E3 2011 First Look: Saints Row The Third

Disguising yourself as yourself. Only Kieron would have thought of that.

If Saints Row 1 was a GTA “tribute”, and Saints Row 2 was Volition discovering how they wanted to approach the genre for themselves, then Saints Row: The Third is the complete rejection of anything that originally influenced it. It is the most anarchic, vile, hilarious and puerile approach anyone has taken to a sandbox game. It’s the silliest and foulest game of E3. It’s the one I’ve enjoyed seeing the most.

This is the city-based, car-stealing, gang-being-in-em-up in which you can call down an airstrike on opposing gang members. It’s the one whose character customiser features a “Sex Appeal” slider. It’s the one where you drive a “Manapult”, a canon that sucks up pedestrians and then fires them into the sky. Ideally such that they splat against a distant building.

If you played Saints Row 2, and unless you’re offended by anything at all you should, then you’ll know that Volition’s approach to creating the dumbest, most immature world is an incredibly smart one. While anyone of a suitable mind will have adored spraying shit on stretches of the town for hours on end, they’ll also have noticed a superbly written game with some exquisite storytelling. Saints Row: The Third, from the sections we’ve seen, seems to suggest improvements on both sides.

The open world, sandbox stuff is so beyond ludicrous as to defy even the expectations of a fan of the series. Mayhem challenges, in which you must cause as much damage as possible in a short time, now give you a tank. Vehicles in the game include a V-TOL, a vertically taking off hovering jet that fires microwave lasers and homing missiles. Later in the game, RPS was exclusively told, there are weapons that will be so powerful they’ll effect vast areas of the city at once. It’s a sandbox belonging to a lunatic child who likes blowing up his toys.

And that looks incredible fun. The brutality of what you can casually muck around with makes GTA, Mafia and all their kind look like carehome simulators. Saints Row: The Third is a bit more like that care home on Panorama. You can run up to a pedestrian, leap toward them grabbing them by their face, and then swing yourself around as you slam them backward into the pavement. All manner of wrestling moves appear to be on offer, each gruesomely delivered. But nothing so gruesome as the Apocofists – oversized boxing gloves that will pulverise an innocent passerby in a single punch, leaving nothing but a cloud of blood and viscera.

But of course there’s a script too. The Third is a bit of a fresh start all round for Volition. A new engine, and a game set in a new city, means there’s room to allow things to be more anarchic, but also give a different angle on the story. New arrivals in Steelport, the Saints quickly become local heroes, based on their reputation from Stilwater. It’s a brilliant decision, because it hugely changes how it feels to be a player. You’re not at the bottom of the ladder, fighting your way to being recognised. You’re the top dogs, people love you. They love you so much, in fact, that they’ll continue cheering for you in the streets as you run them over with your car.

During a bank heist near the start, people ask for your autograph as you threaten them with guns. And it’s in this bank heist that one of the cleverest jokes I’ve seen in forever appears. In a consistently funny cutscene your gang, including leader Johnny Gat, prepares for the robbery by putting on large rubber masks. Of Johnny Gat. So adored, and so self-adoring.

Saints Row 2 was odd in that its greatest weakness was the driving. While I’ve not had a chance to get behind a wheel yet, what we were shown of The Third’s vehicles seems to have dramatically improved this. In fact, now you can go FAST. A new engine means they’ve been able to work hard on this, making sure it’s a fun way to get around, and of course cars are capable of ridiculous and impossible stunts. Including stealing them, where while you can still boringly just break open the lock, now you can just dive through the closed window.

It will be very interesting to see how the massively destructive and over-powerful sandbox play works in the finished game. Will they really let us have that much fun all the time? It seems possible. That seems to be the motivation behind this one. To actually let you have the sorts of fun sandbox games always insinuate they’ll have, but perhaps only give you a glimpse of near the end. Perhaps this could be the one to offer it from the start?


  1. Guyver says:


  2. Anthile says:

    Finally, a proper murder simulator the yellow press has been looking for so long!
    I hope this time it will be an acceptable port.

    • magnus says:

      You’re telling me, that was the worst port I’ve ever seen.

