After the dust had settled at the end of Saints Row IV
, it was hard to imagine where the franchise could possibly go from there. The fun-filled, and at times hilarious series has seen the Saints progress from street gang to running the United States, and culminated in the destruction of Earth, and the remainder of your crew floating through the stars aboard a spaceship.
In Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell
, the standalone expansion pack that fits somewhere nicely between DLC and full retail release, Volition are now letting you loose on the streets of Hell, as you once again wreak havoc in the way that only the Saints can.
In typical Saints Row
style, the game starts off in ridiculous fashion when the crew decide to play with a Ouija board to celebrate Kinzie’s birthday. As expected things, take a turn for the worse, and the President (you from previous games) is sucked through a portal into Hell where Satan plans to marry him off to his daughter, Jezebel. Johnny Gat, not one to take lightly to kidnapping and arranged marriage, and Kinzie, because it’s her birthday, decide to follow in a quest to get the boss back.
Upon arriving in New Hades, it’s at first difficult to see where Volition have scaled back on previous titles to allow for the game’s lower price point, but as you progress it becomes much more apparent. Despite the surroundings initially feeling new and worthy of the Hell setting, the more time you spend on its streets, the more similarities you will find to a watered down version of Virtual Steelport.
Your job in Hell is to make yourself as much of a nuisance as possible by completing the various activities around New Hades, which in turn will fill up Satan’s wrath meter. Activities are unlocked by interacting with some old familiar faces to the franchise, and some interesting new ones; Blackbeard, Vlad the Impaler (whose castle has been over taken by squatters whilst he was incarcerated), and William Shakespeare who is now a DJ - all of whom are introduced as though they will play a major part in your quest, but are then unceremoniously shelved.
For a series that has featured some of the craziest, funniest and well thought out campaigns in recent memory, the lack of any mission structure in Gat Out Of Hell
is sorely missed. The whole four to five hour long story is nothing more than a collection of what would be considered to be side objectives in previous games, all strung together by narrative cut scenes.
There are however five different endings available which will add some replay to the game should you wish, although none of them seem to alter what happens afterwards in any real way.
Some of the activities you undertake are straight copies from previous games. Mayhem remains the same (it doesn’t really need any additions), with you tasked with causing as much destruction as possible in a set time. Insurance Fraud has been renamed as Torment Fraud and is basically the same, expect this time you play as one of Hell’s tortured souls, throwing yourself in the way of traffic to knock time off their sentence. New additions include Soul Extraction where you have to hit demons through targets with a baseball bat, Extraction Facilities which require you to hold three areas of a building simultaneously, and easily the best addition, Hellblazing, which is basically a checkpoint race that uses the new flight ability.
All of the different activities offer something different, with easy, medium and hard difficulties available throughout the map to keep you interested and challenged once you begin to upgrade your character abilities and weapons. It’s the same mad capped, mayhem and fun we've seen from the Saints Row
games previously, which on one hand is brilliant, but on the other makes you wish there was something truly fresh and new to do.
Unlike previous games which allowed for character customisation at the start, you are restricted to playing as either Johnny Gat or Kinzie throughout. Both come complete with an arsenal of one liners and quips that will have you smiling on more than one occasion, but unfortunately they don’t have any interaction with each other. It would be nice to have the pair fighting along together, but unless you play in co-op, one will be left behind twiddling their thumbs whilst you set off to cause more mayhem.
Other features that have become essential to the Saints Row
experience have also been left behind on the cutting room floor. Gang warfare, homies, customisable rides, radio stations, clothing stores, cribs, and a lively bustling environment have been replaced by identical grey-skinned husks, vending machines and dark and imposing surroundings (it is Hell after all).
Despite some of the negatives, there are moments that are typically Saints Row
that will make this an enjoyable experience for fans of the franchise. The Disney-esque musical is one particular highlight, and some of the new weapons such as the arm chair that fires rockets and is complete with a machine gun, a SMG that shoots out blood sucking locusts, and Lil Croaker that fires out exploding frogs are all fun to play around with.
The special abilities found in Saints Row IV
return with a few tweaks. Super Sprint is a copy, but the Super Jump has been replaced by Flight which allows you to travel around New Hades much quicker than you could by car. At first the abilities are quite weak, but if you use your time to upgrade these skills using the Soul Clusters which fill the map, you will quickly find yourself masterfully swooping your way around the map. The only drawback to the Flight mechanic is that as soon as it becomes useful, Spires (the game's version of AA guns) begin to appear and shoot you down, requiring you to land and taken them out.
Super powers also return, with new ones unlocked as you progress through the game. You can quickly switch between each power using the D-Pad, and as each one has a separate cool down meter, you’ll find yourself switching between them all in battles. The Stomp ability allows you to slam into the ground, knocking down enemies within its radius, Blast turns enemies into stone, Summon releases imps that will attack your enemies, and lastly Aura sets any enemies in close proximity on fire.
New elements can be added to each power to change its effect by entering altars and collecting souls, which basically means killing three waves of enemies.
Like the game, the achievement list has been scaled back from the one found in Saints Row IV
. Finishing the story will only unlock a small number, with the rest taken up by finding collectibles, including all 940 Soul Clusters
, completing all the various side objectives and completing a list of 101 challenges
which vary from getting kills with a particular weapon to Super Sprinting for 25 miles. For completionists, the Twenty-Twenty Vision
achievement for spending 20 hours in Hell will likely be the last achievement you unlock and should give you more than enough time to work your way through the remainder of the list.
It’s important to remember that being a standalone expansion, Saints Row: Gat Out Of Hell
isn't meant to offer the same full
experience we've come to know from the franchise previously. There are a number of features sadly lacking, the main thing being any real mission structure to the story, but the same mayhem-filled gameplay is still there on offer.
For a mid-price game, there is more than enough gameplay to get your money's worth, including multiple endings to the story which will add replay value and a map full of collectibles and activities to take part in.
If you've not played Saints IV
previously, or have but wouldn't mind playing it again, I’d highly recommend picking up the bundle which includes both Saints Row IV: Re-Elected
and Gat Out Of Hell
to give you the full Saints Row
experience. For everyone else, the price point of the title makes it certainly worth a purchase, just don’t come in expecting a full blown sequel.
The reviewer spent approximately eight hours in Hell, completing the story and playing through the various activities earning 25 of the game's 45 achievements. An Xbox One copy of the game was provided by the publisher.