Saints Row: The Third ‘Initiation Station’ brings pre-release social character creation

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Later this year, THQ will continue the story of the Third Street Saints gang in Saints Row: The Third. One of the cool things about the open-world action series, other than the obvious and very intentional riffing on Rockstar GamesGrand Theft Auto franchise, is the robust set of character creation tools. You create your very own gang leader by tweaking a wide range of options and that creation then integrates into the game’s cutscenes. The new game won’t be out until the 2011 holiday season, but THQ has announced plans to give players early access to the game’s character creation features with something called Initiation Station.

Like some twisted version of the Spore Creature Creator, Initiation Station will offer players the opportunity to “create, share and download the most outlandish videogame characters ever seen, and then upload them as playable characters in the upcoming Saints Row: The Third,” a press release reveals. There’s been no word from THQ yet on whether your created character from the last game is ported into The Third, as was the case in the move from the first to second games, but the press release seems to be encouraging more unusual creations, such as “your favorite train wreck celebrity-turned reality TV star,” “your least favorite overpaid prima donna professional athlete,” or “Steelport’s newest superhero (or villain).” Whether that’s just good-times PR language or these created characters will have some other role in the final game is unclear.

What is clear is that created characters can be saved and shared among friends, with the idea being to promote the game’s improved online co-op component. The Initiation Station will be released as a free download for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC at some point before the full game’s fall release. As an added incentive, THQ is offering early access to Initiation Station as a pre-order bonus to those who reserve their copy of Red Faction: Armageddon — out June 7 — with U.K. retailer GAME. There’s no mention of a similar pre-order offering with any U.S. retailers in the press release.

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