Thursday, 29 March 2012

My Usual Spiel: Saints Row the Third , Gang-bangin' rocket shootin' good taste abusin' fun

Release Date: November 15, 2011
Also Known As: Saints Row 3, Saint's Row 3 [common misspelling], Saints Row: The 3rd
Also on: X360, PS3
Genre: Action
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Volition 

Unlike most of my gaming compatriots, I am one of those people who enjoy the first couple of levels of a game, you know the ones, you’ve gone through all that intro stuff and have just started out on your own (or not, depending on the game) and the area (and even enemies) usually seems somewhat friendly compared to the rest of the game at least. My absolute favorite kind of game is when you’re an aspirant of some kind, be it soldier, gangster or Jedi as long as it’s something to do with starting off from not much at all (maybe even from the gutter) and slowly rising up to greatness, but to be honest sometimes I’m just happy as a normal pleb of a fighter with only has access to basic weapons and abilities, it’s just so much more simple when you’re starting out, then when you’ve turned into this unstoppable hero who morning consists of saving the United States of America from a foreign power and afternoon consists of saving your home planet from alien invaders . I have this feeling a lot more particularly when I start a game for the second time or more, it’s just the fact that you know what to do and have a plan about how you’re going to play the game differently this time, this is especially true with MMORPG’s where once I know what I’m doing I can work out exactly what to do with the next character I make and of course there’s a hell of a lot of things to learn when you start a new MMORPG and even more so if it’s your first one.

Aw hell it's in flames already? mah country and also planet need me mo then ever!
 One thing I am never fond of thought. are the short “tastes” that they force on you at the start of a game, whether their flashbacks or prequels or important backstory I may begin to sound like a grumpy old gamer but I don’t want to act these things out, I don’t want to be thrust onto the top of a speeding train with no explanation of what I’m doing there and have some random weapon thrust into my hands with no other explanation of what it is or how to use it properly other the screen prompts or to be also thrust (it seems like the perfect word for this situation) into some supercar where I have to race another opponent and very high speeds while being chased by the Po-Leece when I’ve just started then game. Of course many could argue that there’s nothing wrong with that and as an experienced gamer I should know what to do (which I do) and also that I should be grateful that the game gives me such an experience early on. Even so, I am absolutely fine in showing me these things in a cutscene, I like to start off slow and I don’t like to be shoved into some out-of-control scenario where I have to dash around like a madman guns blazing in order to survive to be able to get the “real” starting area.

But strangely enough, in this particular instance I didn’t mind it at all…..

In Saints Row the third you do start with a brief cutscene which shows your gang don their ‘disguises’ which happen to giant mascot heads of one of the gang members and attempt a bank holdup which doesn’t go too good right from the start, then immediately your shooting down throngs of fashionably dressed guards, then SWAT teams before your buddy in a crane helicopter comes to heave out the actual vault itself with you on top of it all the while you’re fighting off SWAT teams and attack choppers one handed with a machine gun. I’m not going to tell you what happens after that as I’d otherwise spoil the brilliant first mission but I will tell you it involves an aeroplane and can assure you it gets crazier, whatever chaffe I had against throwing me in the deep end was obliterated by a number of things mainly the overall feel of the game even when you first start is both wacky and chaotic which suits the graphical style and both the gameplay and also because I was having so much fun. This isn’t a game where you worry about doing it right (all the time) you just aim to have as much fun as possible while getting the job done, you’re not a rookie or a basic soldier pleb you’re the (semi) invincible ass kickin supremo gangsta and what makes things better in my view is that you technically one of the bad guys, the leader of the bad guys in fact so this makes what you do more justified in a sense, but obviously there are guys badder then you which you are required to eliminate, after all you can’t go around killing people who don’t deserve it all the time can you?

Who wouldn't want to be Johnny Gat?
The story (yes there is a story) to Saints Row is relatively easy to get your head around, basically you are the Leader of the 3rd street saints, the bankjob goes wrong and pretty soon you’re in the hands of giant crime syndicate, called The Syndicate… when is split into 3 separate gangs who control certain parts of the City of Steelport. So basically the game revolves around a giant free-roam city main story missions involve you escaping the Syndicate and doing certain key missions and eliminating the three gang leaders along with your gangster buddies and everyone you come in contact with along the way, but really that’s just the driving force behind the chaos oh so, much chaos. Along with the story missions there is a multitude of other activities you can do which include your usual side missions like causing as much damage as possible in the time limit either by yourself or with a tank but it gets crazier when you start purposefully throwing yourself into traffic to claim insurance money and driving a high profile client and escort around the neighborhood while trying to evade TV vans hoping to get a “scoop” and even more bizarre when you have to escort a tiger, yes tiger in your car. 

