Saints Row The Third – E3 Preview

Steelport; man what a city.  Only in Steelport could a person freely walk down the street and punch a homeless man in the crotch; only in Steelport could a man pile-drive a hooker into the pavement and only in Steelport could the rag-tag bunch of numpty arse gangsters known as the Saints become more than just a gang. The Saints have now become a brand, part of popular culture; they have energy drinks, branded clothing, record deals even a movie in production. Everybody wants to be in the Saints but does everybody know just what they are letting themselves in for?

Our demo starts in an area of Steelport owned by a gang known as the Luchadores, an Mexican wrestling gang who specialise in the drug and gambling trades. Our guide from THQ describes Saints Row The Third as “the most over the top, biggest guilty pleasure in gaming” as he proceeds to punch an old man in the face.  “As you can see, Steelport is a very friendly place,” at which point he suplexs a perfectly innocent hooker into the ground. “Our goal was to create a sandbox where nothing is scrip…” he pauses and I wince as he lays the boot into a poor guy’s nuts before continuing “…where nothing is scripted and everything is dynamic, and the players have the freedom and choice to do what they want, but of course we want them to do what they want Saints Row style.”  He runs up behind somebody who I suspect may have been a pimp, jumps in the air and then dropkicks the back of his head, smashing it into the sidewalk. That “awwww” noise which translates into “that must have hurt” flows through the room before turning into laughter at the absurdity of everything we just witnessed. Next, we’re shown a glimpse of the many different groin shots available including, but not limited to, a straight up punch to the nuts, a boot to the bollocks and weapon specific crotch shots – one of which involved tossing a shotgun in the air, catching the end of the barrel and the using it like a golf club on some poor bastard’s scrotum. Next up, we’re presented with a larger-than-humanly-possible purple dildo, which our character casually whips from his pocket and starts to beat the poor, helpless hookers and pimps who are just trying to make a living. With the dildo now safely back in his pocket we’re shown a new weapon known as the Apoca-fists – a big pair of fist shaped gloves with the Apocalypse stitched into the fabric.  One punch to the gonads with these will result in the rest of you being turned into a fine red mist.

Saints Row The Third isn’t the standard issue rise to power story you’ve come expect from the Saints Row games, or the sandbox crime genre as a whole.  In Saints Row The Third, the Saints are at the top of their game and have become international celebrities, with their own brand of merchandise and energy drinks so, as a Saint, rather than grinding from the bottom and working your way up, you start at the very top, with all the toys and perks at your disposal that come with being the leader of an organised crime organisation. As an example of this power, our guide turns the corner at the end of the street to find a large group of Luchadores having a staff meeting in a basketball court.  We could take them out quite easily with the Apoca-fists or we could windmill in and crotch-shot the lot of them. Instead, as a show of force, we decide to shock and awe the shit out of them by calling in a massive airstrike.

Next up, we’re shown one of the game’s many side missions called “Tank Mayhem”. Racking up damage in a tank isn’t a difficult thing to do and can be achieved quite easily by blowing the crap out of anything and everything, or by just driving right over the top of them. Everything is fair game in this mode, from the pedestrians to the billboards and buildings; you just need rack up as much damage as possible before the time runs out. Hopping back into free roam we’re shown some of Saints Row The Third’s options when customising your character. Dotted around Steelport are many different shops where you can buy some new threads, be they sports stores, tailors or costume shops. Yeah… that’s right, costume shops. So, if you want to wear a space suit, a bunny costume or a gimp suit you can. If the feeling so takes you, you can even run around in the buff with your wang out – yes, you can customise the size of your wang using the game’s “sex appeal” slider in character creation.

Time for a drive – something which (thank god) has been massively improved for Saints Row The Third. Our Steelport guide explains the improvements: “Driving is a key mechanic in Saints Row The Third and, as you can see, we have completely overhauled the physics and driving is now more fast, more fluid and definitely more fun. You can stop on a dime, you can powerslide around corners and you can even flip the car one hundred and eighty degrees and continue driving backwards, which is very effective in a fire fight”.  During this driving section we’re reminded that the Saints are celebrities, and stopping at the side of the road to show off your driving skills will result in a crowd gathering and cheering you on as you spin donuts into the tarmac; they’ll continue cheering even if you decide to run a few of them over afterwards.  Cars aren’t the only mode of transport in Steelport and next up we’re taken for a spin in the VTOL, short for Vertical Take Off and Landing jet, which features microwave lasers and homing missiles. Controlling the VTOL is designed to be as flawless and as fun as possible; toggling between the hover mode and jet mode is done at the touch of a button, causing the VTOL’s wings, flaps and engines to adjust almost like a transformer before blasting forwards into flight.

