Hands On – Saints Row The Third, Part Two

Nothing weird happening here.

Following on from my more general preview of Saints Row: The Third, this time I want to tell you about a few specifics. Some of the game’s more “esoteric” early moments. (And there are so very many more later on, that it would be a crime to reveal.) Here’s some more of what you can expect when the game comes out next week. This is where it gets weird.

Let’s start with Professor Genki’s Super Ethical Reality Climax. Because why not?

It’s a sort of a shooting gallery. Sort of. Here you must run through a series of enclosed warehouse rooms, shooting at seemingly imprisoned men, dressed in mascot costumes. Perhaps they’re a purple dog, or giant hotdog. They must die. Because it’s MURDER FUN TIME! But being something of a shooting gallery, there are also large wooden boards you can shoot for bonuses. Perhaps a cash bonus, or extra time for reaching the course’s end. Except for the ones with pandas on. The ones with pandas and the word “UNETHICAL” printed across them. Don’t shoot those. That’s unethical.

It’s such a great example of the lunacy at the core of Saints Row. It’s foul, funny, and plain confusing. It’s also commentated on by a couple of sportscaster-like announcers, pre-scripted and mostly unrelated to what you’re doing, but equally bizarre as the circumstances, especially when they start confessing things to each other.

Let’s look at the second sequence in the game. You’ll likely have seen all about the game’s opening moments, in which you perform a bank job in Stilwater. But arriving in Steelport by aeroplane, you take an unconventional route to the ground. Falling. A really, really long way. Remember that scene in No One Lives Forever? When you’re shooting the other parachutists as you descend? Run that through the sorts of brains that create Professor Genki’s Ethical Reality Climax. Before you fall there’s a sequence on the plane, shooting the many baddies as your boss tries to fly the thing. Then you jump. An insane murder spree as you freefall plunge for seemingly ever. Shooting dozens of falling cars. That sort of thing.

So much is spectacle. The developers have expressed an aim to include a “holy shit!” moment in every main plot mission. Rarely do things seem to progress along the conventional lines. For its unavoidable aesthetic similarity with GTA, missions rarely follow the route that Rockstar would inevitably take. Rockstar so rarely remember to include an encounter with a naked genetic mutant. Nor do I remember their implementing a chase scene on the back of horsecarts, pulled along by men in gimp suits. But there’s more beneath that outrageous surface. There are details in there, ones that make me like a game that sometimes seems to go out of its way to be unlikable.

For instance, singing along to the radio. That most human of actions becomes one of the best scenes I’ve encountered with my preview build of the game. My character, with the one of six voices I could choose for her, recognises a track she likes on the car stereo – What I Got by Sublime – and encourages the other character in the car with her to sing along. You’re in control of the car, driving to your next mission destination, while the two characters are roaring out the lyrics, messing up, genuinely laughing at each other, and just being extremely real. It’s an incredible affecting moment, and it’s hard to forget it when thinking about those characters later on. Even when they’re murdering the elderly with three-foot purple dildos.

Of course, alongside the main quest (which I think is best saved for analysis within the review we’ll be bringing next week) are many side activities. These are all introduced to you as official missions for the first one, and then something you can find scattered around the map. And no, so far as I can tell, so far there is no shit-spraying (even though it’s alluded to by one of the characters) – there’s always DLC of course. However, here are a couple you’ll find, alongside the Prof. Genki game mentioned above.

There’s Escort. Guess what that’s about. You’re thinking it’s about a whore, right?! You’re wrong! So maybe about accompanying someone on a date? No no no. Don’t be silly. It’s about driving a furious tiger around in your car, while it tries to maul you.

And how about Trail Blazing? Yes, it’s a motorbike. No, it’s not a real one. It’s a Tron-like ride through blue net tunnels, avoiding giant red, er, blobs, and collecting huge blue tanks. While one of the game’s characters berates you via your headset.

Good grief, there’s a whole other mode I’m not allowed to mention yet, in which you [redacted] with [redacted] to kill all the [redacted]. Saints Row: The Third is a game that does not feel weighed down by reality. Taking a leaf from Just Cause’s mentality, parachutes are of course infinite. As are the waves of enemies you’ll bring down on yourself if you start a gang war at any point. There’s the potential to ignore the main plot, ignore the side quests, ignore the long-term challenges, ignore leveling up your character and spending money on new skills, gang customisations, new clothes, plastic surgery, upgrading weapons, pimping cars, just ignore all of that stuff. Go into the middle of a street and shoot someone from a rival gang. And then see where things escalate to. Things tend to escalate to specially armed police firing laser-tanks at you while enemy gang helicopters rain bullets from the sky, as the waves of armoured cars start crashing into each other and setting off chains of explosions, all while you’re firing the Mollusk Launcher at the head of a policeman, landing a pink octopus-like thing on his head that streams out multi-coloured stars from the top of his head while his brain is taken over and he’s forced to shoot at his brethren. Until he explodes.

