I've barely seen anything of the first two Saints games, but I've played the Grand Theft Auto games so I have a few suspicions on how this is going to play out. Lots of shooting, driving around in cars, shooting while driving around in cars, and prostitutes. With guns.
Click the screenshots to see the full size images, which are in an ancient resolution I'm afraid.
The scrolling script explains that over the last two games the Third Street Saints have gone from a small-time street gang to a media empire, and their leaders are now global celebrities. But now that they're at the top, every other criminal organisation wants to bring them down.
Saints Flow, the man turns the tables on his assailants, kicking the purple stars out of them... and it then turns out to be a TV commercial some guy's watching on his phone.
It's smart storytelling really. It's one thing to say that the Saints are celebrities in a scrolling block of exposition, but showing them in a Japanese commercial selling their own product instantly hammers it home. Plus they get bonus points for making it skippable.
It's a shame though really, as I would have liked to go around hadoukening people with blasts of fizz energy.
Yeah, a wikipedia check confirms it. He's playing a character called Johnny Gat, and the real story begins as he and some other Saints (including myself in the role of the leader) prepare to rob a bank...
Though seeing as I've got infinite ammo and regenerating health, and they each go down in a single headshot, I'm thinking they would have been smarter not to provoke us.
A FEW HUNDRED BULLETS LATER.
I like how this seems like business as usual for everyone involved, even after I've slaughtered like 50 enemies at this point. The cops just want us to stop messing around so they can go through the formality of arresting us, then presumably letting us go again after a reasonable bribe.
This all turned a 100% scripted rail shooter the second I climbed onto the vault by the way, but it's so well done I honestly don't care. Though this crime has gotten so weird that I keep waiting for Batman to turn up.
By the way, there's a cunning reason why my character has been covered head to toe in a baggy outfit this whole intro level.
Look at all these sliders, I can adjust basically everything here except height. I can even change the character's voice and personality, with three male and three female options to choose from. Plus zombie, because hey they're popular right now. And amazingly nothing's locked to one gender, not even beards or voices.
All the voices sound pretty good from the clips, but I think I'll go with the Russian woman this time. No, not with this guy, I'll make a new character to go with it.
It's pretty similar to the free-fall gunfight level in No One Lives Forever, though to be honest this game pulls it off way better. It feels like I'm starting off at the end of a GTA game, with the action already turned up to 11. I'm two missions in and I haven't had to drop anyone off at home once, it's crazy.
Plus its an excuse for me to show off my custom designed character (she's the one in the purple bandana). I never got to name her, he/she's just called 'the leader of the Saints' or 'boss' or whatever.
I've left the linear third person shooter levels behind now and I finally can do whatever I want, go wherever I please. Though I guess I'll steal a car like the message box says, then I suppose I really should go take over the Syndicate's criminal empire in revenge for their revenge attack on me. Let's get this cycle of violence turning.
Still, at least the map works.
Also nice to see that the entire city is open to me from the start; there's no bridges under repair or whatever to keep me trapped on the starting island.
The car seems to control just fine by the way, no issues with the handling. Though I keep crashing into things because I can't resist tilting the camera around to look at the skyscrapers.
Weapons can be upgraded to have a higher rate of fire, store more ammo, fire exploding bullets etc. which is a fantastic feature because it actually helps make money worth something. In some GTA style games you ended up making tons of cash, but don't much care because there's nothing interesting to spend it on. Which is a bit of a problem when money's the player's reward for doing missions.
I saw this Humvee lying around as well, so I figured I'd borrow it to save me from having run around dodging gunfire. Turrets are always handy, especially when these cunning enemies keep trying to flank me.
And they let me keep the thing afterwards!
It's nice to see there's a really solid selection of clothes to choose from here, I can flick through the outfits without a ridiculous pause between each one, and it even lets me pick the colour. And yeah each gender gets the full range of clothes, so you can put your male gang leader in a miniskirt if that's how you feel they'd dress.
So I probably should be looking where I'm driving really, but I just can't help it. They've given me full freedom to move the camera, and I want to see my exciting getaway dammit.
Also check out all these options, even for a truck. I can mod the bodywork, engine power, armour etc of pretty much any vehicle I can fit into my home garage, and I can pretty much fit one of everything in here. Plus once a vehicle's been taken to the garage once, I can abandon it on the street covered in bullet-holes with the tires missing, and it'll still be back in pristine condition next time I check back home. So it encourages me to collect cars, spend cash customising them, AND still do whatever I want with them. Basically, it's fantastic.
So if I suddenly feel like playing as a fat red-haired cockney male played by Robin Atkin Downes of Babylon 5 fame (or No More Heroes/Prince of Persia fame I guess...), that option is available to me.
The only flaw with this I can see is there's no obvious way to save a particular face to go back to it later, except for uploading the character to the game's site.
I thought I'd be a smart arse here and crash in through the roof windows. Turns out those things are made of pretty tough glass though, and I ended my life of crime smeared across them. Fortunately the game let me restart at the last checkpoint instead of making me drive all the way to the mission again.
I'd basically be rewarded just for spending time in the game, driving around, exploring the map, looking for stunts or secret collectibles, or whatever I feel like doing.
Though a lot of them are locked off until I level up, to make sure I don't somehow get enough money together to buy 'immune to bullets' at the start of the game.
Oh by the way, I forgot to mention that I'm playing with the mouse and keys, and it controls just fine. Then I tried plugging in an Xbox 360 pad, and the game automatically switched over to show buttons instead of keys on screen AFTER I USED THE CONTROLLER, not just because it was there. And it switched right back when I moved the mouse. It really pisses me off when console ports don't get this right, so I'm awarding the game 3 billion bonus points for that.
I was sent here to take part in this 'game show' as my next mission, but this seems like another one of the optional side-mission activities, like the Trafficking, Guardian Angel, and Tank Mayhem missions they just made me do in fact. Hey... you don't suppose they're padding out the main game by forcing me to play the first stage from each of the activities do you?
Fortunately I managed to make it out with a tiny sliver of health remaining, and now I'm presumably one step closer to achieving ultimate domination over Steelport. Somehow.
Yeah, I have to admit that I like this one. It's like they made a game out of my nostalgic memories of the PlayStation 2 era GTA games, before I replayed them and realised how dated they'd actually gotten. It looks, sounds, and plays great, there's no real frustrations in the controls or menu system, and the dialogue is often funny and well written, no matter what character you pick (they all have different lines). The plot on the other hand is basically an elaborate excuse to let the player blow things up in a world that revolves entirely around them.
I mean seriously, it doesn't matter what you do in this game, the Saints are always the morally correct heroes, and everyone who opposes them is clearly evil no matter how many innocents are killed in the crossfire, even though the Saints started this gang war in the first place by robbing the Syndicate's bank and killing like 20 of their men. It's got zero interest in pulling up a mirror and making it clear that you're playing as the villain, and there's no serious tale about power corrupting in here. It's an upbeat black comedy about a group of psychopath celebrities set in a playground of destruction, and probably the best game of its kind I've ever played.
Got any thoughts about Saints Row the Third, what I just wrote about it, the Saints Row series in general, or this Super Adventures in Gaming site of mine? Feel free to leave comments!