E3 2011's Most Anticipated: Saints Row the Third

CVG E3 2011 Awards: Vote for the games that most excite you!

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Obviously the last thing you want to do when you spend your day's earnings on a new shooter is kiss it goodbye when you respawn or if you try out a different gun. Luckily, modified weapons are persistently stored in the same way as your souped-up rides are in your garages, meaning your $1,000,000 rocket launcher isn't a one-time-only explosion of cash.

Every weapon comes with a unique melée attack too. And by 'unique', we mean a novel take on the classic 'thump to the balls'. There's no clocking people around the head (unless you want to ditch the guns altogether and enjoy some QTE-powered fisticuffs), and if you ever resort to close-quarters jabs while holding a gun the outcome will always, without fail, mean that one way or another your enemy's getting whacked right in the hazels.

One nut-cracker is fine, but a whole army of them is miles better. Online co-op's back in a big way and now it's possible to take more control of your gang than ever before. Cribs have spheres of influences associated with them - the more money you pour into your pad, the wider and stronger its sphere grows.

Likewise, buying up Steelport's businesses will generate bigger incomes and equip your followers with smarter gear. It means Saints members in and around your place will go from carrying handguns to AK47s and beyond, and if any Syndicate gangs are foolish enough to give you any stick they'll have a much tougher time escaping intact.

If you were lucky enough to play through Saints Row 2 then chances are you fell in love with some of the many mini-games. They were a varied bunch, asking you to do everything from break as many bones in your body as possible in one accident to bleed insurance brokers dry, to hijacking sewerage tankers and spraying scat on everyone and everything you saw. And who could forget the streaking and 'throwing celebrity fans into a spinning helicopter rotor' challenges?

Bad news first: not all of them return. But before you get too disheartened, know that the dropped mini-games have been replaced with altogether better ones. There's Professor Genki's Super Ethical Reality Climax, for instance, which is what you get if you throw The Running Man and Takeshi's Castle into a blender.

It's you versus room after room full of sociopaths and traps, played out to a background of excitable Japanese commentary and flashy on-screen graphics. Then there's Guardian Angel, which sees you training to take on the Syndicate by bombing round town in a car with a tiger sitting in the back seat. Clip another driver or - worse - have a full-on prang and your feline friend will maul you as punishment (a major contribution to road safety).

And for fans of the now sadly forgotten GTA Mayhem challenges, Tank Mayhem lets you shake out all those mindless blasting urges by dropping you in a tank in the middle of town, and telling you to go mental. While Rockstar's busy on its quest to produce Serious Entertainment Experiences For Serious Gamers, Saints Row is, and always has been, all about having silly, dirty fun.

And in a city where gimp-pulled rickshaws share the streets with flaming ATVs and remote control tanks, the third Saints Row game has all the ingredients to make it the most outrageously exhilarating sandbox experience on the console.

[Words: Xbox World 360]

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