Saints Row: The Third set to blow us away this November

The Saints are returing in style

It was with great pleasure that I braved my way through hundreds of miserable commuters in the Monday morning rush hour to the Soho hotel in London‘s west end recently. The reason? Only a special event hosted by games publisher THQ of course! With the promise of viewing the upcoming sandbox title, Saints Row: The Third, I took my seat – opting out of tea, coffee and little cakes – and eagerly awaited the demonstration. I wasn’t disappointed. After being treated to nearly 45 minutes of footage from the new title (as played and explained by staff from Volition, the game developers), I was left with one message clear in my head: The Saints are coming back in a big way.
Saints Row: The Third somehow manages to take all of the madness from the second game that many people fell in love with, and then increase it by several notches into something magnificent. Within seconds of the game loading and our character spawning into the brand new city known as Steelport, the player was brutally (and quite cinematically) punching, grappling and dropkicking innocent civilians as we were told that the melee system has been revamped. It wasn’t long after this that our character managed to acquire and wield a giant purple dildo bat, he then demonstrated to us that it was the perfect tool for murder several innocent civilians with – what a way to go!

Despite the dildo bat being my particular favourite weapon seen on the day, simply due to the hilarity of it, we saw a few other new weapons demonstrated including the “Apoco-fists” – a weapon that causes your fists to become huge and sees victims explode into a bloody mess when punched, and the airstrike gun which allows you to laser-designate an area for a small airstrike to take place in – the Luchidor gang never knew what hit them! Satchel Charges are also confirmed to be making a return.  One of the great things about every single weapon in Saints Row: The Third is that each one has it’s own specialised “Nut-shot” for those all too hilarious low-blows to your enemies. A few of these were demonstrated to us including a handgun one which was simply the player punching a civilian in his balls, and my favourite, the shotgun nut-shot which consisted of swinging the gun into his family jewels like a golf club. It was painfully hilarious! (I laughed so hard it hurt.)

