THQ's Saints Row has been a long time in coming. The original third-person action game with an urban twist was slated to ship last year for the Xbox 360, but despite its promising appearance, THQ and developer Volition opted to hold it. The additional development time has let Volition buff up the single-player game to a polished sheen and work on the game's multiplayer component. We finally got a chance to check out Saints Row's multiplayer at a recent event to see how it's shaped up.
The event let us try out four of the multiplayer game types that will be available--Gangster Brawl, Protect the Pimp, Big Ass Chains, and Blinged Out Ride. Gangster Brawl is a timed, deathmatch-style free-for-all that finds you running around capping fools. You'll be able to collect different weapons that spawn around the arena.
Protect the Pimp is an escort-style game that lets you play in one of two gangs. At the start of each round, one gang member will be randomly adorned with a pimp hat, marking that player as the pimp. The pimp's goal is to reach a set location in the environment. The other members of his gang are charged with making sure this happens and must defend him from the opposing gang, who must take him out before he reaches his goal. The pimp will need the protection, as the character's only means of defense is a mighty one-hit-kill pimp slap, which, while useful, isn't quite enough to take out a bunch of armed combatants.
Big Ass Chains is a free-for-all to collect chains off the bodies of your opponents and then deliver them to a drop-off point that moves throughout the match. Though you can drop off chains one at a time, you'll earn far more points by dumping off multiple chains at one time, as the chains you hold serve as score multipliers. Of course, industrious players that try this approach will have to contend with being singled out: The more chains you hold, the brighter your icon will glow, alerting your foes that you're rolling with the phat loots.
Blinged Out Ride is a gang-on-gang competition to trick out a car. This challenging mode requires the team to earn cash so as to "level up" a car to a set level and then drive it to a specific spot to show it off. You'll have a large chunk of city to do your business, which helps make the game type the craziest of the four. Collecting the cash from your opponents is a big task, and trying to keep your car safe is a big challenge, as well.
The modes all had a fair amount of appeal thanks to the number of people playing. The lobby system for the mode is a cool indoor area where you can practice by plugging away at your fellow players while you wait. You'll also be able to show off your customized character, which you can create using the game's extensive character editor.
The controls took some getting used to, especially the driving model. Reps on hand pointed out that, much like so many other aspects of the game, you'll find a good amount of customizable options for the control scheme in the game. As such, most players will be able to tweak their on-foot and driving controls independently to ensure their scheme suits their play style.
From what we played, the multiplayer in Saints Row has promise, but it also has some rough edges to it in terms of camera, handling, and pacing. The camera can be challenging, especially when driving, and the default control scheme isn't as easy to pick up and play as we'd like. The pacing of matches also seems rough, though that's tied more to the size of the areas, which are respectably big--possibly too big. That said, we plan on spending more time with Saints Row and playing around with its various customization options to see if these issues are sorted out through some customizing. Saints Row is currently slated to ship this fall for the Xbox 360. Look for more on the game in the coming months.