Saints Row: Gat Out Of Hell Review – Players Be Satan
Saints Row 4, but in Hell. That more or less covers it. In Hell.
Developer: Volition, High Voltage
Publisher: Deep Silver
Format: PC, PS3, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox 360, Xbox One
Released: January 20, 2015
Copy provided by publisher
It’s hardly surprising to hear rumors that Saints Row may be planning to reboot itself at some time in the future. The series’ love of escalation has reached a point where extremities are severely hard to come by. During the course of Saints Row 4, players got to become the president, fight an alien invasion, deal with the potential destruction of the human race, and acquire super powers in a digitally reconstructed cyber city. Where exactly do you go from there? Volition has done an impeccable job of becoming more ludicrous, more shameless, and more empowering with each iteration, and there are few places left to go anymore.
Well, I suppose there’s always Hell.
In Saints Row: Gat out of Hell, players take on the role of Johnny Gat himself, breaking into Lucifer’s realm in order to rescue The President – the otherwise nameless, self-built player character from previous Saints Row games. Joined by Kinzie – who players can control at any time in either solo or co-op – Johnny has to cause chaos in an all-new city where lost souls wander the streets, demons patrol with magma-powered machine guns, and William Shakespeare runs the hottest nightclub in town. Armed with demonic powers that seem suspiiiiiiciously similar to everything unlocked in Saints Row 4, players get to fly around the city skies, run up buildings, and use a number of arcane attacks that include the summoning of demons and blasting bolts of elemental energy.
As you might have guessed, Gat out of Hell is Saints Row 4 with a new coat of paint, as is common for this kind of standalone expansion adventure. Hell is, itself, a brand new environment (claimed by the developers to be about half the size of Steelport), but you’ll be doing familiar activities in a bid to shake Satan’s hold over the damned. Insurance fraud is now torment fraud, as you’ll control a denizen of Hell trying to get hit by cars in order to shave years off its spiritual prison sentence, and there’s a new Salvation activity in which you fly through the air trying to catch souls as they plummet down from above. Mayhem missions are back, where one simply causes massive property damage with select weapons, as is Survival, a simple challenge in which one staves off waves of enemies. Like with Zinyak’s forces in Saints Row 4, Satan’s minions have various control points and turrets littered throughout town, which players will be expected to capture for further rewards, while you can steal security vans and drive them to drop-off points for Saints Row The Third‘s Kiki and Viola. It’s all just more of the same, but with a Hellish flavor, and that’s not a particularly bad thing.
The actual story missions are relatively brief and thin on the ground, and I actually completed the game by accident because I was expecting more (no wonder Deep Silver’s PR was desperate to stop reviewers from “critical pathing” it). While it lasts, it’s a pretty fun little story that sees Saints Row 2 antagonist Dane Vogel forming an unlikely alliances with the Saints as he bids for more underworld real estate. Johnny and Kinzie will need to gain super powers by partnering with Shakespeare, Blackbeard, Vlad the Impaler, and the DeWynter sisters for… no majorly plot-relevant reasons… but hey, there’s a musical interlude partway through that starts out funny, gets boring, then goes on long enough to be funny again, so there’s that. Plus, the game naturally doesn’t end just because the story does, and completionists will find plenty of side-missions and distractions on offer. Just be warned that, like so many modern open-world games, repetitive busywork makes up a notable chunk of the content served.
New weapons are the main attraction here. There are guns based on the seven deadly sins, such as Pride, a talking handgun that features an auto-firing overdrive mode when it deals enough shots, and Greed, a diamond-spewing rifle that causes enemies to explode into a shower of cash – or “wages” as they’re called in Hell, because of sins and everything, y’know. One of my favorites is completely impractical, but fun regardless – a launcher that fires frogs instead of rockets. The frogs seek out enemies and explode, which is adorable in a twisted sort of way. There’s a lot of fun destructive toys to uncover and play with, so if you want to shoot lava or cover demons in hornets, you’re completely covered. Covered in hornets.
Ultimately, Gat out of Hell is just more Saints Row 4. You’ll be doing most of the same things, interacting with the world in the same way, and feel like Volition’s simply getting some extra mileage out of the engine. This is fine, of course, because I loved Saints Row 4, but there really isn’t much else to say. If the story mode had a little more juice to it, I might have been able to get a touch more excited, but the whole Hell angle doesn’t have much narrative impact, and after the perpetually dark digital Steelport of the main game, Hell’s grey-on-red world neither feels particularly different or exciting. It’s all good content, and I had fun playing it, but like Far Cry 3‘s Blood Dragon expansion, I see an amazing idea that nonetheless paints by numbers enough to not realize the limitless potential on display. Saints Row is at its strongest when it’s surprising you, and by its very nature, Gat out of Hell isn’t all that surprising.
For the most part, the expansion runs relatively well, but there are some audio issues that pop up frequently enough to annoy, with dialog suffering from pops and crackles on regular occasions. It’s worth noting that this problem is also quite prevalent in Saints Row 4: Re-Elected, which launches alongside this. It’s not unbearable, but it’s a frequent irritation that will cause some moderate distraction. Otherwise, visuals are smooth, though not always running at a consistent framerate, and the Hell-flavored effects on weapons and powers provide some lovely audiovisual feedback.
Saints Row: Gat out of Hell is a fun little side dish that caps off the series’ current story arc and may very well set the scene for a full-on reboot. As leery as I get of reboots, this is certainly one instance where I feel it makes a lot of sense. The series’ trademark silliness has reached such extremes that the reset button is a viable option now, a chance to bring things back down to earth – literally – and allow Volition to build itself back up to fever pitch. Regardless of where Saints Row‘s future lies, this expansion is pretty enjoyable, but not essential. It’s got some great new weapons and provides an easy excuse to dip back into a world of shameless comic violence – it’s also a fairly disposable adventure that doesn’t offer much in the way of essential material. You do get to shoot Satan in the face, however, so at least Volition is true to its word.