Saints Row, the crime gangster game series made by THQ, is in an arms race with Grand Theft Auto to see which video game can be more outrageous. It looks like Saints Row the Third — the third installment in the series — is going to take the cake, thanks to the purple dildo.

You heard that right. I’m not making this up. In Saints Row the Third, you can knock your enemies silly by hitting them with a purple dildo.

And that’s just the beginning of the mayhem that is possible in this anything-goes video game which will be on display next week at the E3 show in Los Angeles. In Saints Row the Third, you play a gangster whose gang is trying to defend turf in the fictional city of Steelport. You can kick your enemies in the nuts or shoot them there if you prefer. You can hammer them or shoot them into little red bits. Clearly, we’re talking about a game that is pushing the edge of taste in just about every way — which explains why the series is so popular.

“This is the most over-the-top, guilty-pleasure game in the industry,” said Greg Donovan, producer of Saints Row the Third at THQ.

Since there is evidently no Grand Theft Auto game coming out this year, Saints Row the Third promises to be one of the hot sellers when it comes out this holiday season.

The point of this over-the-top violence and crude sexism is as old as carnival barkers. You find whatever will offend parents the most and stick that in the game and then try to one-up your competitors who try to out-sleeze your game. There are no ethics in this game and it’s all about having a good, violent time. Parents can complain all they want, but players will reply, “it’s just a game.”

Like the Grand Theft Auto series, this game puts players in an “open world,” where they can run around and do things that are unscripted. The city is huge, though not quite as big as the previous city in Saints Row 2. You can roam the sidewalks, punching terrified pedestrians randomly, or get in your car and run people over. You are the leader of a gang called the Third Street Saints that has, by the third game in the series, all of the money, sex and guns that it wants. No longer do you have to start out as a mere foot soldier running errands for the boss. You are the boss. And you’re at war with a rival gang called the Syndicate. The Saints have relocated from Stilwater, the setting of Saints Row 2, to Steelport, a dying industrial town with drug dealers, prostitution rings, and gambling joints all over the place.

In the game, you can go on a series of missions, earn money and gain status. In one crazy mission, you try to rob a bank with your gang, all dressed up as a celebrity gang leader named Johnny Gat (pictured above right). The robbery goes awry and you have to shoot something like a hundred police officers and take out a helicopter in order to escape. When you’re shooting, you never run out of bullets.

You can also collect all sorts of “bad ass weapons” such as the “sucking cannon,” which lets you suck in a character and then shoot it out like a human cannonball. You can also use an “apocafist” to turn innocent civilians into a bloody pulp.

You can also take to the road in a battle tank or to the air in fighter aircraft that can take off vertically and land like a helicopter. In a mini-game with the tank, your goal is to drive around and kill as many people as possible and inflict as much property damage as possible as well. The dollar amount of the damage is captured in real time in a counter on the screen.

“It’s not realistic, but we don’t care,” Donovan said.

Will it sell? Well, the first games in this series sold in high enough numbers to justify sequels. THQ is investing heavily in the franchise and is reportedly working on film and book versions of the property with partners. As the launch of the game gets closer, THQ will release a character creator that allows players to fashion their own gang members so they can be uploaded and used in the actual game when it launches.

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