Face Off: Saint’s Row 3 Vs GTA V
Round One: Open Ended
GTA IV’s Liberty City was huge, but very grey.
Though we’re able merely to speculate on the goals Rockstar has for its flagship series, the array of moral choices and modular DLC produced for the last outing hints at greater divergence.
Part of the reason GTA and Saints Row can happily coexist, after all, lies in the former’s partial abandonment of clutter in favour of narrative development. This being the case, it seems reasonable that those The Wire fantasies so nearly indulged last time around might finally come to pass.
This could be achieved as one much larger criminal scenario is investigated from a range of gritty viewpoints, ideally as part of a shorter, branching campaign made memorable through replay value. Though we’re not sure where the pimps and hoes might fit in with all the depression.
Saint’s Row: The Third
Big city, but full of utter tomfoolery. Some like it, some don’t.
The Saints Row series has long occupied a segment of GTA’s surrendered territory. That is large, open-world environments, packed to the rafters with madcap activities, huge swathes of them non-narrative-related.
News that The Third will feature a main storyline that takes account of relationships between its three main gangs suggests both a slightly more sober experience and one that could branch relatively wildly.
Promises, too, of mission structures that allow for more than a single solution also excite, as does Volition’s slight tweaking of how respect points operate – purchasing stat upgrades, rather than disbarring players from sections of its story. Progression itself shouldn’t be earned, man.
Round One Winner – GTA V
Round Two: Single White Male
What was his catchphrase again? Something about golf tees?
Rockstar’s love of the ‘empty male vessel’ character type must surely, by this point, be starting to grate with even the most ardent series fawns.
Ever since Tommy Vercetti strikingly tailored himself into the pages of videogame history, open-world environments have been filled with delightful young men who would be the perfect afternoon’s company – were it not, of course, for the trail of corpses left in their wake that they claim never to have wished for.
Surely, then, we’re to see a protagonist more suited to their environment – a concern that multiple narrative viewpoints could also resolve, while allowing space for the traditional gurning, scarred man.
Saint’s Row: The Third
Your he can lead a violent furry gang. Some will find this sexy.
Volition’s hero has also proven quite the empty vessel, though given the narrative’s highly caricaturised nature – and the fact that he or she stands about a 50 per cent chance of being naked – this hardly seems to matter.
Still, the rise and fall of our protagonist from the head of a successful criminal enterprise at least offers them a reason to take up arms in response. Though doubtless they’ll be led by the hand through its initial steps by some criminal mastermind who should surely simply rise to power himself rather than play the benevolent tutor. Also, we tire of having to be either Nolan North or Ray Winstone.
Round Two Winner – Saint’s Row: The Third
Round Three: Flavour’s Gone
Hopefully GTA V will deliver a her less morally ambigious.
Though capable of being assessed from both positive and negative perspectives, it’s an indisputable fact that Rockstar’s open-world design has become less and less busy as the years have gone by.
Volition’s assortment of talking heads have gone on record, as part of their own promotional circus, to suggest that GTA IV’s appeal ended about ten seconds after the credits rolled, despite the brilliance of the preceding hours.
It seems reasonable to suggest, then, that the series’ fifth instalment might pick up where its predecessors and L.A. Noire left off, indulging Dan Houser’s taste for scriptwriting, and splitting its audience between those desiring mature interactive storytelling and those who hanker for the mayhem of old.
Saint’s Row: The Third
That’s it. Gaming’s over. Pack it up!
Variety is arguably Saints Row’s raison d’être, hence the above muck- spreading reference. As GTA has expanded into further and further exposition, Volition has focused upon exaggerated violence, basically becoming what every tabloid journalist thinks of when Rockstar’s epic is mentioned.
The Third’s streamlined mission structure should ensure that players can at least enjoy such sideshows exactly as they were intended – optionally. Again, though, the team’s roster of activities leans towards a brand of humour that will leave a bitter taste in the mouths of many and – more crucially – simply focuses on basic skills that players must possess to progress.
Combat arenas and considerate driving currently headline, to which we hope plenty are added, ensuring that plenty to do turns into plenty that we’d like to do.
Round Three Winner – GTA V
Round Four: Unreal Estate
Liberty City was full of sights. Like drug dealers. What will GTA V deliver?
Current speculation points to a Californian, modern-day setting, based upon the usual tea leaves interpretation of registered internet domain names, job listings and taking away the number you first thought of.
Though this setting hardly seems pregnant with fresh gameplay opportunities, this again perhaps points to the relegation of mission diversity in favour of plot development. Surely the publisher wouldn’t be tempted to simply expand its real estate à la San Andreas, and in so doing repeat history verbatim?
Another relatively compact urban environment surely awaits, then, perhaps with the added curve-ball of a shift in scenery part-way through. Of course, the Los Angeles skyline also lacks in verticality what it makes up for in criminal degeneration.
Saint’s Row: The Third
Time and cost constraints alone surely must have convinced Volition to remain within Stilwater’s bland, verticality-robbed surroundings for Saints Row 2, but, thankfully, such days are gone.
Though Steelport betrays a slight lack of imagination in name, design-wise the opposite is true. Featuring purchasable properties and an ergonomic pyramid-like design, it should prove a thoroughly pleasant place to spend some time (if in a slightly perverse fashion).
Freed from the shackles, too, of attempting to both recreate and not recreate real-life locations, Volition will surely avoid its own longevity criticisms, giving flight-obsessed players something to avoid. And a pile of tiresome insurance fraud missions too, we expect.
Round Four Winner – GTA V
Round Five: Crime Syndicate
Look, I’m glad you started playing GTA IV online, but face it. You’re noob-sauce.
It’ll be damned entertaining – at least, it should be. The trouble was, GTA IV’s online multiplayer had a definite ‘first attempt’ feel to it, allowing players far more freedom than was perhaps advisable.
After all, if Joe Gamer could design compelling interactive experiences, every other LittleBigPlanet level wouldn’t be either a song or an attempt to crash the hardware.
More focused competitive play, placing control of traffic levels and Johnny Law back in development hands, must surely feature – though a dedicated cooperative campaign would prove a far more palatable and, crucially, orchestrated experience.
Saint’s Row: The Third
Please let us do this to people online. The games industry depends on it.
The Saints Row series delves further into its multiplayer development than Rockstar’s offering, providing players with the chance this time around to complete its entire campaign as part of a resourceful pair.
What’s more, certain mission types will become tweaked due to the fact that two human players have entered them, which should make the performance of tiger-taming motorsport a little simpler.
Deathmatch play does bite the dust, however, which, considering the number of times we’ve exited flying vehicles to see squad-mates fall to their deaths, is probably a good thing. Only bespoke narrative-driven multiplayer action could see GTA keep pace. Round Five Winner – Saint’s Row: The Third
Final Score: GTA V – 3, Saint’s Row The Third – 2
Rockstar pips this open (world) contest. Perhaps it’s the characterisation. Perhaps it’s the slightly more subtle humour. Perhaps it’s just that single of anticipation we feel just before a gaming location that we’ll dedicate days of our lives to is revealed.
Whatever the cause, Rockstar’s outing looks set to best its potential usurper – and you’ll be able to drive without the car disappearing. We just hope any narrative angle chosen by Rockstar extends the definition of ‘gritty’ beyond turning up at several abandoned warehouses before gunning everybody down in cold blood.
In short: make us care enough about which brother we’re about to kill that we don’t simply pull out our rocket launchers and leave the next few hours to chance. Please.