Saints Row the Third E3 Preview

Saints Row the Third E3 Preview

  • By: CM Boots-Faubert
  • Posted 27th Jun 2011

Saints Row The Third

According to The Free Dictionary by Farlex the phrase over-the-top is defined as:

adj. Exceeding the normal bounds; immoderate; extravagant: "The hotel pours it on. You're in for an over-the-top experience" (Travel & Leisure).

Fair enough we suppose, but in November of this year they will likely be forced to edit that entry to include Saints Row the Third as part of the definition, because if you saw the demo and presentation that we saw at E3 2011, you would agree that it quite literally illustrates the phrase.

Now we cannot say things like that without explaining them, so grab your beverage of choice and make yourself comfie and we will give that a go...

Any gamer who played either of the first two offerings in the Saints Row series will be perfectly aware of the fact that they were created as open-world action-adventure games with bits of RPG and shooter in their DNA, and competed head-to-head with the Grand Theft Auto series of games within that genre, and for that slice of the gaming pie, offering a very unique take on the concept by presenting the gamer with a story and world in which a gang rather than a particular and storied character served as the protagonist.

As far as games go in that sub-genre, the first two Saints Row games did alright, but due to the already well-established and massive popularity of the GTA games, it was pretty clear that they were going to be also-rans, and not king of the hill... That being the case, when the third title in the series began to be developed, it makes complete sense that the blokes from Volition chose to take a completely new direction and approach. Oh, no worries! They did not abandon the basic thread of the series -- that would have been a bad thing -- instead they simply pulled out all of the stops, set the bar as high as they could for outrageous play, and then proceeded to knock that freaking ball to Venus!

The third -- and final -- title in the Saints Row series, SR3 has the player back in control as the leader of the Third Street Saints in the fictional city of Steelport, with a story that centers around a gang war between the Saints and The Syndicate, a rival criminal group. To understand what brought the Saints to the point that they are at now we need to cover some history.

SR3 begins with a nod to the end of SR2 -- as the Saints, having defeated all of the gangs in Stillwater and taken down the Ultor Corporation, set out to rob a bank and the heist goes spectacularly and dreadfully wrong, with the Saints ending up in prison for the crime.

It develops that the bank they tried to rob is actually owned by The Syndicate -- an International Organized Crime outfit -- and the price that The Syndicate demands as compensation for the damage to their bank is two-thirds of the Saints holdings in Stillwater. If they give that, while all is not exactly forgiven, they will get to live. The Saints refuse, of course, and what follows (we cannot give too much detail here as it will diminish your enjoyment of the game) is a conflict that sees The Syndicate take full control over Stillwater, and the Saints relocate to Steelport, and this is where the main story in the game will pick up.

At E3 part of the demo that we saw was the initial heist of the bank, which we promise you is both unique and exciting, followed by a very general introduction to the new world of Saints Row -- a world in which fame and reputation are of particular importance, and how you go about increasing yours has everything to do with how the phrase "over-the-top" has been redefined!

How this manifests in the game -- and in play -- has to do with the complete abandonment of any attempt at the gritty realism for which the previous two games were known, in favor of campy and outrageous flamboyance. Want to steal a car? Forget picking the lock mates, just jump feet-first through the driver-side window and roar off down the bloody road! And while you are about it, do some spectacularly staged jumps, skids, and paint-trading to score some solid reputation points, and if you kill a few people along the way, no worries mates! Not only does that add to your rep, but it seems that everyone living in the city knows who you are and approves -- even some of the people you run over!

Game Play
One of the elements that stands out in the game is the need to improve and increase your reputation, which you accomplish by performing outrageous moves and by massive destruction -- whether by hand, by weapon, by vehicle, or perhaps using the VSTOL Fighter/Bomber that you can find parked in the city...

Your garden variety fist fight is a thing of the past, as is simply putting the cudgel to an enemy -- or some random person -- because in this new and bold world you are given an incredible variety of melee and weapon-based attacks that have real character and flashiness to them! Think every major move you ever saw in a wrestling ring then add in those of the Lucha world, then multiply that by ten and you will start to get the idea.

Many of the weapons in the game are as outrageous as the moves you can use with them -- for instance there is a set of gloves called the Apocafist -- and a giant purple dildo that you can whip out and put the beat-down on your target of preference. There are special vehicles that have been weaponized -- a flamethrower van, and one with a canon you can use to scoop up pedestrians and launch them into the air, just to name a few!

While the presentation and demo at E3 was strictly hand's-off, and while they were careful to point out that what we were seeing was an early build, the graphics and FX on display were impressively vivid and engaging, and from what we could tell, the controls in the game appeared to be intuitive and easily mastered.

Naturally in any Saints Row game there are missions to be pursued that largely make up the story for the game, and it was hinted that there would be collections and other optional challenges, giving this newest and last game in the series the sort of depth and playability that we have come to expect, but the exuberant play approach adds a dimension that will, we suspect, make it difficult to accept that there will be no 4th title following this one!

Observations and Conclusions
The nature of game demo's at E3 is a time-limited one, as there is only so much that they can show you in the scant 30 minutes that is slotted for each presentation -- a factor that can be a problem when what you are shown only leads to question after question and more questions, none of which get answered to the full satisfaction of those present -- but we were able to get at least some information to add to the impressions that were formed through the demo.

The missions in the game are a bit like those of the previous two, but with some having a branching outcome depending upon the decisions that you make. There is nothing subtle about the game play or the goals for the game -- words like outrageous, ridiculous, and fantastical ricocheted around the room, and it was very clear to us that this was no accident. The purpose of this presentation was to make it as clear as possibly just how far to the left this game has gone. And that is a good thing, because there were no half-measures here. There cannot be if they are going to pull off what amounts to a complete recasting of the thread upon which the tapestry of Saints Row is weaved is to stand up in the hands of gamers.

In essence, what Volition has done is take the genre of games that the previous Saints Row offerings were part of -- and what the GTA games have done so remarkable a job of minting -- and kicked it squarely in the nuts. Then set it on fire, blew it up, and finally ran it through a wood chipper (think Fargo) before really getting serious about making it different. And it is all good, because if what we saw is even half of the measure that they have taken, we are looking at what is destined to be an instant classic.

We even think it is safe to say that Saints Row the Third is likely to be one of the rare games that you end up playing and then replaying again and again, rather than playing once and then revisiting every year or so, which is what we would say was the fate of other games in the genre.

THQ made sure that this game had a very prominent place at E3, plastering the sides of the building and the walls of the show floor and halls with banners, and even putting together a themed car wash in a parking lot near the Convention Center complete with bikini-clad and tattooed babes whose sole purpose was to make an indelible impression in the minds of the attendees. We suspect that they succeeded.

There is no question that in the coming months we will learn more about the world if Steelport, and what has happened in Stillwater -- and Gaming Update will be staying on top of that news! So stay tuned mates, as we are predicting that this one will turn out to be the most memorable game of the year.

Official Title: Saints Row the Third
Developing Studio: Volition, Inc.
Publisher: THQ
Release Date: 15 November 2011
Platforms: Xbox 360 / PS3 / Windows PC
Genre: Third-Person Shooter / Action-Adventure / Sandbox
Ratings: TBA -- Presumed to be M (for Mature)