Sit in a chopper shoot enemies, protect friends, simple enough?
As well as that there are the usual assassination missions, car theft missions and gang ‘operations’ that you have to “interrupt”. There are of course various shop in the game that get wackier each one you find, from the Saints Row gear outlets to the “Let’s Pretend” costume store, there are gun stores and car garages scattered across the city and what makes these better is that you can modify almost any gun or vehicle in the game, this is especially great if you want to turn your favorite vehicle into a Saints coloured cruiser. Over the course of the game you ‘acquire’ various gang hideouts (though you’re doing anything but ‘hiding’ in them) which can store cars and sometimes water vehicles and aircraft.

Gangstas in Spaaaaaaace!
Your main point of focus, is none other than your phone (wow, how true to the era), through your phone you can pretty much do everything inside the game, call your gang homies for backup or vehicle delivery, checking your bank account to transfer more laundered city money, and the usual things like accessing the various side missions and the city map. One thing Saints Row does introduce is the upgrades section in your phone, which allow you to spend money to upgrade just about everything, inc personal upgrades such as more health or sprint time, weapon upgrades such as faster reload or blast damage or gang member upgrades such as better weapons or even have them fly in valkyrie style in an attack chopper. Speaking of the weapons and upgrades your arsenal is about as crazy as it can get you not only have a range of oversize and modified pistols, shotguns and machineguns from almost the very start you have access to sky launching missile system which you can eliminate tanks in one hit and not to mention the homing rocket launcher and airstike marker which are in the “special” weapon category. The melee weapons as you could probably guess include a giant rubber dildo called the “penetrator” and various other objects including a giant electrified shock hammer.

Your phone, it's useful, just like in real life
Gameplay and controls in Saints Row is pretty basic if you’ve ever played Grand Theft Auto, or most other Third person games for that matter, you run you shoot, you drive cars etc, what you do and what controls you have vary greatly depending on what you are doing, especially in the story missions when you can be doing anything from flying a futuristic attack jet to shooting enemies with a lazer hand cannon in a virtual reality tron-like world. There’s this kind of slapstick way your character moves and jumps around especially the “Fred Flintstone” way of entering and stealing cars which is kind of hilarious.  I found with the vehicle handling it’s almost impossible to drive things slowly and carefully though technically I was using the keyboard so I had the whole foot to the floor full lock or nothing thing with the keys going on, which is one of the things that really irks me about playing games where your half driving/walking. The graphics are as you’d expect though slightly more cartoony to preserve the feel of the game rather than having the dark gritty faces of GTA, I did notice that even under lenient settings the graphics did still seem to chug a bit when out in the open city but that didn’t matter much, I suspect that the graphics could have been mildly worse and it still wouldn’t have mattered we’d all be still having so much fun, or maybe there’s a barometer these days, but anyway…
I like this shot cause it epitomizes how you move around in Saints Row the Third, you don't really seem to have much control of your body (or vehicle) you just flail through the air
So at this point you might be thinking: “So yeh, this is basically just like GTA” well you wouldn’t be wrong, it has pretty much all the usual nuances that we’ve come to expect from a game that this similar but the key factor that Saints Row the Third has is craziness, lunacy, chaos, ludicrisoty if that’s even a word, whichever you use Saint Row embraces the silly and does it very well, this is coming from someone who hasn’t played the first two games, but could probably imagine what they were like. Another thing that Saints Row embraces is senseless violence and sleaze, whether it’s stealing shipping crates full of illegal immigrant hookers or smashing pedestrians bodies to pieces with giant pressure powered fists. This of course isn’t new to GTA but it never takes it as un-seriously and in spades as Saints Row, there was so much comical violence and death and so many lurid sights,  images and references that it’s a wonder this game ever got released, but with kids these days (who probably play it as young as 8) you can never know.

They need some lamposts like that down Melbourne CBD
When people ask me what the game is like, I like to say that it’s ”GTA on drugs”, and I think that’s pretty true it embraces the  silly rather than trying to be serious and have the player have to make their own fun. I never had a problem with GTA ‘becoming’ serious with the release of GTA4 I just found my own fun along the way, but in Saints Row you just simply cannot play with a either play straight or with a straight face and I can happily say I did laugh out loud, not to something unexpected and funny I did myself, but to a scripted event in the game. I found it thrilling just waiting to see how my character and his friends were going to get out of their current situation and can be honest to say that unlike some missions from GTA in the past, there wasn’t a moment in the story missions where I felt it was getting boring or repetitive (note: murdering people in the most comical way possible apparently never gets boring).

This was the first ever game where I chose to wear a parachute at all times, not out of style, you just never knew what you were going to fall from next. That said it sure beats the lift
SO, if you happen to like the Grand Theft Auto series but though it needed a bit more craziness, lunacy, chaos, senseless violence, sleaze and debauchery, objectification of women, public servant and political mockery, gang warfare, mass egotism, bad taste and general disregard for human life of any kind, then this is the game for you….  which is basically what? all of us.

everyday i'm parachutin'