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Saints Row: The Third – Itagaki and the octopus gun

Thursday, 22nd September 2011 06:31 GMT By Brenna Hillier

The Saints’ next adventure looks to push the concepts of dress sense and decency to their inevitable limits. Brenna Hillier gets overwhelmed in Tokyo.

Saints Row: The Third

Third in Volition’s ridiculous gang-based action series.

Original released in 2006, and was followed by a sequel in 2008.

Out mid-November for PS3, PC and 360.

Saints Row: The Third’s Wikipedia page.

Tomonobu Itagaki really likes Saints Row: The Third.

Speaking at THQ’s Media Showcase at Tokyo Game Show last week, the ex-Team Ninja lead said he became a huge fan of the game after seeing the E3 trailer.

“I’ve probably watched it ten or more times since then,” he said, adding that he’d developed a liking for Syndicate leader and primary antagonist Phillipe Loren.

That helps explain why the flamboyant Valhalla boss was escorted on stage by a pair of models to the strains of Kanye West’s Power, an entrance strongly reminiscent of Loren’s own.

“I even asked THQ if I could be his voice actor,” Itagaki said, sounding quite genuine.

“But the answer was no. They said if I had so much free time I could finish my own game,” the THQ-published Devil’s Third.

Iatagaki remained on stage to watch a gameplay video in which the protagonist had been carefully customised to look remarkably like him – stern features, flowing black hair, and trademark sunnies and black jacket.

Itagaki’s laughter as he watched his twinned avatar call down an airstrike from a laptop, fire one of Professor Genki’s madder weapons, and kick pedestrians in the balls was obviously genuine – he threw back his head and roared when his on-screen self acrobatically flipped over an innocent bystander’s shoulders, waited for him to turn around, and then punched him in the face.

The echoes of hilarity continued throughout the demonstration, as we got a sneak peek at the Dreckers.Die mission sequence trailered recently. The Saints’ newest member, the incongruously young ex-Intelligence officer Kinzie Kensington, has sent the protagonist into a virtualization of the Syndicate’s network, protected by a gang of young cyberthugs, the Dreckers.

Unfortunately, she hadn’t finished customising an avatar yet, and the player is left hopping around the first area as a toilet. Kinzie assures us she’s doing the best she can.

“I don’t have arms,” is the angry response, but her next effort – a blow up doll – isn’t much better, and when we reach a Lawnmower Man style wire-frame model, it seems best not to argue any more.

Humour, a disdain for political correctness, and crazy bullet-sponge action sums up the demonstration, and a hands-on session thereafter did nothing to dispel this impression.

In between a baffling amount of laser firefighting, the dialogue driving the mission forward is exactly what you’d expect. “It’s easy to laugh when you’re hiding like a pussy!” the level’s final boss is taunted, before the delivery of the now-famous line: “In the real world, you’re just a bitch with a keyboard.”

Mankini

Humour, a disdain for political correctness, and crazy bullet-sponge action sums up the demonstration, and a hands-on session thereafter did nothing to dispel this impression.

Someone had thoughtfully provided me with an enormously fat Saint with a purple mohawk and mankini, and I sent many a longing glance at my left-hand neighbours svelte, severe assassin with the Jackie O bob. In the course of a mission, triggered by purchasing an apartment, I acquired and tricked out a vehicle – burning orange base, flouro green highlights, and spinning-razor rims a lá Grease – and visited a clothing shop where quite by accident – the menu was in Japanese – I stuffed my pyramidal warrior into an orange backless dress. This seemed an improvement to me, but at this point we were attacked, so I guess the game disagreed.

It was impossible to hear what my AI companion was telling me or to understand the moon language mission prompts, so I returned fire. The rival gang, resplendent in suits and red shirts – or in the case of the female members, similarly coloured uniforms which screamed “negotiable affections” – continued to spawn, and I, thanks to unlimited ammo, continued to blow them, the police, and hundreds of idiot pedestrians up.

