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Saints Row: The Third Hands-On In-Depth GamesCom 2011 Preview

Our hands-on of Saints Row: The Third at GamesCom continued to impress us with a stream of madness, vulgarity and octopus launchers. It was hard to imagine how the game could get any more deranged or hilarious, but Volition has managed to create a sandbox action game that constantly puts an insane smile on your face.

The opening segment of the hands-on began with the game’s opening mission that we saw at E3, in which a routine bank robbery by The Saints goes wrong. While it might not have been new, it gave us an opportunity to test out the controls and the third-person shooting mechanics. Thankfully these held up really well and the gunplay seemed to have been slightly tweaked since the last game, making it a little easier to target and take down enemies.

Saints Row The Third

In particular, the epic sequence in which your character surfs on a bank vault carried by a helicopter was ridiculously entertaining and was very satisfying to play. Throughout the mission there was a lot of clever humour. Police officers ordered you to put down your weapons (after autographing them first) and to give up because their children wanted to meet the famous crew. While it’s a small touch, it’s this type of humour that constantly popped up during the playthrough and really makes Saints Row: The Third a lot of fun.

Once this mission was over we were then free to roam the new city of Steelport, trying out new missions, vehicles and the customisation options available. Our first destination was a cosmetic surgeon to set up our character. Naturally being professional and refined journalists, we decided it would only be fair to push the creator and see what we could do. So, we picked a female character and made her boobs as huge as possible using the “sex appeal” slider. In our defence, the developers recommended it and it would have been rude to spurn their advice.

Saints Row The Third

The character customisation options are more developed this time around with even more options available to you. Whether it’s giving your character green, Incredible Hulk style skin, a metallic alien-like sheen or just improving their “sex appeal”. There’s a lot of choice and it shouldn’t be difficult to mould your character in whatever interesting combinations that you desire. Particularly entertaining was the ability to give your character the voice of a zombie, which was hugely satisfying as they ran around Steelport attacking pedestrians.

Once our character was, ahem, “built” to our specifications, we stopped off at the “Out of this World” clothing store to get some tasteful threads. Saints Row: The Third offers plenty of choice here and the range on offer is larger and, somehow, madder than in the last game. At first we tried out a sophisticated slutty cowgirl for the discerning gentlemen, but it wasn’t quite crazy enough. Instead we settled on a nice sexy furry outfit to cause havoc in and seeing a giant bunny running around cock-punching passers-by didn’t get old.

Saints Row The Third

Now we were appropriately attired, we set out to test some of the new activities available. The first was a mayhem style mode where you are given a set period of time to cause as much damage, death and destruction as possible. It’s a familiar style, but one that was spiced up with Professor Genki’s Mollusc Launcher, a device that fires an octopus onto people’s heads. These unfortunate individuals are then mind-controlled, will help the player and can be detonated at the tap of a button creating a nasty explosion. This weapon is a pre-order only bonus and was a great tool to have at your disposal.

This destructive activity was quite entertaining and keeping up a good multiplier was essential for meeting the cash target required to pass the mode. It was one of the few parts of Saints Row: The Third that felt a little clichéd and it’s something that has been seen in sandbox games since some of the earliest Grand Theft Auto titles. However, thankfully the two other activities that we got to play were much more satisfying.

Saints Row The Third

The “Insurance Fraud” activity returns and is just as bone-crunching as ever. For the uninitiated you are tasked with throwing yourself in front of traffic and getting as injured as possible. You can also fill an adrenaline bar which gives you more control over your airtime and damage, allowing you to steer your mangled body into more oncoming vehicles. Diving into an oncoming juggernaut and then flying into a stream of speeding cars is oddly cathartic and certainly helped to distress during a busy game convention. Completing each activity earns you money and territorial control, both of which are beneficial to you.

While Insurance Fraud was still satisfying, the other new mode was even more bizarre and twisted. Professor Genki’s Super Sparkle Lab is one of the weirdest, stupidest and fun mini-games we have seen for some time. It acts as a sort of fun house and “The Running Man” mash-up where you enter into a crazy, poorly lit warehouse and have to kill enemies for cash. This may sound fairly familiar from some other games, a kill-for-cash mechanic, but it’s the way that Saints Row: The Third handle it that really sets it apart.

Saints Row The Third

The warehouse is full of booby-traps including electrified walls, that adds a significant degree of challenge to the slaughter. Your enemies are also dressed oddly, with some appearing as giant hotdogs, football mascots and a whole host of other unusual costumes. There’s also flashing disco lights, pop-up targets that you can shoot for extra points and after you get so many kills, a present. The present invariably contains a more powerful weapon such as a shotgun or a submachine gun that helps make it easier to kill your way to the end. Professor Genki’s Super Sparkle Lab is also timed and scored, making it a test of your shooting skills.

Aside from these activities, Saints Row: The Third offered a lot of enjoyment in just cruising around and causing havoc. Nut-shotting civilians (with a dedicated groin punch button), jumping into cars through the window and kicking drivers out of the passenger doors and chasing down gang members in a tank. It was clear that this sequel is building on the lunacy of the second game and it feels all the better for it. Expect to be altering your character’s “sex appeal” when the game is released this November.

evilgiraffeman | 27th August, 2011

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