It’s out on November 15th. We’ll have a review up on that very day.


  1. Teddy Leach says:

    “as your boss tries to fly the thing.”

    You’re his boss, but we won’t quibble. I want this game yesterday.

    EDIT: According to GG, it’s out on the 17th in out neck of the woods, because oceans: link to gamersgate.co.uk

    • Milky1985 says:

      I clicked on your link and it says 15th nov and the price is in Pounds so it seems to be 15th for UK

      Is it 17th in europe or something?

    • Teddy Leach says:

      From scrolling on:

      “The release and activations of Saints Row The Third will be the following times:

      North America 9:01pm PST on Nov 14, 2011
      Continental Europe 3:01pm PST on Nov 14, 2011
      Asia Pacific and AU 5:01am PST on Nov 14, 2011
      UK, Spain & Export 3:01pm PST on Nov 17,2011”

      So I’ve no idea what’s going on.

    • nogav says:

      Interesting. In New Zealand I’ve been told the release date is the 18th.

  2. applecup says:

    Remember that scene in No One Lives Forever 2? When you’re shooting the other parachutists as you descend?

    …Pretty sure that was in the first NOLF. /nitpicker

    • Springy says:

      Mind you, NOLF2 did have you fighting a ninja in a bungalow spiralling thousands of feet into the air during a tornado.

      So it’s not like they’re difficult to confuse.

  3. Dominic White says:

    While normally I’m not entirely behind the idea of constant streams of DLC, it really does sound like Volition have good plans for this game, and that the base game isn’t exactly low on content either. At the start of next year, they’re releasing a small ‘episode’ of content each month. If you preorder the game direct from THQ (as I did, it’s actually cheaper than on Steam) it gets you the first three episodes as they’re released.

    These episodes are called ‘Genkibowl VII’, ‘Gangstas In Space’ and ‘The Trouble With Clones’.

    I repeat that this is an open-world crime game with episodes en-route called ‘Gangstas In Space’ and ‘The Trouble With Clones’.

    This cannot be anything but a good thing.

    • Jake says:

      In the UK it is £10 more expensive from THQ than it is from Amazon (almost £10 more expensive than it is from THQ’s US site as well). I can’t figure out where to buy it yet.

    • liquidsoap89 says:

      If you preordered a physical copy have fun waiting 14 years for it to arrive. I preordered the collectors edition of Space Marine from THQ in May, the game came out in September and I finally received it about 2 weeks ago.

  4. Lars Westergren says:

    >Here you must run through a series of enclosed warehouse rooms, shooting at seemingly imprisoned men, dressed in mascot costumes.

    Hmm, perhaps this isn’t the game for me. It’s like every time I try to do a second replay as evil in RPGs so I can experience the plot from all angles. Even though I know it is only pixels I’m hurting, I start to feel sickened.

    • MadMatty says:

      You need to let the Dark Side flow freely!

      Besides, don´t you know how many slave workers Luke killed in the original Death Star?
      The guy is a war criminal, and only his close relations to the ruling Rebel Faction (Leia etc) got him off the hook.

    • dontnormally says:

      “Death Star Politics”

    • Abattur says:

      Do you know what the definition of a hero is?

    • Lars Westergren says:

      >Do you know what the definition of a hero is?

      I’m hoping the answer is “Someone who feels sickened when pretending to be an evil character in a computer RPG.” Because then I would feel like a badass rather than a wuss.

    • hjd_uk says:

      Aka “History is written bythe victors” .. “A Hero is the guy who survives”

  5. Dominic White says:

    ^^ @Lars Westergren – Saints Row 3 is a cartoon supervillain sim. There really is no ‘good guy’ option here.

    From what I’ve read elsewhere, the general theme of the game seems to be ridiculous escalation of force. You start out just tussling with other gangs. Then the national guard. Then giant cloned brutes that soak up bullets like candy. Then teleporting cyberpunks on rollerblades wielding thunder hammers. And in the latter half of the game, they call in SHIELD, helicarrier and all, to wipe you out.

    They’re called STAG in the game, but it’s totally SHIELD, Nick Fury lookalike and all. And they have guys in power-armor and flying bikes and laser VTOLs and all kinds of crazy future tech.