Eventually, a helicopter turned up, complete with snipers, and as I was mysteriously light on rocket launchers, I had my arse handed to me.

Respawning, I decided to forgo that mission for a moment and try another. Hopping in the shotgun seat with a fellow whose green shield icon screamed “escort mission”, I gleefully threw grenades out the window and sniped at grannies until we drew to a mysterious halt to face another random attack.

Once again I spent several minutes soaking up enough lead to open a pencil factory, even taking down two helicopters, before inevitably succumbing to sheer numbers – helped along by a series of enormous heavy-type enemies who wouldn’t bat an eyelid to anything short of a shock grenade, and even then required half a dozen clips and a button-prompt finishing move to dispel. Two at once? I went down like lentils at a Hare Krishna convention.

The Dreckers.Die mission.

Puzzled, I tried the mission again, twice more. We stopped in a different random place on one occasion, but on every attempt I was knocked out by the sheer numbers of enemies and my own inability to understand what the game wanted me to do.

This was frustrating, so I stopped, and spent the rest of my brief brush with insanity firing octopuses at civilian heads and watching them dance around before exploding, calling down airstrikes on lone policemen, and driving mysteriously weighty vehicles into obstacles while looking for the brake.

Surrounded by seven-foot high banners of the Saints, and having just been exposed to the scripted laughs of the story missions, faffing about in the sandbox actually felt unsatisfying. That trailer is just part of THQ’s ongoing efforts to ensure the Saints personalities and antics get as much attention as yours, and it’s certainly working – given the chance to blow stuff up randomly for half an hour or delve into the tussle with the Syndicate, I’d have given an octopus gun for the latter option.

Saints Row: The Third launches on November 15 in the US and November 18 in the UK for PS3, 360 and PC.

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3 Comments

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  1. TBell


    ——-
    I even asked THQ if I could be his voice actor,” Itagaki said, sounding quite genuine. “But the answer was no. They said if I had so much free time I could finish my own game,” the THQ-published Devil’s Third.
    ——-

    To this I would have responded, if Danny Bilson has so much time that he’s “writing” the story for Devil’s Third, perhaps he should work on the THQ stock price that’s dropped 75% (and still dropping) since he took over as creative director. Apparently his writing team was responsible for Red Faction Armageddon, and we saw how that turned out. Seriously, if the VP is writing the story, and it’s crap, who is going to speak truth to power. Especially when Bilson has cut and burnt so many studios already.

    #1 3 years ago
  2. CoreGamer

    TBell, with all due respect, I don’t think you fully realize the breed of talent that Bilson brings to the table for his $750k annual compensation. For instance, read this article:
    http://au.gamespot.com/news/6307414.html

    Here’s a couple of quotes, in case you’re busy:

    “The reason Bilson said he’s EVP of core games at THQ now is because he played games, apparently a rare quality among gaming executives. ‘In the game industry, it makes me a genius,’ Bilson said. ”

    See?!! He’s a self-proclaimed GENIUS! And not just your average genius either–he’s genius because he plays games as a VP of a games publisher.

    Also, I like this quote in which he claims that he did the dirty job of laying off employees as an act of humility; “He did some more TV and film work and wrote a few comics, but it wasn’t enough to pay the bills and he dove back into games with THQ. Within six weeks, he received a call saying the publisher was cutting half its production budget, and a lot of the studios he’d been befriending, he now had to close. “It’s really awful,” Bilson said, but explained he needed the job and “wasn’t arrogant enough” to quit again.”

    #2 3 years ago
  3. TBell

    Good counter points, CoreGamer:) He’s the Uwe Boll of video games.

    No, I don’t actually believe Danny Bilson is that bad. I fear that he is only mediocre, but he imagines himself the auteur (despite increasing evidence to the contrary). It is said that ambitious people will rise to the level of their incompetence–perhaps he has found his level. He does appear to be searching outside the company for the talent necessary to reach his goals, instead of relying upon his own abilities. I hope that bodes well for THQ, though it probably won’t be a smooth ride for THQ’s internal studios.

    #3 3 years ago