    • Dhatz says:

      SR2 entered historyy as worst port of ever. lets hope the fuckheads already started trying. but then i hope not so much like deus ex 3, it is to intensive for my vga

    • Kaira- says:

      SR2 PC-port was made by CD Projekt, this one is made by the devs themselves.

    • LionsPhil says:

      this one is made by the devs themselves

      Since the devs themselves presumably do their devving on PCs, happy times are here again.

    • povu says:

      Nothing is as bad as Resident Evil 4’s PC port, but yeah. Saints Row 2’s PC port was awful and it’s good that Volition has acknowledged this.

  3. MadTinkerer says:

    DO WANT.

    (Hope they fix the controls this time around. SR2 was good, really good, but they really needed to let me use my own buttons for menu navigation.)

  4. Darko Drako says:

    Hope the spend a bit more time on the PC version this time. A big fan of the studio though so looking forward to this.

  5. Moni says:

    I was hoping they would implement the Geo-Mod stuff, for maximum mentalness.

    Does it at least have a unicorn that shoots deathly rainbows out of its arse?

  6. Buttless Boy says:

    “It is the most anarchic, vile, hilarious and puerile approach anyone has taken to a sandbox game.”

    More than Postal 2? I’m not sure the world is ready.

    • Dhatz says:

      i am sure its not. after all, the era of fun stupid things began with bulletstorm and followers line up(chronologically by release DNFcounts there)

    • Spacewalk says:

      If only DNF looked as good as this.

  7. Kaira- says:

    “It’s the one where you drive a “Manapult”, a canon that sucks up pedestrians and then fires them into the sky”

    I fear the day when canon and retcons can suck pedestrians and fire them into the sky.

    • Legionary says:

      Don’t be pedantic, it’s obvious what John meant.

      A massive priest who hoovers innocent pedestrians up with his breath, before expelling them into the air with a vehement hail Mary.

    • Jad says:


      Knowing Saints Row 2, that interpretation is not entirely unlikely.

  8. Po0py says:

    I couldn’t get into the first two no matter how much I tried. I knew there was a deep game there but I found the control system was horrid. Maybe I’ve been playing too much GTA but once you see it done right you get nit picky when Saint’s Row comes along and the controls are completely awkward.

  9. frenz0rz says:

    My first thought when seeing that title picture – “Good lord, they’re making a Team America game?!”

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      Same here.

      Now I’m actually a bit disappointed. A Team America game could be a great counterpoint to the Call of Battlefield of Honor jingiosm.

  10. KauhuK says:

    I’m sad that Saints Row 2 doesn’t work well with windows 7. I know there is a modification/hack to it but because I have it in steam it’s not a viable option. (I fear they ban my account though i doupt it)

    • DeepSleeper says:

      Yes it is.
      Go here, grab this. It works with Steam, there is no “banning” taking place. A lot of people play with mods much more heavy than a DLL speed adjuster. (Look up “Gentlemen of the Row” sometime. Then play Saint’s Row 2 with it. It’s wonderful.)

    • KauhuK says:

      Thank you kind sir. Now I only need to download the whole game from steam.

    • _Jackalope_ says:

      Ooh, thanks. Never thought to look up for any tweaks. Silly me.

    • aldo_14 says:

      Yes it is.
      Go here, grab this. It works with Steam, there is no “banning” taking place.

      I never got that thing to work on my laptop; it wasn’t exactly clear how it works when the CPU clock speed varies rather than being fixed.

    • DeepSleeper says:

      I can advise you email the folks who made it. They’re super-responsive and as far as I can tell Idolninja’s sole purpose in life is to get the entire world to blow things up in Stillwater.

  11. Tei says:

    Everything I love from SR2, x10000.

    Now, please, put a actual decent driving system!, not important, but will be a nice feature :D

  12. Deccan says:

    I once donned children’s clothes and a pumpkin mask, and attacked hordes of zombies with a baseball bat in Dead Rising, while listening to Electric Six’s “Rock and Roll Evacuation” very loud. This caused me to weep tears of pure joy.
    If I try the same thing while playing *this*, I may just explode. I mean, is that a drinks mascot with a chainsaw? Volition deserve to be showered with all the money. All of it.

