E3: Saints Row: The Third


The Saints return bigger, badder, and more ridiculous than ever.

When Saints Row was released in 2006, the sandbox-style third-person shooter was immediately called a Grand Theft Auto clone, as games in the genre often are. To distinguish itself, Saints Row 2 was completely over-the-top, with a humorous style that couldn’t be mistaken for any other game. With Saints Row: The Third set to launch later this year, the series is taking it even the further, with such silly weapons, ridiculous outfits, and overblown action that you can’t help but smile at all the carnage.

What I personally like about the Saints Row series is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. While some shooters struggle to deliver gritty, realistic, super-serious experiences, Saints Row is all about having fun, whether you’re customizing your character or trying to lead your gang of criminals, the Third Street Saints, to domination of the town of Stilwater. This was more apparent than ever during a live demo of the game at E3 today.

After the events of Saints Row 2, the Saints now rule the streets of Stilwater, and are so infamous that some of the locals even treat them like celebrities. Citizens on the street may try to get your attention even as you’re running that over, and you shouldn’t be surprised if you’re stopped and asked for an autograph in the middle of a bank heist. Yes, the Saints are back, but that doesn’t mean they’re living on easy street. The Syndicate, another rival criminal gang, has its sights set on taking down the Saints once and for all, meaning that the titular gang must continue to defend its turf.

The first portion of the demo was a simple sandbox demonstration to show some of the additions and improvements the developers have made to the game. As always, there’s plenty of customization to be made, although I didn’t see the character creation screen. Instead, I got a look at one of the in-game shops at which new outfits can be purchased. Your character’s style is really up to you – dress like a pimp, or a spaceman, or even go naked, because really, why not?

After suiting up, the Saint started beating on random people on the street with a few melee weapons, like a giant purple dildo (yes, you read that right) and boxing gloves that made those on the receiving end of punches explode. Then the demonstrator hopped in a car to show off the tighter driving physics and vehicle variety; in just a few minutes, we saw a fancy car, a jet, and even a tank, which launched a mini-game with an objective of causing $150,000 worth of damage in about three minutes.

Then the open world section of the demo was wrapped up in favor of an actual story mission, which had a few of the Saints attempting to rob a bank. For such seasoned criminals, a bank robbery should be no problem, right? Sure, if the bank employees weren’t actually all members of the Syndicate, and equipped with firearms as well. Things quickly went south for the Saints, who tried desperately to reach and blow up the fault in the midst of a gang war firefight. Eventually they give up on trying to be subtle and just hitch the vault to a helicopter, literally pulling it right out of the bank and into the sky with the playable character along for the ride. It would have been smooth sailing from there if the Syndicate didn’t have a helicopter of their own, leading to a chaotic shoot-out in the sky with the vault swinging wildly and crashing into buildings in the midst of it all.

Inevitably, the helicopters crashed, the lead Saint managed to hop into a nearby skyscraper, and the demo ended with him facing a SWAT team, weapons aimed squarely at him. That certainly could have gone better.

Saints Row: The Third may not get any Game of the Year awards, but at the very least it offers a sandbox shooting experience that actually manages to stand out and be memorable. The demo had the entire audience laughing, and it was one of the more entertaining experiences I had viewing games at E3. It’s hard to tell just from one demonstration just how much bigger and better it is from the previous game, but there’s no denying that Saints Row: The Third is ridiculously over-the-top, and it totally works to the game’s advantage.

See all our coverage directly from the show floor.

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