Saint’s Row: The Third E3 2011

It takes a special game to challenge GTA, do it with absolute shamelessness, and then laugh all the way to the bank, but THQ’s Saint’s Row franchise has done just that. While at one time GTA glorified hitting people with a giant purple dildo, it lost that humor long ago in an attempt at maturity and class.

The thing is, when a game lets you have sex with a hooker and then kill her for money, it’ll never have class. That’s what makes Saint’s Row so special. Yes, you can do all sorts of silly and crazy things, and the game encourages such behavior. Saint’s Row is a childish and spoiled game, and it’s all the better for it.

At this year’s E3, THQ showed off a demo of the game, and there is a sense of glee as the game rewards players for senseless and over-the-top violence. The Apocafist, for example, is a pair of giant fists that causes people to explode on impact. Since the Saints are considered a famous and popular gang, they wield a lot of power and can even call air strikes against enemy gangs.

When it comes to violence, the best options are vehicles. A new mode called Tank Mayhem requires players to perform a certain amount of violence and city destruction within a time limit. Outside of the tank, players have a bevy of normal to weird vehicles to choose from. One is a car designed to look like a Saint’s member’s giant head. Another is a cutesy car from a kid’s show that has a vacuum cannon on top. Suck up nearby pedestrians and launch them out of the cannon. This particular move can also be used in multiplayer. Typical vehicle driving looks great, with none of the lumbering boat-like driving of GTA.

The best vehicle by far is the vertical launching jet that can both hover and fly forward. In addition to holding an onslaught of missiles, the jet can also use a microwave laser to destroy everything below. When was the last time you could do any of these things in a sandbox game?

While this is all fun, Saint’s Row: The Third is a game, and one with a plot. The representatives from Volition highlighted one particularly antic-fueled mission. The Saints, while famous, still need money, and this time it’s to fund a film based upon the lives of the Saints themselves. They aren’t an especially modest bunch, so what better way to earn some money than to put giant bobble heads of their leader on their heads while robbing a bank?

Of course, this isn’t just any bank. It’s a bank run by the red-clad Syndicate gang, so what starts out as a typical mission quickly goes to hell. Thanks to the idiotic actions of ditzy Hollywood actor Josh (who has joined The Saints to method act for an upcoming film), the player character has to help their helicopter successfully airlift out a vault while hundreds of soldiers and a plurality of helicopters attack from above. As players dodge and shoot from the dangling vault, slamming into buildings, it’s clear this isn’t the typical mission. When the vault rips from the chains of the helicopter holding it, down goes the player, dropping him–bobblehead intact–into the military’s grasp.

Saint’s Row: The Third is going to be a blast. It’s gleeful and immature, and it wallows in its childishness. There are no pathetic or pseudo-serious attempts to make the game more than it is, and with additional thanks to the fantastic designer of Steeleport City (seriously, it looks great), gamers everywhere should be super stoked for Saint’s Row: The Third.