If you're very, very attentive, and carefully ignore stuff like the brain-dead physics engine and those packs of ravening prostitutes, you might discover a bit in Saints Row: The Third that isn't mad as a circus. We weren't able to in the hour we spent with Volition and THQ's latest yesterday. There are plenty of "memorable moments" to choose from, but here are the 15 that stick in our minds most. Watch out for a hands-on preview soon.
1. Hijack a car by torpedoing through the front window
No furtive fiddling with locks and handles here, and no tense pause while you hot-wire the ignition. In the world of Steelport, all car windshields are made of crystallised sugar, and all engines jump-start the second your bum's in the seat.
2. Throw a granny at a police officer
Like many a third-person action game, Saints allows you to take human shields. Like many a third-person action game, Saints allows you to execute your victim once they've exceeded their bullet sponge quota. Unlike many a third-person action game, Saints allows you to grip somebody by the scruff of their neck and hurl them like a bag of bricks and helium. Realistic? No. Fun? What do you think?
3. Watch a thug push a car into a shop
Man drives up in hotrod firing Uzi out the window. Man gets out of hotrod with intent to pound us into a greasy purple smear. AI pathfinding struggles to process fact that car door is in the way. Man ploughs into shop, carrying the vehicle with him. We blow up the vehicle. Everybody dies.
4. Go car surfing
Leap onto a passing civvie's roof and you'll be able to play the car surfing minigame by tapping Y. Keep your pointer in the centre of the balance bar, and hit Y again to perform stunts. The longer you hold on, the bigger the payout.
5. Leap out of a speeding car, kill it with airstrikes
Comparing Saints Row: The Third to Namco's Dark Souls is enlightening. They couldn't be further apart, philosophy-of-entertainment-wise. On the one hand you've got a game that equips you with a broken sword handle and asks you to battle a building-sized demon wielding a building-sized club. On the other, a game that casually slips you the means to lay down missile strikes half-an-hour in. Our tip? Find yourself a sports car, start an escort mission, pick a long highway and do what God intended.
6. Master your melee takedowns
While unarmed, you can trigger gloriously barmy QTE-ish beatdowns by pulling left trigger. Judo throws and high kicks are just the start. Match the prompts to generate extra gang respect.
7. Sprint button is your gateway to awesome sauce
Left bumper doesn't just make you run faster, it also changes all your melee attacks into devastatingly ridiculous finishing strikes. Hop over a tourist's head, then haymaker him in the face. Elbow drop a prozzie and wind up in a Mexican wrestling pose. Surf a fleeing taxi driver. Double kick a tramp into a wall.
8. Talk like a zombie
Why speak your lines like a human being when you can speak like a flayed and pummelled mound of animate corpse? Yep, Saints Row: The Third's roster of character voices includes a zombie option, and it's utterly brilliant. Cut scenes and mid-mission chatter pan out the same way, just with incomprehensible gargling noises in place of the usual gangsta vernacular. Don't worry, you can always leave on the subtitles.