    I very seldom preorder games these days. I made an exception here. And then preordered a copy for my brother, because his birthday is just after launch. And we’re going to play through the story as a tag-team of Saxton Hale and Miss Pauling (already pre-built in the character creator) from the TF2 comics, because their gleeful amorality fits in with the setting perfectly.

  6. Shooop says:

    Escort reminds me of The Hangover. This is a very good thing.

    And you simply cannot make a game with an octopus gun that’s terrible. You simply can’t. This will be a very long five days.

  7. Tyshalle says:

    Still no word on whether this is the PC version you’re playing?

  8. stahlwerk says:

    Those escalations… do the police and other gangs uh… gang up on you, or do they battle each other as well? I hate it when games do the former, makes it feel as if the player character had a severe case of protagonism and needed to be put down, spontaneously causing everyone to go back to normal in the darkened blur of the kill screen.

    • Dominic White says:

      Police and other gangs immediately start fighting each other on sight, both in SR2 and SR3 (huge running battles could break out in even Saints Row 2, with no player involvement whatsoever), and STAG hate everyone (except possibly the cops), too.

    • zbeeblebrox says:

      I vaguely remember SR2 also having random outbreaks of ninja-vs-pirate brawls, where you could basically just watch them fight it out. So yeah, no case of the Protagonists here :P

  9. YourMessageHere says:

    So is this back on steam or what? I downloaded the standalone character generator, because I’m a sucker for that sort of thing, and having been pretty impressed and able to make both a fairly convincing self-portrait and a prim elderly lady, I was nearly persuaded to buy it. So I go and press the pre-order button and get a steam error. Is this Metro 2033/Brink/Spess Muhrean all over again?

    • Napalm Sushi says:

      Well this is both a curious and annoying trend. I want to buy a company’s product, but they suddenly won’t let me. What Jennifer Government-esque bullshit is this?

    • AngryBadger says:

      Yeah this is annoying. I want to support your game and buy your product but its not on steam, my preferred place to do business. Its like they are encouraging you to pirate. As a consumer I dont care what the business reasons are for this crazy decision, just let me give you money on my terms or Ill simply turn to piracy or not buy your game,

  10. crozon says:

    Is this the PC version? I am very very close to pre ordering this but want to know if the PC version runs well unlike Saints Row 2.

    • Cooper says:

      Yeah, I’m genuinely excited about SR:3.

      Even though 2 ran pretty much fine on my old rig, I’m well aware it was often a shoddy piece of work for many people, so absolutely any comment on that would be appreciated (even if it’s saved for the WIT)

    • outoffeelinsobad says:

      Same here. I want to click that pre-order button, but I remember too well what it was like to wrestle with the controls in the previous iteration.

  11. Tyshalle says:

    John Walker, is there a particular reason you’re not answering — in this or the last hands on preview — questions as to whether or not you’re playing the PC version of the game? Because you’re saying so many nice things about it, and I would prefer to have it on the PC if it is good, but if it is not I’d like to know in time to cancel my pre-order so that I can get it on the PS3 instead.

    • Dominic White says:

      I’ve heard from another writer that the PC version is fine. Unlike Guerilla and SR2, Volition are doing the PC version in-house, in parallel with the console releases, so it’s not an afterthought port.

      Red Faction: Armageddon ran like a dream on day 1, as it was their first in-house job in a while. I think it uses the same engine (at least in part) as Saints Row 3, too.

    • Jesse L says:

      Yeah John, what’s up? This is an important point no one seems able to officially discuss.

    • Tyshalle says:

      Maybe he’s afraid his PC cred goes out the window if he admits he’s playing this on the 360?

  12. Jesse L says:

    Best five day period in game releases EVERRR

  13. Mr_Initials says:

    [Redacted] you say? How horrid. I must play this now.

  14. LionsPhil says:

    Except for the ones with pandas on. The ones with pandas and the word “UNETHICAL” printed across them. Don’t shoot those. That’s unethical.

    Finally—a game which bucks the trend of moral decay and teaches our children the difference between right and wrong. Thank you, Volition—you have saved civilization itself.

  15. El Armonista! says:

    I’m going to out myself as a filthy console gamer here, but please, bear with me.

    Is the “singing along to the car radio” thing still an Achievement? Not that I’m bothered if it isn’t of course, but the Achievement I got in SR2 for a very similar thing is probably the one I’m most proud of out of all the ones I’ve got from games. It was so cute/funny and I didn’t have to do anything.

    I really love Saint’s Row.

  16. FunkyBadger3 says:

    No no no. Don’t be silly. It’s about driving a furious tiger around in your car, while it tries to maul you.

    I can’t feel my legs, Kaiser.