By: Giovanni Acosta
The best thing about E3 so far has been the endless walking, the hammering commotion and the non-stop give away of crappy t-shirts that your grandma wouldn't even wear. Ok. So I am being a little cynical. In all honesty, I don't know what the best thing of E3 has been so far because being here only a day showed me so little of what the floor has to offer. Fortunately, after a few moments of mystified staring into the large, engaging oblivion of flickering screens, I found myself approaching booths with the determination to bring you the best of the upcoming titles to come from the developers who managed to grab my attention from the moment of madness known as E3.
This specific article is about the highlight of my first day at E3. There happened to be a moment of Zen, while I was walking from booth to booth, when all the deafening sounds of the convention silenced, all the glimmer of the shinning and shimmering LCD screens darkened, and in front of me, the line to a demo room seemed to disintegrate into an opportunity of easy entry. Before I knew it, I was sitting on the audience demo benches of developer Volition, whose new title, to be published by THQ, woke me up from my E3 overload, had me salivating at the mouth and thrilled me into believing that the Next-Gen of consoles are not only close, but are going to be great for gamers. Imagine taking part Def Jam Fight for New York and part GTA: Vice City, mixing it all up, with a ton of the latest technology that the new Xbox 360 has to offer and you'd get one pimped out game This is what the developers at Volition have in store for us.
Let's start with the basics about Saint's Row which is set to debut with the 360 launch and is an open-ended, interactive and highly engaging third-person action title. The gameplay is promised by the developers to be at least forty hours long and with so much to do within the game, it will be hard to just get the story done with so many distractions. Inside the presentation booth, I was amazed by the imagery on the plasma screen in front of me. The cars looks sharp and sleek, the girls are curvy and luscious, and the thugs are tricked out and ready for trouble. The colors are vibrant, the lighting effects are down right hypnotic and the draw distances scale virtual miles in front of your viewpoint.
The story of the game places you in the lower ranks of a Saint's Row gang and leaves you to use much of your imagination on how you'll gain enough "respect" to progress up through the ranks. You can do so by playing the various missions spread out through the city, by how you gain your cash capital and by how you sport the bling you buy for your avatar. The demo presenter from Volition showed us how he maneuvered his character through the city streets, hijacking cars with the use of firearms, taking out tricks to claim their "hoes" for business, running into different stores to steal the cash registers and even taking part in a high speed getaway from the paparazzi while having one of his "hunnies" pleasuring a politician in the back seat of a limo. All of your actions seemed to affect the NPCs around you, too, like making the hookers run away in a topless terror or having the police force come at the character with everything they have. On top of that, displays of AI were amply apparent. As you fight some rivals in the back alleys, you could escape, whip out your cell phone and page in your partners for assistance. In minutes, AI support characters would show up in their high speed cars and come to the rescue with guns blazing. Enemy gangs did the usual taking cover, and employing surround tactics, but they seemed to react quickly to the strategy employed by our presenter's counter strategies.
Much of the demo flashed what Volition seemed to take most of its pride in. The games physics. There were spectacular demonstrations of vehicle crashes and explosions. When asked how they handled the vehicle models, the developers stated that most vehicles had up to 30 unique parts that constructed the car, or better yet, deconstructed from the car as you engage in midtown, gang-style warfare. So as the demonstrator's character ran from his enemies, subtle things such as the way he could toss a grenade over his back or shoot a rocket launcher in reverse over his shoulder led to attention-demanding explosions when cars were blown to bits along with their passengers in an amazing, fiery display. Car wheels rolled away from the disaster scenes, while NPC bodies flew through the air with rag doll physics in full effect. All though this game is still in its alpha stage, I did notice some things Volition could work on. Though bodies reacted realistically as they were pumped with led from machine guns and shotguns, they didn't act so realistically when being run over by vehicles. It was kind of as if the bodies stuck to the top of the hoods and then would slide off like some greasy slices of pizza from a plate. Also, there wasn't any strong demonstration of police force in the build shown to the public. The most police officers I saw on screen at once was about the total of five cars, and they were all easily defeated by our presenter's skills at shooting. Never was the SWAT team sent in, or any well-protected opponents seen, but then again, maybe Volition was just leaving something for the mind to mix up and dwell on.
Music in the game was immersive. As he cruised in the convertible from one thug stronghold to another, we listened to Jay-Z. When he jumped into the Benz-like car, we heard Eminem and with the feasibility of the 360 to import tracks from music devices, we will all be able to import tunes for the in game radio stations that suit our own individual tastes. At launch, the developer claims there will be 12 predefined radio stations and a few licensed, original tracks by some big name performers. One feature one developer was mentioning was how the in game character would be able to purchase a virtual MP3 device, and then be able to listen to jams not only in the vehicles but as they walked around "da' hood" on their Chevra-legs. Really neat.
Overall, I left the Volition demo booth with a warm, fuzzy feeling in my stomach and high anticipation on wanting to see more of the game. Everyone wants to be a bad guy at some point in their lives, but not all games allow you as much freedom and the insane graphics to do so. It was also nice to see that the Xbox 360 is definitely up to par to present developers with a solid foundation of processing power to handle all the graphics and computing it takes to make a game with so much immensity as Saint's Row. As the next couple days of E3 roll by, I'll be on the look out for more high-speed, adult themed technical marvels like this for all my virtual gang members on Gamers Hell. If not, I guess Barbie Horse Adventures will just have to do.