Imagine a modern day videogame in the mind of someone who has never played one. Imagine no longer, as Saints Row The Third is arguably that game; an overwhelming orgy of preposterous violence that would send a Daily Mail reader into paroxysms of indignant rage if they could ever grasp a sliver of what was happening.
As a snapshot of the action, the lead proponent walks down a busy street while smacking random pedestrians upside the head with a three foot purple dildo. He then gets into a jetfighter and starts casually torching people with its inbuilt flamethrower. And then for good measure, he robs a bank amidst a sky full of exploding helicopters. And then he goes and whacks someone in the nuts.
Subtlety is clearly not the buzzword for the third outing of the Matalan Grand Theft Auto, which is set to complete an improbable trilogy given that other ultra violent crime-based open world games are available. Whereas the achingly cool GTA series has established itself as a cultural touchstone through a combination of shrewd marketing and being quite good, Saints Row - despite offering essentially the same experience - is little more than a footnote, albeit a moderately successful one. So how do they differentiate it from 'other games'?
Writer Drew Holmes sums it up succinctly ahead of the first look: "Our goal for Saints Row The Third was pretty simple: make it the most ridiculous, outlandish, over the top, ridiculous again, open world experience that you've ever seen."
It's certainly the most ridiculous of the week so far, with the usual window-lickers crammed into a windowless room in a swanky Soho hotel for the Monday morning unveiling. While the world outside obliviously goes about its business, we're in the privileged position of having the developer demonstrate how the improved melee system enables you to more cinematically punch passers-by in the testicles, an example of the game's trademark Nut Shots.
Lovely stuff, but in terms of key narrative, who are you, and what's your motivation for scrotal attack? Well, since the end of the previous game, the Saints have ridden their wave of success to become a global brand to the extent that they have their own energy drink and even a movie in the works.
As Holmes tells us, "Everyone knows who the Saints are. They're celebrities, everyone loves them despite their murderous rampaging ways. Because that's the world the Saints exist in, this crazy ridiculous over-the-topness." It's certainly a departure from the traditional conceit of working your way up from a street thug, as Holmes concurs: "This time around you're not starting out from the bottom, you're starting out from the top. You've got all the tools at your disposal to go along with that."
However, not everyone is happy with that scenario, namely arch enemies The Syndicate, who want to take 60% of the Saints' earnings and incorporate them into their organisation. Clearly, the Saints are having none of this, and a battle for the city ensues, which largely makes up the sandbox element of the game. Taking out rival gang members can be a lot more dramatic than whacking them on a street corner however, hence the aforementioned jetfighter.