Players of the previous game will remember that the driving wasn’t great in terms of action as the cars didn’t skid or travel fast enough, even with nitrous, however in Saints Row 3 we were informed that the driving has also been carefully tweaked since it’s predecessor. This was demonstrated by the player getting into a car (well, drop-kicking through the windscreen into the driver’s seat) and driving at what was clearly a much higher speed than seen in SR2, drifting was also shown which could make for some very nice and drastically improved car chases during the missions and when on the wrong side of the law.
We saw quite a few different cars roaming around the city during our demonstration, but one of the vehicles which really stood out to me was a car with a giant Johnny Gat head mounted onto the front, it’s name? The GatMobile. Equipped with a flamethrower sticking out of the mouth, it’s sole purpose seems to be barbequeing innocent civilians for entertainment, and as it raised plently of laughs on the day, I’m pretty certain that I’m not the only one who doesn’t have a problem with this.
Besides the Saints themselves, Saints Row 3 will feature different gangs from those seen in its predecessor, one of these is the above mentioned Luchidors – a Mexican wrestling gang, and another – which will no doubt please a lot of people (I’m certainly delighted with their inclusion) is the military in the form of a faction known as STAG. Why is this a good thing? Simple, because the military have lots of very cool toys that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to get our hands on. Saints Row 2 was host to a couple of military vehicles including the “Tornado” – an Apache helicopter which came complete with rockets and minigun, and the APC which featured a mounted machine gun on top, but in SR3 there will be some truly awesome new toys to play with – certainly not least of which, the VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) Jet which comes complete with missiles and laser beams!
It was pretty exciting to witness it rise up from the ground slowly and proceed to obliterate an innocent car in a style reminiscent to the tripods in War of the Worlds!
During the demonstration we were also treated to a look at Saints Row 3’s car customisation feature when the Volition guided player took us into a garage called “Rim Jobs”. There were no real surprises here as it was expected that customisation would be back and better than before, however it was still nice to be shown that there are more options for customising your vehicle now, including increasing the amount of damage it can take.
Player customisation is back too and also features more options than before, as well as a few changes. For starters, all clothing items can now be bought in the same shop rather than forcing you to travel across the map to different outlets, the shop can also be accessed by your mobile phone in-game to further save you time according to Volition’s Assosciate producer, James Torbit. The mobile phone wasn’t demonstrated on the day, but we did get a look into a costume shop called “Lets Pretend” and I managed to spot outfits called “Pirate” and “Furry” before the player opted to wear a spacesuit.
Customisation in Saints Row has always started with your character at the beginning of the game, and this time around when initially creating your character or visiting the plastic surgeon, the already huge list of options available has been increased to include ones such as a sex appeal slider, the ability to change your skin colour to various teletubby shades such as blue, green and chrome, and a body mask. The idea behind this is that you will be able to make your character whatever you want them to be, whether that’s an accountant from the big city, or a super hero from Uranus.
Another great feature returning to the series is the activities that players can choose to take part in around the city. Volition’s Associate Producer, James Torbit, informed me that previous fan favourites such as Insurance Fraud will be returning, but we also caught a look at a new one known as “Tank Mayhem” when the player visited a STAG base and decided to go for a joyride in one of the vehicles. The objective of Tank Mayhem is as basic as it gets – just blow stuff up. It’s that simple, the more you blow up, the higher your score, and when watching the game it was easy to see why it was so much fun. The streets erupted into chaos as explosive rounds decimated the area, and the player also took the opportunity to show off Saints Row: The Third’s new car destruction physics by driving over one and crushing it.
Another activity in SR3 revolves around SteelPort’s crazy Japanese game show known as “Professor Genki” – The show’s motto is “Murder time, fun time”, so you can see where Volition is going with this. One of the vehicles available for you to use when taking part in “fun time” is the Professor Genki car complete with manapult! Simply suck innocent civilians into the cannon and fire them back out again in a burst of rainbows and stars for major points! (and laughs!) The Professor Genki car is also available for use when not in the activity, so you don’t have to worry about your fun with splattering people being limited.
After knocking down a questionable lamppost by firing someone face-first into it, the guys from Volition decided that we’d seen enough of Saint Row 3’s sandbox element and that it was time for a mission.
The cutscene for the first mission in the game wasn’t finished yet so I can’t comment on that, but we did get to see the storyboard accompanied by the character voices in its place.
The story for the first mission starts with a bank robbery carried out by the Saints. This immediately sounded wierd to me as the Saints pretty much own SteelPort, so why would they break into their own banks? Drew from Volition then informed us that robbing banks and carrying out crimes has simply become a form of sport for the Saints now – and I thought that snowboarding was dangerous!
The Saints all enter the bank wearing giant plastic Johnny Gat heads (including the man himself) as a form of disguise, and proceed to a higher floor in the elevator, but of course it isn’t long before everything goes wrong and the gang find themselves sheltering behind the counters as they plan their escape. Cue the mission!
Red laser beams from enemy guns were all over the place as the player fought his way through the guards, but one thing which helped a lot during the mission was a riot shield acquired from an enemy SWAT member. It was easy enough to dispatch of the shield-wielding enemy when he appeared, but the additional protection from the shield proved to be a lifesaver against countless others, and one which I can definitely see myself using when I get my hands on  the game.
After battling his way to an upper floor of the bank, the player bumped into a Saints fan who asked him for an autograph, and with a simple press of the Y button our player was only too happy to oblige, however when the Saint’s newest member, dramatic actor Josh Burke, asked the young enthusiast if she wanted her boobs signed, she wasn’t interested.
The final part of the mission contained the huge “holy shit” moment of the level – something which Volition are very keen for every mission to contain, according to James Torbit.
The Saints managed to hook the entire bank vault up to a helicopter, and then proceeded to fly the whole thing out of the bank’s roof and make their getaway amongst a hail of bullets from the surrounding SWAT team. Your part in all of this is to shoot back at them one-handed with whatever guns you have, whilst your other hand’s task is to cling desperately to the vault as you fly through the air in various different poses. It was a very impressive scene, and one that wouldn’t feel out of place in a movie such as Die Hard, but unfortunately for our player one movement from the helicopter proved too much for him, causing him to fall from the vault into a nearby building and find several guns pointed at him… “Oh shit…” Fortunately for the Saints however, the vault manages to escape the chaos in one piece.

A short interview after the demonstration with Volition’s Associate Producer, James Torbit, revealed that as well as the vehicle and character customisation witnessed, Saints Row: The Third will also feature weapon customisation (sadly the dildo’s colour can’t be changed) and as well as this, crib customisation has been drastically changed. According to James, “That is a big change for SR3, you can take ownership of buildings in the city and you can change the buildings, you can turn this little building into a giant skyscraper and change overall the look of the city! it’s a really important part of the game.”

On the subject of weapons, James revealed that one new weapon which almost didn’t make it into SR3 is a fart in a jar, “It was announced at a team meeting, like you know, ‘This is one of the things we removed from the game’, and this started an outcry to save the fart in the jar, so with everyone up in arms we told them ‘We cannot cut the fart in a jar’ and we put it back in.”
I personally was delighted with the news of this hilarious choice of weapon, and a demonstration from THQ’s Suzanne Panter revealed that the animation literally consists of your character farting in the jar, closing the lid, opening the jar in your victim’s face and then you (the player) laughing your ass off as they fall to the floor unconscious.

One more interesting reveal that was mentioned in the interview was a new mode for Saints Row: The Third, one that I spotted on the main menu before the demonstration began. When questioned about what the game’s “Whored Mode” would contain, James was unfortunately unable to comment. As the name is clearly a pun of the Gears of War series’ “Horde mode“, my guess is that it’s some kind of mode featuring you, a dildo bat and a score for beating as many prostitutes to death on the streets as possible.
Whatever it turns out to be though, Saints Row: The Third is shaping up to be one of the most fun and hilarious games of the year when it is released on the 18th of November (15th in the US) on the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC simultaneously.
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