Shooting a helicopter out of the sky as you try to airlift a safe from a bank is just one of the early scenes people will experience when they get their hands on Saints Row: The Third this coming November. The series has become the antithesis of other free roaming sandbox games, with developer Volition relishing in the idea that the player really just wants to 'play' in the world that it has created.
The game has players taking on the role of the leader of the 'Third Street Saints'. This enables the player to do pretty much what they please within the fictional city of Steelport. There's everything from robbing a bank to flying a VTOL fighter jet that can pretty much blow anything up through to taking part in a gladiator-style TV show.
I was afforded some time with the game both at Gamescom and more recently at Eurogamer Expo. This preview is based on both play sessions, which amounts to around one and a half hours. From this snippet I've gleaned that Saints Row: The Third
does not take itself in any way seriously. In fact, it's almost as if the developers are demanding that the player just lets themselves go and try not to balk at running around in a chicken suit while blowing up half a city.
This was self-evident during my first play through, where I was allowed to spend some time creating my character. A huge variety of options is available right from the start. That includes turning your character's skin into a metallic green, which is exactly what I did - because I could. I also made him wear a pink skirt/kilt combo with a turtleneck jumper. Oh, and some open-toed sandals. What better attire could one choose when you're about embark on a rather violent rampage across a fictional city?
As the game kicked off I hijacked a car, smashing head-first into the wind-screen. Yes that's right, none of this poncey opening the door and dragging the driver out nonsense, oh no. This is Saints Row: The Third
! This is where a single button press will allow you to take pretty much everything to extremes. It also makes you laugh quite hard when you press said button.
I decided to do the first mission that involved a bank heist. You and your crew are wearing giant Elvis head masks (actually Saints Row stalwart 'Johnny Gat' although newcomers to the series can be forgiven for not being able to tell the difference), and the robbery initially goes like clockwork as your fellow robbers set about preparing to get into the safe, only to find out that... well, let's just say things don't go according to plan. Steelport's finest swarm the bank in a blink of an eye and I was forced to take extreme measures to get the safe. This involved calling in a chopper and attempting to airlift it from the bank. The whole scene was utterly bonkers and just made for a really fun and entertaining set piece to show off the game. I found the shooting mechanics to be more than adequate for the job, something certain other sand box games don't get quite right, despite it being a key gameplay component.
Speaking of weapons, some of the guns on offer are not the most, shall we say, traditional. Many people know about the giant dildo you can hit people with, but what about the All Purpose Mollusc Launcher? This thing fires off little squids (or octopi, the debate rages. Either way it's a cephalopod) that can stick to enemies heads and for a brief period render them quite mad. They will stagger around firing their weapon in all directions, including at those on their side.
After I cackled my way through a busy street firing off a bunch of squid at people, I decided to head off to one of the side missions. These are pre-set events that, if completed, can earn you a variety of bonuses including money, cars, weapons and respect from other rival gangs. I chose to take on a gladiatorial TV show that had me fighting my way through a maze filled with people who certainly didn't want to share a cream tea with me. Not unless cream tea includes putting a bullet in my head now, that is.
I had tremendous fun roaming around the streets of Steelport, doing everything I could to cause as much mayhem as the game would allow me to, and that was a lot
. Yes, the game is about as deep and thought-provoking as your average episode of [insert title of soap opera/daytime tv show/talent show/reality tv show here], but it revels in that. Volition has not shied away from the fact that Saints Row: The Third
is a ridiculous game and they want people to enjoy the fun, and I certainly did during my time with it.
Saints Row: The Third appears on 18th November 2011 on the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.