozens of armed suit-wearing guards, which only deepens their confusion. “Just who the hell are we robbing here?” is asked on more than one occasion. When the gang reaches the vault, the player must plant a couple of strategically-placed bombs around it to loosen the whole thing from the building, and then along comes a helicopter to help them pull it free and fly out into the sunset in true theatrical lawbreaker style. Unfortunately for them, it doesn’t go quite as well as planned. Heavily armed policemen and attack helicopters eventually bring down the gang, and they’re arrested. As it turns out, the Saints just attempted to rob The Syndicate – a wealthy criminal organisation that quietly took over Stilwater while the Saints were dicking around with Japanese energy drink endorsements and photo-shoots. To cut a long story short, the Saints are forced to move to the nearby town of Steelport and start their career from scratch – claiming territory, running errands and working their way back into power.

When you’re cruising around in the free-roaming city of Steelport, there are tons of activities to do in addition to the main story quests. Since we were given a full weapons loadout and tons of cash, the first thing that I did was head into the nearby Image As Designed store to customise the look of my character. If you’ve never played a Saint’s Row game, this is one of the areas in which it excels, and the levels of ridiculous character customisation continue to grow in The Third. You’re able to change all of the regular features like body type (on a skinny/fat/muscular delta), race, hair, etc., but a couple of features stand out from the crowd – package size for male characters and breast size for females, and metallic skin colours. I decided to keep it real and chose a character that most honestly reflects my own physical form. So, with my beer-bellied, lime green character of unspecified package size, I headed out into the world to cause some trouble.

With so many available waypoints on my map, I panicked in indecision and just started killing people. Evidentially, neck tackling old ladies is frowned upon by local law enforcement and before too long I had racked up a couple levels of wanted status. Fine by me, I thought, and brought up the weapon wheel, selected the SA3-Airstrike and began painting targets. This weapon requires that you lock on to an enemy or area for a few seconds and then rains down dozens of explosive missiles, destroying almost anything in its area of effect. By then, the fuzz was out for blood – armoured APCs and attack helicopters were closing in, so I switched to Professor Genki’s All-Purpose Mollusc Launcher, which fires a mind-controlling squid at your enemies, and starting making friends in the military. Before finally deciding to relax with a few activities, I opened the weapon wheel and selected a two-handed, metre-long wobbly dildo bat, and beat a few people to death with it. This is pure, insane, over-the-top videogame violence at its best. FOX News is going to have a field day.

Aside from visiting the usual selection of clothing stores, tattoo parlours and hair-styling salons, players can spend their time actually performing gang-related activities. These include main and side missions for the three gangs in Steelport – The Morning Star, The Luchadores and The Deckers – territory control missions, and arbitrary side quests. Territory control is simple: go to a location and eliminate all enemy gang members there. That will increase your control percentage in an area, which ultimately increases the amount of revenue generated by the various businesses that you can own. We had access to two arbitrary side quests: Professor Genki’s Super Ethical Reality Climax and Trailblazer. The first is one of many timed runs through a shooting gallery with enemies dressed as giant hotdogs or Japanese-style animals. Shoot enemies and tiger posters to gain time, dodge traps and make your way through to the end for a reputation and cash prize. Trailblazer involves your character donning a hazmat suit and racing through town in burning quad bike. You gain time by crashing into people and vehicles and must reach the end point before your time runs out.

My brief time with Saint’s Row: The Third was a blast. The action is just what people will expect, and those who have taken to enjoying the franchise over its competitors because of its over-the-top nature won’t be disappointed. It may even have a decent storyline and main quests.