Sounds a little bit over the top right? Wrong! The VTOL has nothing on the Johnny Gat mobile, a van of sorts with a giant Johnny Gat head attached to the front, smoking a cigarette – which is actually a flame thrower. No? Still want more of the crazy cars? How about Professor Genki’s Super Ballistic Manapult which has a giant circus cannon mounted to the top, capable of vacuuming up “pesky pedestrians and gives them something to do rather than getting in your way, launching them out across the cities as human cannon balls.  If you or your co op partner fancies a go, just jump in and give it a go for yourself.”

Finally, we leave free roam to see how an actual mission plays out; in this instance the Saints are using a helicopter to rob a bank… no, like actually rob the bank, as in fly in, blow the roof and just lift the safe right up out of the middle. The team are accompanied by an actor who is playing a part in the upcoming Saints Row movie, and who wants to learn what it’s like to be a Saint so he can better play out his role. Stupidly, or in a rather intelligent move, the team are also wearing giant Johnny Gat bobble-head masks to conceal their identity – after all, who would hold up a bank dressed as themselves?

Being the Saints, things obviously go south pretty quickly and a shootout starts between the team and the bank tellers; the mission has a real caper movie feel to it as the banter flows back and forth dynamically between your team mates. The combat is fast paced and fun, with the improved targeting and cover systems making it all flow more smoothly. The AI also seems to have a reasonable degree of intelligence this time around; your team mates will take cover and know when it is safe to pop up and fire off a few rounds, rather than standing in the middle of a room spamming bullets until either they or the enemies are dead. The enemies now also possess that same level of intelligence, which makes the fire fights more action packed and, as a result, much more enjoyable. Our demo ends with a bang as the roof is blown off the building, allowing the chopper to fly in and hook up to the safe.  The team makes good their escape as we climb aboard the top of the safe for a high altitude shoot out above the streets of Steelport. I leave the room thinking that this game really is nuts, completely off its tits crazy… and I fucking love it.

Before I go, I should point out that for all of Saints Row The Third’s over the top sack shots and prostitute pounding, the game is much more than just cheap laughs. If you look beyond those things you’ll see an incredibly detailed game; the physics engine produces results which, while not necessarily true to life, do fit the game world and its style perfectly. The level of detail in the city streets and buildings is incredible and, in some respects, looks far superior to that of any other sandbox games (yes, I am including L.A. Noire in that).  The destruction models of the vehicles and environment have also been stepped up, with car suspensions buckling under the weight of a tank before the windows blow out, shattering glass all over the street. The city of Steelport is huge in size and whether viewed from a height or down on the street, that quality and level of detail remains present throughout. The game’s developers, Volition, really have put a lot of time and effort into those little things which make a good game great – they just decided to add an extra layer of cojones cracking on top.

Saints Row The Third is currently due for release mid November 2011.

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Last five articles by Lee



  1. Joeydale13 says:

    Picked up Saints Row 2 the other day. It’s a broken mess of a game…But I love it, it’s just so ridiculous and fun that I can see past the crippling frame rate issues when more than 3 people are on screen, the awful aiming and even worse driving mechanics…

    Driving around on a quad bike, on fire, blowing shit up makes up for all of that…

    Cannot wait for Saints Row 3…And no, I’m never calling it Saints Row The Third!

  2. Ben Ben says:

    Looked down right good fun while watching the demo. Finally we can live the dream of smacking our friends in the crotch with a giant purple dildo, god bless you Saints Row.

  3. Mr McGash says:

    Happy Fapping!! I neeeeeeed this game, been a saints member since the start
    The co op in the 2nd was the mutts danglies, this is looking to be 100% more.
    Just crossing my fingers they bring back Protect the Pimp and/or Blinged out Ride for mp madness. Cheers Lee!

  4. Pete Pete says:

    Never played a Saints game but this one appeals! Sounds like it could be a lot of fun come game night :D

  5. Victor Victor says:

    I don’t know which game I want more. EIther Arkham City or Saints Row the Third? I know they are both being bought immediately, regardless of reviews. Both respective prequels have shown that their developers can do no wrong with their IPs

  6. Edward Edward says:

    Sounds bloody mental, and so ridiculous I wouldn’t know whether to love it or hate it for that.
    I’ll wait until closer the time, but you’ve got me to mark it out as one to watch, in any case :D

  7. [...] wants to be in the Saints but does everybody know just what they are letting themselves in for? Read our full Saints Row The Third preview here > Games featured in this articleFor more information on any of the games featured in this [...]

  8. Christian says:

    Can’t wait i want that car that can shoot people out of the car

  9. [...] you’d like to know more about Saints Row: The Third, take a read of our E3 preview, and also our interview with Drew Holmes, the game’s lead writer. Games featured in this [...]

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