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Published on June 20th, 2011 | by Cameron Woolsey

E3 2011: Saints Row: The Third Preview

Developer: Volition
Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release: November 15, 2011

As I waited for the demo of Saints Row: The Third to start, I couldn’t help feeling strong anticipation. I was never the biggest fan of the original game, but Saints Row 2 to this very day I hold in higher regard than any Grand Theft Auto game ever made, and that includes my favorite, San Andreas. The pure freedom to jump in at any point and do anything simply could not be matched. Plus it was completely jump-in/jump-out online co-op. A friend and I put in around a combined 200 hours tearing up the streets of Stilwater until every gang was decimated and every building caked with excrement.

So as you may imagine I have high hopes for the sequel of one of my favorite open world games of all time. But I have been a little concerned over the direction Volition was taking with the game. A lot of the attention was being focused on the storyline, which seemed to be leaning toward a more serious edge. When the demo finished however, not only were my fears erased, I walked away feeling that Saints Row: The Third could end up redefining what it means to engage in a world that is completely “open.”

Once we got introduced to the character THQ created for the demo, we watched as he introduced the faces of random NPCs to the pavement. Bored running down the street? Saint’s Row: The Third now let’s players learn specific moves in which to punish random pedestrians with various wrestling moves. The attacks were smooth too. Once the unsuspecting victim was taken down, the player quickly jumped up and continued down the street as casually as one would check a watch. Did I mention this game is hilariously violent? Oh, well it is. If that bothers you then you should back out, because now it’s hammer time. Next the player whipped out a pistol and instead of using it as one typically would, he thrust it hard into some poor guy’s crotch walked on as our friend agonized on the sidewalk. Guess he shouldn’t have stepped in front of us. Another NPC who got to close met the business end of a shotgun, which was swung into his junk like a golf club.

Nutshots just not doing it for you? Want something even better than that? The Saints have you covered. Next the demonstrators pulled out a gigantic purple dildo on a pole (where was he hiding that?) and happily used it with the impressive skills of a Jedi warrior, smacking every nearby person across the face with the flopping sex toy. The juvenile scene was awkward and brought giggle and plenty of laughs from the audience, which-though they may deny it-I’m sure will now try and acquire the dildo stick before doing anything else. It’s on my to-do list.

The Saints are back and ready to take over this town.

The sidewalk thoroughly violated, we jumped into a nearby sports car and hit the road. Driving in Saints Row: The Third is a little different than previous iterations. The camera pulls in close behind the car, giving the player a broader range of view while driving. Those who hated cars loading too near shouldn’t have too much to complain about in SRTT, as vehicles loaded far down the street, so no more phantom vehicles busting up your ride.

Weapons in Saints Row 2 ranged from the typical to the obscure, such as a pimp cane which hid a shotgun powerful enough to take down choppers. And it looks like Saints Row: The Third will one-up even that with a more out-of-control arsenal. Rounding a corner our ball-smashing friend leapt out to find a large group of bangers belonging to one of the newest gangs the Saints must face, The Luchadores. Now, normally when facing a group of around 20 or so armed gangsters packing AKs, you wouldn’t go in with anything less than an army or maybe a tank. Luckily, SRTT features enough weaponry to satisfy any the most jaded NRA member, such as the ability to call down a missile strike on some unsuspecting gangsters in Mexican wrestling masks. Pulling out a little device, the player locked a laser pointer on the group of soon-to-be-dead badguys, and waited a few seconds. Suddenly a barrage of missiles filled the parking lot, turning a once-threatening group of enemies into burnt beef jerky and melted asphalt. I want one.

Like the first two games, SRTT embraces full customization of your character from facial features, color, identifying marks such as scars, tattoos and clothing. Jumping into a clothing shop the player bought and colored a cartoony space suit and ran to the adjacent parking lot to find one of the game’s special vehicles, the VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Land) craft. Now we’re getting somewhere. The VTOL looks like a space age jet which can hover and become a floating platform of death, equipped with a machine gun and heat-seeking missiles, or go to jet mode for some quick transport around the city. Either way, after we witnessed the massacre that the VTOL was able to dish out against groups of innocent bystanders and vehicles, all I know is that I can’t wait to get my very own.

We were also introduced to a couple custom vehicles. Once could suck up a person through the front of the car and fire him or her from an attached cannon. The other was a truck with Johnny Gat’s head on the front, clenching a cigarette that was actually a flame thrower.

Sure, why not?

In the Saints Row series, much like with GTA, jerking around in the streets and killing untold numbers of enemies and hapless victims is only one part of the game. The second part is the storyline which takes place as a series of connected missions. And I was able to see one of those missions for myself. This one happened to be a bank heist involving two of the Saints regulars, Johnny Gat and Shandi, plus a new guy who acted like a failed actor gone gangster, and the player character.

With every character including the player character wearing Johnny Gat masks, the Saints made their way in but quickly discovered the bank was owned by a rival gang, and that the safe probably held a lot more than just money. Things typically go out of hand and, well, one thing leads to another and the Saints are fighting off SWAT while a helicopter rips the bank vault out of the building and holds in in mid-air while the player awkwardly tries to fight off helicopter gunships while standing on top. Yes things just don’t stay normal for long in Saints Row.

If Saints Row 1 and 2 were out of control, Saints Row: The Third looks set to raise that bar even further. Not only in the free roaming section itself but with the actual story missions as well. The bank heist mission itself was far more exciting than at least 90 percent of the story missions from the previous title, which had its fair share of insanity.

"Who doesn't want to be the Saints?"

What was good:

Though the demo was short (or at least wasn’t long enough) I felt convinced that the game was going in a good direction. While I didn’t notice anything particularly new, fans of the franchise and players of open-world games should find no reason not to be excited for Saints Row: The Third. Plus the game will have complete drop-in/drop-out co-op throughout the game, so giant dildo fights with a friend is only one of many things you will do when the game ships.

What needs work:

Practically nothing I saw from the demonstration led me to believe the game will anything short of providing endless hours of fun driving, shooting, exploring, customizing and fighting gangs with incredible and hilarious weapons.

Final Truth:

Saints Row: The Third is looking to become one of the best open-world games of the generation. Grand Theft Auto, the series Saints Row heavily draws influence from, took an odd turn with the fourth installment by replacing some of the zaniness with serious overtones. TheSaints Row series knows what it is and fully embraces that identity. If you are waiting for a game that will let you get away with anything without restrictions, keep Saints Row: The Third locked on your radar.

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About the Author

Video game journalist since 2006, and gaming since he was old enough to use an Atari joystick. Follow me: @Cam_is_16bit

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