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Hands On - Saints Row The Third, Part Two

So wrong it's still wrong, which is right

Following on from my more general preview of Saints Row: The Third, this time I want to tell you about a few specifics. Some of the game's more "esoteric" early moments. (And there are so very many more later on, that it would be a crime to reveal.) Here's some more of what you can expect when the game comes out next week. This is where it gets weird.

Let's start with Professor Genki's Super Ethical Reality Climax. Because why not?

It's a sort of a shooting gallery. Sort of. Here you must run through a series of enclosed warehouse rooms, shooting at seemingly imprisoned men, dressed in mascot costumes. Perhaps they're a purple dog, or giant hotdog. They must die. Because it's MURDER FUN TIME! But being something of a shooting gallery, there are also large wooden boards you can shoot for bonuses. Perhaps a cash bonus, or extra time for reaching the course's end. Except for the ones with pandas on. The ones with pandas and the word "UNETHICAL" printed across them. Don't shoot those. That's unethical.

It's such a great example of the lunacy at the core of Saints Row. It's foul, funny, and plain confusing. It's also commentated on by a couple of sportscaster-like announcers, pre-scripted and mostly unrelated to what you're doing, but equally bizarre as the circumstances, especially when they start confessing things to each other.

Let's look at the second sequence in the game. You'll likely have seen all about the game's opening moments, in which you perform a bank job in Stilwater. But arriving in Steelport by aeroplane, you take an unconventional route to the ground. Falling. A really, really long way. Remember that scene in No One Lives Forever? When you're shooting the other parachutists as you descend? Run that through the sorts of brains that create Professor Genki's Ethical Reality Climax. Before you fall there's a sequence on the plane, shooting the many baddies as your boss tries to fly the thing. Then you jump. An insane murder spree as you freefall plunge for seemingly ever. Shooting dozens of falling cars. That sort of thing.

So much is spectacle. The developers have expressed an aim to include a "holy shit!" moment in every main plot mission. Rarely do things seem to progress along the conventional lines. For its unavoidable aesthetic similarity with GTA, missions rarely follow the route that Rockstar would inevitably take. Rockstar so rarely remember to include an encounter with a naked genetic mutant. Nor do I remember their implementing a chase scene on the back of horsecarts, pulled along by men in gimp suits. But there's more beneath that outrageous surface. There are details in there, ones that make me like a game that sometimes seems to go out of its way to be unlikable.

For instance, singing along to the radio. That most human of actions becomes one of the best scenes I've encountered with my preview build of the game. My character, with the one of six voices I could choose for her, recognises a track she likes on the car stereo - What I Got by Sublime - and encourages the other character in the car with her to sing along. You're in control of the car, driving to your next mission destination, while the two characters are roaring out the lyrics, messing up, genuinely laughing at each other, and just being extremely real. It's an incredible affecting moment, and it's hard to forget it when thinking about those characters later on. Even when they're murdering the elderly with three-foot purple dildos.

Of course, alongside the main quest (which I think is best saved for analysis within the review we'll be bringing next week) are many side activities. These are all introduced to you as official missions for the first one, and then something you can find scattered around the map. And no, so far as I can tell, so far there is no shit-spraying (even though it's alluded to by one of the characters) - there's always DLC of course. However, here are a couple you'll find, alongside the Prof. Genki game mentioned above.

There's Escort. Guess what that's about. You're thinking it's about a whore, right?! You're wrong! So maybe about accompanying someone on a date? No no no. Don't be silly. It's about driving a furious tiger around in your car, while it tries to maul you.

And how about Trail Blazing? Yes, it's a motorbike. No, it's not a real one. It's a Tron-like ride through blue net tunnels, avoiding giant red, er, blobs, and collecting huge blue tanks. While one of the game's characters berates you via your headset.

Good grief, there's a whole other mode I'm not allowed to mention yet, in which you [redacted] with [redacted] to kill all the [redacted]. Saints Row: The Third is a game that does not feel weighed down by reality. Taking a leaf from Just Cause's mentality, parachutes are of course infinite. As are the waves of enemies you'll bring down on yourself if you start a gang war at any point. There's the potential to ignore the main plot, ignore the side quests, ignore the long-term challenges, ignore leveling up your character and spending money on new skills, gang customisations, new clothes, plastic surgery, upgrading weapons, pimping cars, just ignore all of that stuff. Go into the middle of a street and shoot someone from a rival gang. And then see where things escalate to. Things tend to escalate to specially armed police firing laser-tanks at you while enemy gang helicopters rain bullets from the sky, as the waves of armoured cars start crashing into each other and setting off chains of explosions, all while you're firing the Mollusk Launcher at the head of a policeman, landing a pink octopus-like thing on his head that streams out multi-coloured stars from the top of his head while his brain is taken over and he's forced to shoot at his brethren. Until he explodes.

It's out on November 15th. We'll have a review up on that very day.

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