E3 2011: Saints Row: The Third preview

So many years ago Volition attempted to get away from the stereotyped ‘GTA clone’ label with Saints Row 2, and took their series to over-the-top, outlandish gameplay. At this years E3, THQ re-affirmed that this is still the case as we were shown a bit of the free-roaming aspects of the newest game in the series, as well as a mission from the main campaign in Saints Row: The Third.

With Saints Row: The Third they have gone even farther afield of crazy, with insanely over the top gameplay, this was clear from a mere five minutes or so roaming around the city, something that is synonymous with the open world crime genre.

Now, free-roaming in Steelport is not like herding cattle in Red Dead Redemption; our free roaming session begins in a Luchadores neighbourhood; The Luchadores are the Mexican wrestler gang that you may have seen in promotional art for the game.

So, a lot has changed since Saints Row 2, and the Saints are practically celebrities in their own right, so you’ll find that people in the street will watch you, and clap for you; everything in Steelport is dynamic, there are apparently no scripted NPC events, and everything happens on the fly.

We are demonstrated this when our Saint starts drop-kicking pedestrians, performing groin hits with various weapons, hitting homeless people with a large purple d-ildo, and the most brilliant of all weapons; the Apocofist. These ridiculously large fists that sit over your own hands literally explode your helpless foes in a bloody mess.

Or maybe, you want to be completely over the top when taking out your foes; so you can gain a little respect, by simply calling in an airstrike! All of these features are true to the game, and have not been made up in anyway whatsoever!

Everything in Steelport is destructible, and this is shown off with a Tank Mayhem side-mission, similar to Grand Theft Auto’s Kill Frenzy, and Saints Row’s standard Mayhem. Now, this isn’t Battlefield 3, so you cannot decimate the whole city, but everything is pretty much fair game when it comes to the explosive power of your tank.

The freedom of player choice was picked up on slightly with a visit to the Let’s Pretend costume shop, where you can buy the most ridiculous of fancy dress, it should be noted that you are not limited clothes, and if you so wish, you are able to strut around in the nude whilst roaming about the city.

In Saints Row everything is over the top, from jacking a car —always best via the side window, with a vault straight through- to riding around the neighbourhood. The car physics have been overhauled in The Third, giving the player complete control, and ultimate fun when out driving, so whether you want to do donuts outside your safehouse, or are after some stylish drifting; the city of Steelport will condone your actions.

Perhaps you are a little tired of the same old vehicles, well in Saints Row: The Third, you are in luck, not only does the game contain the VTOL jet; complete with microwave lasers, and homing missiles. It also contains outrageous means of destruction like the Johnny Gat mobile that can spout fire from the huge cigarette hanging out of the mouth of a massive rendition of Johnny Gat’s face that is plastered on the front of the vehicle. Then there’s Professor Genki’s Man-o-pult; that allows you to suck up pedestrians like Kirby and catapult them out at high-speeds.

With all this destruction and mayhem, it must also be mentioned that the game also looks pretty stunning, the graphics have been improved since the last game, and there's nothing better than enjoying player freedom in a city that looks, and feels great.

After mass destruction in free roaming mode, we were treated to a mission from the story, where the Saints rob a bank dressed as larger-than-life Johnny Gat’s. When the robbery goes awry, the Saints turn to Plan B; literally steal the vault with a helicopter. All the while, don’t forget you’re dressed as a Saint, so the occasional fan-girl may ask for an autograph mid-robbery.

The mission itself was sold entirely on its gunfights, which live up to your standard Saints Row, Grand Theft Auto style missions; it is simply humour that is injected, gameplay is otherwise pretty similar.

Saints Row: The Third is looking outrageously enjoyable, and was probably one of the most fun games at this years E3. You will have to wait a little while til its release however, which is currently slated for November 15th 2011 for Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and Windows.