Saints Row: The Third – Final Hands On Preview

Every time I play Saints Row: The Third it just gets better and better.

The game sets the tone straight away with a parody of the Star Wars crawling text to update us on the story. Immediately after this you see a hilarious advert for the “Saint’s Flow” energy drink. This basically consists of a guy drinking it, à-la Popeye, and then pulling off a ton of martial arts attacks and a hadouken to defend himself against several attackers. By the time he’s finished the advert (by dunking a basketball into a net), I’m already in tears and I haven’t even gained control of my character yet!

The first gameplay starts with the now familiar mission as you rob the bank wearing giant Johnny Gat heads over your own. Security and SWAT team members pour into the building from every direction as you shoot your way through the floors to the safe. The climax of the mission sees you attach the bank vault to a friendly helicopter and fly it through the roof whilst clinging to it for dear life shooting at police. Just when everything seems to be going extremely well, an exploding enemy helicopter takes you out and sees you captured by the law.

The following missions after this include skydiving whilst shooting enemy gang members, robbing the STAG military base with a reaper drone (think Call of Duty predator missile) and flying through the streets of Steelport accompanied by several other helis wielding an RPG. The guys at Volition really kept to their word when they said we wouldn’t be doing menial tasks like delivering pizzas in SR3. Fans of Pearce’s singing in SR2 also won’t be disappointed as he sings again – with you!

A few missions in and it becomes possible to free roam around Steelport. At this point in the game I felt like a kid in a candy store as I just didn’t know where to start. Overwhelmed by my sudden freedom, I had to release some excitement by promptly killing several civilians with my bare hands. The melee attacks in the game look great, and some will see button prompts appear on the screen for you to press. Not hitting these buttons won’t stop the attack, but you’ll benefit by dealing more damage if you do.

I eventually decided to make use of the “awesome button” and dropkick my way through the windshield of a nice car to see what the streets had to offer. When driving around I discovered several Gang operations around the city. These are basically groups of enemy gang members that will attack you if you go near. By killing the highlighted members in the group you will complete that operation, but more will join the fight before long so it’s not as easy as you’d think. A personal favourite gang of mine were the blue ninjas – complete with a leader who can move so fast she teleports in a blue flash!

A cool thing about driving around and setting a waypoint is that arrows will show up on roadsides and corners, just like those seen in racing games like Burnout Revenge for example. This means that you can keep your eyes on the road instead of glancing at the map in the corner and potentially crashing.

After driving around and causing more trouble I felt the need to customise my character a little bit – first stop, plastic surgeon, Image as designed! Customising your character has all of the expected options including hair style and chin size, but there’s also a lot of hilarious options such as a sex appeal slider which will see your character grow in the appropriate area depending on their gender. Expect to laugh a lot when picking taunts for your character as well; you can even pick the Apache – a.k.a Fresh prince of bel air jump on it – dance!

After perfecting my character and visiting a clothes shop to make sure I looked awesome, I had to make a suitable vehicle for the look. When I did, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that customised cars go directly to your garage now so there’s no risk of you losing your money by driving recklessly on the way home.

A little while later I went back to the story missions in the game. The first one featured a huge brute that you’ll need to stay away from if you want to live. He’ll charge at you repeatedly and can inflict massive damage if he lays his hands on you. Guns are your friend. Even driving a car into him won’t save you as he will stop you like a brick wall before flipping the car over with you inside.

The mission that really stood out to me when playing though was one that consisted of literally dropping in on a Syndicate penthouse party and killing everyone inside. It was basically the E3 trailer in reverse – complete with Power by Kanye West in the background.

A later mission also sees you attacking a large, Syndicate owned building, but this is the big one. The end of the mission sees you left with an interesting choice as you can choose to either keep the building for yourself and earn an extra 10% in cash every time for the rest of the game, or blow it up and earn an extra 10% in rep.

I could talk forever about how much fun I had on Saints Row: The Third, and about how much I laughed on the day. The game really is looking better and better each time I see it and I can’t wait for more.

Thankfully there’s less than two weeks left to wait now as Saints Row: The Third is released onto the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC starting from the 15th of November.

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