The other day my significant other purchased Saints Row the Third, and since I had heard a lot about how superlatively awesome it was from multiple sources, I decided to try it. After suffering through a bunch of story-driven bullshit about characters I had yet to care about in the introduction, I discovered one of the most engaging video game experiences I’ve had in recent memory.
But, this is in every sense, a modern triple-A game. It’s been years since I found one of those that I had any interest in whatsoever. So I feel compelled to work out what it is about this particular spectacle-filled video product that has engaged me so completely. I think I miss shooters, to be honest. Popping bad guys in the head is so immensely satisfying that I’m a bit amazed that I’ve gone this long without doing it. But mainly I think it’s the sandbox-ey nature of the game. The open-ended combat with multiple solutions– the way the game says to you; okay you need to do this, you might want to do it this way, but go nuts if you can think of something better.
I’m really impressed at how dynamic the world is, the way you can manipulate it into providing you with an advantage, or fight against it– only to have it aggressively fight back, relentlessly, without end, until you either retreat or die. The fact that you literally cannot beat the world means that your best option in almost all circumstances is to just be part of it. Is this how all open-world games are done? I feel like MMOs could learn something from this stuff. A world is so much more real for the fact that it doesn’t explicitly restrict the player, but makes breaking the “rules” an unattractive option.