Saints Row: The Third Hands-On Impressions -- Something Obscenely Bizarre/Fun This Way ComesBy Jake Gaskill - Posted Oct 19, 2011
Staring at the grotesquely muscular bare ass of the hulking mass of humanity known as Oleg Kirrlov running up the stairs mere inches from my face, I have a brief moment of clarity. “What the f*** is going on here?!” To be honest, this question crossed my mind on multiple occasions during our recent day-long, first hands-on, session with Volition and THQ’s forthcoming playground of insanity, Saints Row: The Third, but this particular moment “stuck out” so to speak thanks to the very obvious fact that it involved fighting alongside a naked beefcakey thug for the first time in my gaming life (Real life is another story). In fact, an impressively high percentage of my time with SRTT involved doing things I never could have dreamed I’d get the chance to do--see above example.
For this particular press event, we were given free rein to try out three of the game’s modes: campaign, campaign co-op, and Whored Mode (not a typo). Since we have seen the opening few missions in previous preview sessions, I won’t rehash them here. In short, the now overly commercialized Saints have found themselves in the middle of a serious gang war with an evil corporation known as the Syndicate, as a result of the game’s opening bank heist, and are now starting their systematic takeover of the city of Steelport.
The first new story missions I jumped into had me storming an armory to secure weaponry, specifically a mobile tactical missile strike kit (think the predator missile strike in Call of Duty), which you end up using to rain down hellfire on wave after wave of enemies and vehicles that arrive on the scene to stop you, and parachuting onto a penthouse helipad and engaging in a poolside rooftop shootout. Like any open-world game, these missions are clearly designed to introduce you to the various mechanics you’ll be using over the course of the game.
For example, the penthouse fight taught me that: a) elevators are for suckers, and b) purchasing property, particularly safe houses, plays a big part in the game as it allows you to take over territories and expand your gang’s influence as well as give you a place to run too when the fuzz start chasing you with helicopters, tanks, and SWAT vehicles. Running into one of your safehouses (or any owned property) will instantly set your wanted meter back to zero, which is handy thing to know considering it will end up being a regular activity given the mayhem you’ll be causing on a nearly constant basis.
While I definitely enjoyed tearing through the streets of Steelport, calling down missile strikes on random groups of gangs and testing out the various crotch-centric melee attacks, it was in the game’s co-op mode where I experience the most “Holy crap!” moments of my play through. After customizing his character—the options of which are simply staggering—fellow G4er Donell “Havoc” Tucker joined my story campaign thanks to the game’s drop in/drop out option. Before the poor, soon-to-be-running-in-fear citizens of Steelport could blink, the pair of us had managed to not only trigger a mini-horde mode mission in front of our penthouse, but had also managed to attract the attention of several high level police forces.
The combat feels tight and the physics give the chaos a life of its own. Cars explode into massive fireballs, sending car parts in all directions and even setting people, including yourself, on fire should they happen to be standing in the path of flaming debris. With two people running around, each one unleashing the power of their arsenals, the mayhem reaches a whole new level of crazy.
In one story mission, the two of us were tasked with protecting a car by firing rockets from inside a trailing helicopter to deter any enemy vehicles that got too close for comfort (safety wasn’t an issue; we’re like surgeons with those rockets). Because there were two of us, we were able to unload a constant stream of rockets that turned the road around our pal’s car into a wreckage-strewn inferno. But that was just the beginning.
The latter half of the mission had us rappelling off the side of a skyscraper and standing, feet against the glass, horizontal to the ground hundreds of feet below, and sniping enemies attempting to kill our friend positioned in a dockyard hundreds of yards away. One of the last story sequences we played involved a gimp-led rickshaw chase, which you see at the start of the Modern Warfare 3/Battlefield 3 parody trailer. Inexplicably, shooting the rickshaws causes them to explode despite the fact that they are only made of wood. You know, “typical” Saints Row fare.
After playing a couple story missions, we decided to just goof around a bit, something SRTT could not value more. It started out with us catapulting each other out of the cannon strapped to the top of a vehicle known as the Manapult. It has a Professor Genki-licensed, cat-shaped vacuum on the front that can suck up several people at a time and then you can shoot them to their deaths. Then we decided to check out the various customization features, which include not only the ability to personalize your character (including the option to increase/decrease the size of your breasts and/or dong to raise/lower your sex appeal), but also your cars and even the members of your gang, from their outfits to their gender.
There’s also a pretty robust leveling up system in the game that lets you improve everything from your sprinting ability to the strength of your melee attacks to your health. For the sake of maximum gameplay, we didn't dig in too deep to this portion, but there looked to be a ton of options, and since you're constantly being rewarded with experience points (i.e. respect), gaining access to new abilities and upgrades seems as though it will be a fairly constant occurence, which is always appreciated. We'll know for sure when we get a chance to check out the full game next month.
We finished our hands-on time battling our way to level 22 of the game’s Whored Mode, the game’s twisted and utterly ridiculous take on the ever popular game type. There are three maps and five characters to choose from, including a dude in a dog suit, a bondage slave, and a cowgirl. Like standard horde modes, you must face off against ever increasing waves of enemies as you move from level to level. However, in SRTT, each wave introduces a brand new enemy type and starting weapon. The first round pits you against a few dozen dildo bat wielding gimps, and, somehow, it gets more bizarre from there. One minute you’re mowing down a gaggle of energy drink mascots, the next you’re squaring off against a 30-foot-tall woman in a bikini or running from swarms of zombies. There are weapon drops scattered around the map, but you have to be on your toes to grab them, because the hordes are fast and furious (pro tip: catwalks are your friend).
THQ's Danny Bilson told us at the start of the preview event that there "shouldn't be any other game like this one." Given the sights and sounds we experienced during our time with Saints Row: The Third, I don't think Bilson and THQ have anything to worry about. Whether the game's unique flavor of chaos can sustain itself over the course of dozens upon dozens of hours remains to be seen, but as I found out staring up at Oleg's backside, players can at least expect to see plenty of things they will never be able to unsee when SRTT explodes onto the scene November 15.