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TGS 2011: Saints Row: The Third Hands-On Preview

Japanese gaming legend Tomonobu Itagaki will be featured as a playable character in THQ's upcoming open-world adventure.


Those lucky enough to be present during THQ's Tokyo Game Show showcase today were given quite the treat when the publisher announced that celebrated Japanese game designer Tomonobu Itagaki (Dead or Alive, Ninja Gaiden, Devil's Third) would be making an appearance in the upcoming Saints Row: The Third. Not just any old appearance, mind you: Itagaki will be featured as a playable character, giving gamers the chance to don the signature leather jacket and sunglasses and run amok on the streets of Steelport when the game ships later this year.

The announcement came during THQ's presentation of Saints Row: The Third during this year's TGS, which consisted of a demo showing off one of the signature missions in the game, followed by a brief hands-on session with the game.

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As we already know, the point of Saints Row: The Third is to get as crazy, wacky, and over the top as you can get away with in a game, complete with dildo bats, rocket launchers, and a bazillion and one different ways of kicking someone in the nuts. The gameplay demo focused on one of the main missions, which sees the Saints trying to infiltrate the cyber-hangout of the Deckers, Steelport's elite cyber criminals. To do this, the Saints have to enter a virtual-reality portal and navigate their way to the Deckers' hideout; in the demo, Kinzie Kensington (voiced by actress Natalie Lander) sends one of the Saints into the portal but accidentally has his avatar show up as a toilet. Desperately trying to fix her mistake (or just having a laugh?) she changes him into a blow-up sex doll, and finally, into himself.

The next part of the demo focused on the customization options in Saints Row: The Third, which have been significantly beefed up since the last game. Walking into a shop called Image As Designed, you can pretty much make your character look exactly how you want, with customization options for race, body, face, hair, makeup, and personality. Of course, if you're too lazy to bother with any of this, you can just play as Itagaki.

Itagaki actually introduced his own character during the THQ presentation and took control of him for a while. Naturally, the first thing he did was punch some innocent bystander in the stomach. He then proceeded to ride a flying Jet Ski down the busy Steelport streets and mow down people before parachuting off and launching a missile attack on a nearby luchador hangout. You have to admit, the man has style. (According to his own story, Itagaki was really impressed with the game after seeing it at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo and told THQ as much. Impressed by his honesty, they decided to make a character after him.)

After the presentation, it was time to get hands-on with the game. This demo didn't focus on a particular mission but rather just let players loose on the streets, so we took the opportunity to try out one of the new side activity missions which we've been hearing a lot about. While Professor Genki has become something of an unofficial mascot for Saints Row: The Third, we really haven't seen much of Professor Genki's Super Ethical Reality Climax, an ironic take on the Japanese game show concept. The idea here is that Professor Genki hosts a Running Man-style reality TV show in which contestants must enter an enclosed mazelike warehouse with one objective: kill all the other contestants while dodging deadly contraptions and dudes dressed up as mascots. The whole thing has an air of crazy about it, but it can be a very good distraction for when you tire of hitting people in the junk with the underside of your weapon.

Speaking of weapons, our hands-on demo also let us try the very cool, very creative octopus gun--a gun that shoots slimy cephalopod molluscs at your enemies, rendering them temporarily friendly and allowing you to dispose of them as you will (shooting them in the face with a rocket launcher always works well).

Finally, we learned that the Saints Row team has renamed the left trigger the "awesome button," because pressing it at opportune moments throughout the game lets your character perform a variety of complicated wrestling melee attacks that often end in hilarious finishing moves.

We can definitely say that we're eagerly looking forward to our next encounter with the madness that is Saints Row: The Third. The game will ship November 15, 2011, on the PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

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