Saints Row: The Third Hands On
Developer: Volition / Publisher: THQ / Platforms: Xbox 260, PS3, PC / ESRB: Mature / Release Date: 11/15/2011
From the radial menu I selected the–well, there’s no way to be polite about this–long pink, floppy rubber dildo from my selection of inventive death dealing, and swatted the mustachioed police officer to death with the surprisingly robust bell end.
Words I cannot believe I typed.
But I laughed.
Maybe I felt a little guilty. But my monstrous, green-skinned, she-hulk, her red trailer trash rollers contrasting starkly against her snot-tinged hair, weren’t taking no shit from law enforcement refugees from the Blue Oyster Bar. Her red plaid front-tied shirt admittedly looked better when it caressed the curves of Daisy Duke (or Jessica Simpson’s glorious reprisal of said role) than it did straining at the seams of the tattooed torso of vibrant woman-hood I’d managed to create in the wild, wacky character customization tool the team at Volition has crafted.
Oh, and the shiny grey spandex-clad ass looked oh-so-succulent as it jiggled down the middle of the road before sprinting towards an innocent bystander and leaping into a WWE-style takedown… just for fun.
If I said that this experience was, in a nutshell, Saints Row: The Third, plenty of viewers would no doubt say “sign me up,” “here’s my pre-order money [for bonus items, guns, cars],” and “roll-on mid-November.” I wouldn’t blame you. When it comes to open-world demonstrations in a short timeframe, Saints Row 3 clearly has enough going on to deliver for the 15 minute crowd as much as it does the long-term committed types who hope to own… wait, that should OWN…the city of Steelport. Of course, a land grab doesn’t sound particularly gamey or exciting, but it actually sits at the heart of Saints Row 3.
The game follows the Saints gang of the previous games in the series, but ups the ante in most regards. One issue with the last game was that you had to spend your Respect points on the next story mission, which meant that if you’d exhausted those points, you’d have to run around on random errand missions that you didn’t necessarily want to do in order to get back on the story track. “That’s gone now,” says Volition writer Drew Holmes, “we’re not going to make you do anything you don’t want to do.” Good plan.
The upshot is that this new city is free for your exploration and story progress can be done at your own pace. Buying larger weapons requires earning cash, so side missions are important, but at least your story progress doesn’t appear to be hampered by the lack of money.
Play it how you want is a mantra celebrated in many open world game previews, but to be fair, Saints Row 3 takes it to new levels. The streets are open to your crazy shenanigans. Police, helicopters, and tanks might descend when you go super-nuts on the citizenry or law enforcement. Luckily, the penalty for dying appears to be pretty minimal. The emphasis is on the going nuts part, and when the third mission of the game introduces you to the Predator strike, you won’t have to wait long before you’re able to deal destruction on a suitably epic scale.
While that’s the fun action element, the business management side of this experience should still return entertainment value. If you’re not currently managing a crack house or strip club, maybe this is your chance. Proving it’s not all focused on the more questionable echelons of society, you can also own hospitals and engage in more egregious screwing of the populace (if it’s getting a little political, that’s probably the point).
The customization aspects of the game–the ability to change your fundamental appearance at a plastic surgeon, or dress yourself in threads from high- or low-end tailors, or tweak your car decor to something unseemly–all fit with the notion of letting you rampage through Steelport City however you choose. Our brief encounter was full of crazy moments. It’s not hard to appreciate a game when within moments you’re able to call down an airstrike to obliterate whatever you targeted, be it foe, friendly, or innocent bystander.
Whatever the situation, I consistently laughed. Yes, I’m a little embarrassed by that revelation, but damn, in a challenge of games that are fun for fun’s sake, you can put this franchise up against some of the best in the business. And on this quick playthrough, the latest iteration should be as mad and bad as any. C’mon, smacking cops around with waggly dildo-like clubs. Who’s not going to get a laugh out of that?