  13. KaL_YoshiKa says:

    “You’re not at the bottom of the ladder, fighting your way to being recognised.”

    That is something I’ve always enjoyed about Sandbox games – watching the world shape around you feels a lot grander when you start with nothing. I still completely intend to get SR3 but some of the decisions they’re making leave me uneasy.

    • Brumisator says:

      Well the Rocky story has been done so many times in all kinds of media, it’s getting very stale. I’m sure something will happen in the story to change the world around you, I doubt you start off at the top of the food chain and stay there for the entire game, that’d be silly.

  14. _Jackalope_ says:

    Do want. SR2 just about runs on my system now at a decent res and with most of the options on and it’s still impossbile to drive but I’m always playing it. At first I was just happy about the singing along to the radio bit but then I started playing the police missions.Best sandbox game ever. This looks so pretty too. It will be quite the irony if it runs on the same machine.

  15. MikoSquiz says:

    Fursuit-wearing gangbangers? I’m there.

    No, wait, when I say –

    Oh, nevermind.

  16. leeder krenon says:

    the last one was particularly great because it had that awesome Hum song on the sound track.

  17. Crows says:

    This is a quote from some one from Volition:
    “The PC version is not going to be a port this time, we’ve got pc team working on it in-house at Volition”
    So i guess we will be safe

  18. Kollega says:

    So. Hijacking cars by diving through the side windows – with the driver still inside. Guy in a demented-looking fursuit beating people up. Weapons so powerful they affect entire districts at once. The Manapult. VTOL HOVERJETS WITH MICROWAVE LASERS (which is even more cyberpunk than was previously expected).

    I want this. NOW. Such a fine counterpoint to ultra-boring “realism” of GTA IV and it’s ilk.

  19. Dontdrop says:

    SR 2’s PC port is so terrible that I’m wary. You know, fool me once…

  20. Stephen Roberts says:

    Aaaand this looks like a pretty good time to join the franchise! Suitable chaos generator to follow Just Cause 2, anyway. Rico is jealous.

  21. DrGonzo says:

    Still baffled by this. Preview sounds terrible.

  22. LionsPhil says:

    It’s the one where you drive a “Manapult”, a canon that sucks up pedestrians and then fires them into the sky. Ideally such that they splat against a distant building.

    I fed this data into my joycomputer and after several microseconds of blinking lights it emitted a sound of pure electronic glee.

  23. Substandard says:

    The SR2 PC version port is kind of terrible, but with Gentlemen of the Row and the Speedfix (both mentioned above), it now runs like butter on my system.

    I think the terribleness of the port was somewhat overhyped too. I originally went all the way through it and beat the game with no mods, and other than the horrible lag while driving (which the crappy GTA4 port seems to also have) I didn’t run into all that many problems.

    • DrGonzo says:

      To this day it is unplayable at any setting on my pc. Runs at about 10-15 fps. Crysis and gta4 run fine!

  24. sinister agent says:

    They love you so much, in fact, that they’ll continue cheering for you in the streets as you run them over with your car.

    Please tell me that’s literally true. If I park a truck on someone then hear a muffled “yaayyy!” from under the back wheel, I may die. And the sex appeal slider is a brilliant idea. I’m tired of games having everyone fall instantly in love with you however much you resemble a warthog that’s been done over the head a few times with a brick.

  25. cairbre says:

    I played the second one on xbox and couldnt get into it as much as I wanted to the game engine was very poor. I know that makes me a graphics whore but after seeing GTAIV I was expecting more tbh.

    Still I will see what the reviews say

  26. ffordesoon says:

    I love Saints Row 2 [i]so much[/i]. I hate that every aspect of that game wasn’t cranked up to eleven in the stupidest, most ludicrous, most fun way possible.

    This game would seem to solve that problem.

    Can I buy twelve?


    Not sure I agree that SR2 was “superbly written”, though. There are genuinely great moments in the story, but it didn’t hang together that well. This one seems to be better about that, though, so I’m pleased.

  27. MartynEm says:

    RPS’s allegiance to this series does my heart good.

  28. Al__S says:

    To be honest, I was sold from the “Cock Punch” teaser trailer, and the promises the port would be done right. Really rather looking forward to this.