We’ve been covering the Gat Out Of Hell Saints Row expansion here on the site for a while now in the build up to release, and I’ve been wondering why? I wasn’t overly enamoured by Saints Row IV, as the review summarised:
It’s charming, amusing and entertaining despite its flaws. Maybe my mistake with this game was not doing what I did with Saints Row The Third and play it through with a co-op partner. That would probably have been messy, but much more fun. It’s an easy platinum (as long as you don’t mind leaving your machine on for 40 hours), but once I’ve done I’ll be trading it back for something with more depth.
Little did I know that we were in for a lack of decent and engaging open world action games for the new generation (ignoring GTA V), and that when the info started to appear about what Volition were doing, I’d actually get quite nostalgic about re-visiting Steelport and spending time with the mighty Saints again. I’ve forgotten about the things that I didn’t like, remembered the fun I had, and have been drawn in by the adverts and promo work; and maybe most importantly, I’m not obsessed with platinum trophies anymore so won’t be put off by the grind! This is going to be a two part review – I’ll cover the Gat Out Of Hell DLC now because it’s new content, and provide a comparison review for Saints Row IV Re-elected later.
This DLC picks up (sort of) where the story of Saints Row IV ends, and has the President of the USA being abducted to become Satan’s daughter’s Husband because… well, does it need a reason? It’s Saints Row. You, being Johnny Gat, can’t possibly let your boss and best friend disappear into the Underworld, so head out to save him by Ouija boarding yourself (and Kinzie who you can swap to play, given that character customisation is not present) into Hell. Cue induction to the way the world beneath works, and a whole heap of demonic trouble for you to get stuck into. Satan hasn’t made things great for the denizens of his realm though, and there are numerous disgruntled lost souls willing to help you out with advice and weapons. Blackbeard, Shakespeare, The DeWynter sisters, Dane Vogel, and Vlad The Impaler – all lend their wisdom to help Johnny cause enough chaos to get himself noticed by Satan, and stand a chance of rescuing the Boss.
Told in a fairytale book style, the story following your exploits in Hell is good, but sadly very short. Clocking in at less than 4 hours to get to the end of the main game, and having it 55% complete at that point, left me a little jaded. Where are the story driven missions? The surprise twists in gameplay to move the plot along? The stretching it out by making do everything marked on your map? In contrast to the bigger game, the need to finish up missions for all your dead compadres is absent. Meet them once, do the introductory mission (usually just a “defend them” type affair that rewards you with a new ability), and then move back to the central point to trigger the next stage of the overriding mission structure. There’s no real need to go back to the them until after the final mission and you want to continue playing with your unlocked powers to grab the crazy amount of collectibles – over 1,000!.
Taking cues from SRIV, the need to drive vehicles round for any great distance has been removed, and you’ve been given the power of flight. This is quite probably the best innovation they could have come up with. Super speed and jump return, but don’t compare to gliding, soaring and climbing using your acquired wings. The locomotion mechanic is so good that I wasted the first hour after getting them just free flying in one area grabbing “souls” to buy upgrades to go further and with more power. At no point did I tire of leaping into the air and winging it to the next location. Alongside flight there are demonic offensive powers to be had in the form of stomp, summon, aura and blast; all of which come in handy for dealing with the enemies you’ll find in the world. Weapons are still around, and the same upgrade system is in place for them too. Make sure you upgrade early and as far as possible with them otherwise you’ll get caught short in some of the combat situations. Not that you’ll die, it’ll just take a long time to kill some of the more powerful bad guys.
Insane weapons make a return with things like the Plague of Frogs, Gallows Dodger, Diamond Sting, and Armchair-A-Geddon to name a few. The best are linked to the seven deadly sins, though given the progression of the main game I’d not found half of them before taking the final mission. There’s still use for them afterwards though if you decide to complete all the side missions dotted around the map. As with Saints Row the Third and IV, a lot of the action is taken up with races, survival, destruction and rescue scenarios; the main difference here is that this makes up the full game of Gat Out Of Hell. Aside from the final boss battle, there’s not much other than optional side quests to keep things interesting. It won’t take long to crack through them all, but repetition is the order of the day, even if there aren’t too many that they get to be a grind.
Technically, it feels like the same game engine used for the last generation versions, just upscaled and with a smoother framerate so the level of detail isn’t where you might expect it. There are v-sync options for in-game and cutscenes that can be toggled, and the weird behaviour here is that the cutscenes are where I’ve seen the most graphical and sound problems. In-game there’s not a hitch regardless of what’s going on with you, or the number of enemies on screen; in cutscenes there’s a touch of the judders, but most off-putting, it’s the really poor lip syncing that lets it down. It ruins some of the finer moments – like a Disney inspired musical interlude. With this releasing on new generations there’s the incorporation of voice control which is a bit hit and miss with picking up what you’re saying, yet is the most comprehensive inclusion I’ve seen yet, giving you nearly every option you need, including setting your game difficulty.
Playing through Gat Out Of Hell had me smiling and laughing much like the previous games – it still knows how to make fun of itself and the type of game it is. Even the voice actors know what they’re doing and why, giving some great one liners and performances, as well as a few surprise appearances. I can’t pretend to not be disappointed at the length though, I was getting into my stride when it finished, and I was hoping it was just a faux ending and the real plot would be revealed. However, this is an expansion, not a full sequel, and for the price (£15.99/$19.99) it’s worth having a play through – especially if you’re craving something irreverent. Foul-mouthed, bloodthirsty, disrespectful and hilarious, Hell doesn’t seem too bad a place with Johnny Gat around.
A PS4 review copy of Gat Out Of Hell was provided by the Deep Silver PR team. The game is released on 20th January in the US, 23rd January in the UK for PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC.