Welcome to hell. In their time the Third Street Saints have been everywhere. From their humble beginnings creating havoc in Stilwater, to celebrity status, to a term of office in the white house, to space travelers, yet nothing has prepared them for their latest and darkest adventure to date. ‘Saints Row: Gat Out Of Hell’ is a short standalone game which is really too big to be labeled an expansion pack yet not big enough to share the status of a fully fleshed out Saints Row game. It’s available now on PS3, PS4, Xbox360, XBoxOne & PC (PS4 version reviewed).
It’s Kinzie’s birthday and the Saint’s are throwing her a party. During the festivities the gang decides to try out a Ouija board with disastrous consequences. While communicating with the other side a rip appears on their spacecraft pulling the president into hell. It’s up to the president’s right hand man ‘Johnny Gat’ and the most technically gifted crew member ‘Kinzie Kensington’ to leap into the belly of the beast and rescue the president, making this the first game in the series where you do not play as your own custom character.
Upon entering hell you quickly discover that the nine circles are experiencing some form of urbanization. As well as fire and brimstone there are roads, buildings, vehicles and even missile defense systems. Within minutes of your arrival you discover that the Devil has captured the president in an attempt to get his rebellious daughter ‘Jezebel’ married off. It’s going to be one hell of a party.
‘Saints Row: Gat Out Of Hell’ features characters that have been previously killed off throughout the series. These characters along with some new additions such as ‘William Shakespeare’, ‘Captain Black Beard’ & ‘Vlad the Impaler’ are here to assist Johnny & Kinzie in creating havoc in the underworld. It’s their intention to cause so much trouble as they can to gain the attention of the Devil and rescue the boss. This is essentially the game’s main mechanic.
Unlike previous games where the player has to either complete tasks & challenges to unlock the main missions (or simple gain enough experience to beat them), there are actually hardly any missions here at all. Aside from finding a few characters to get the ball rolling and a boss fight at the end this title is based solely around the optional activities and challenges which are scattered around the map.
When you begin your quest to create havoc you are given an experience meter. Your job is to fill this meter by doing whichever activities appeal to you and in any order you wish. You do not have to complete every activity to fill your meter up, in fact I’d estimate you only have to complete a little over half of them. There are certain points while filling up the meter when additional tasks will unlock or a cut scene will play to advance the story, but the overall goal is to fill the meter and have that final show down with the president’s future father-in-law.
The activities available include reworked versions of Saints classics. Trailblazing has been replaced with Hellblazing (a race against time to fly around checkpoints on the map) and Insurance Fraud has been replaced with Torment Fraud (where you take the place of a tormented soul to jump in front of oncoming traffic). There are also handful of new activities including my personal favorite ‘Marshalling Grounds’ which involves fighting hordes of enemies in a hole whist attempting to energies a sequence of checkpoints.
In single player mode you are forced to play as Gat right at the beginning and right at the end of the story, however during the bulk of the game you can switch between Gat and Kinzie by returning to the Ultor building. Both share the same stats and abilities so it’s pretty much down to your own personal preference. The game also includes an online co-op mode in which one player will play as Gat throughout and one as Kinzie. Both can explore the world map independently and create havoc as a team.
Like all the previous titles the controls are very comfortable with free movement and aim using the dual analog sticks and just like the previous Saint’s title Gat & Kenzie both have a selection of super powers. The super powers have changed a little since Saints Row IV. For example instead of telekinesis you can now summon creatures to assist you in battle. As an alternative to gliding Gat and Kenzie can now adopt wings in mid air allowing them a period of free flight providing that they have enough stamina to sustain them. The more you upgrade your stamina and wing abilities, the longer you can fly. Although many of the superpowers feel similar to the previous game they have been subtly changed to add a bit of variety and keep them in tune with the hell theme.
Speaking of tunes one notable absence from ‘Gat Out Of Hell’ is a soundtrack. Previous Saints Row games have introduced me to many great commercial tracks, particularly in the genres of Reggae and Hip Hop, however I’m guessing that for a shortened budget title it wouldn’t have been economical to pay for the license to have commercial tracks in this game. That and it would more than likely have disturbed this game’s wonderful dark atmosphere.
One thing I’m particularly impressed with for what is essentially a budget title is the fact that we are treated to an entirely new open world map. I’m guessing that the developers are trying to make up for recycling the same city from ‘Saints Row: The Third’ for ‘Saints Row IV’. Although the standard of graphics still hasn’t improved a great deal from previous titles (even on the next gen consoles) the open world Hell city is extremely hostile and atmospheric. Hell is made up of several islands surrounded by lava with slums, sky scrapers, scaffolding, architecture and interesting set pieces. I felt a real sense of adventure while exploring this new location.
Combat in this game is actually a bit more balanced compared to the previous installments. Since we’re now in hell demons take many different forms with a varied selection of abilities. As well as standard ground enemies you now also have to deal with flying ones, magical shields and vicious hell knights. Having said all of that I wouldn’t say this has made the game any harder, in fact since the game is shorter than a standard Saints Row I’d actually argue that this game is a lot easier.
‘Gat Out Of Hell’ is the first Saints Row game I’ve ever beaten in one sitting (finishing the main story only took a mere 4 hours). Furthermore not only did I beat the story in a single sitting but I also went on to 100% all the activities on the map (which took my playing time up to about 8 hours). I still have some collectibles and quite a few trophies to unlock for certain feats but I estimate that completing everything this game has to offer won’t take longer than 12 – 16 hours from the beginning. This is around half the time it takes to max out Saints Row 3 or 4. Given this game’s reduced price I don’t really mind the fact that this game only includes a couple of days worth of game play as you still get all the fun and intense action that you’d experience in any of the other Saints titles, with the added bonus that it all takes place in a completely new location.
The pacing of this game is a little unusual. Since your given free reign of the map it’s possible to miss a lot of content and bonus items prior to finishing the story. For example this game includes 7 exclusive new weapons based on the seven deadly sins. These include golden, diamond encrusted SMGs which cause fallen enemies to drop more cash, and a dual mini-gun mounted armchair. The way you acquire each weapon is unique and often requires a bit of searching around. At the point where I finished the story I had only found 2 of the 7 special weapons and found the remaining ones during post story clean up. These new weapons are a lot of fun to experiment with but I would have been more grateful if I had them prior to my battle with the Devil. That’s my main gripe with the story, it’s so short that it’s over before it begins.
One feature that I personally thought was a nice touch is that ‘Gat Out Of Hell’ can read data from your ‘Saints Row IV’ save file, so during the opening and closing cut scenes which involve the president, he / she will be portrayed as your custom character complete with your chosen voice. I played ‘Gat Out Of Hell’ on my PS4 and the game pulled my custom character over from my ‘Saints Row IV Re-elected’ play through. I’m assuming that this feature is included on all platforms although I’m not able to confirm this.
Before summing up I do unfortunately have to point out a couple of problems. Like every other Saints Row game I’ve played previously ‘Gat Out Of Hell’ did crash a couple of times. Once with me having to resort to unplugging my PS4 as the whole console froze and I was unable to shut the system down properly. Like I said in my review for SRIV these issues are not deal breakers for me personally as I really enjoy this series but these are still note worthy issues despite them not being overly frequent.
PLEASE NOTE: ‘Saints Row: Gat Out Of Hell’ is available on PS4 and XBoxOne as part of a twin pack along with ‘Saints Row IV Re-elected’. Although all the content for ‘Saints Row IV Re-elected’ is included on the disc ‘Gat Out Of Hell’ is not. On these systems the ‘Gat Out Of Hell’ content is only included as a download code and the game itself is around 7GB in size. If you would prefer a physical copy of ‘Gat Out Of Hell’ then discs are available for PS3 and Xbox360.
Distribution aside, ‘Gat Out Of Hell’ is a fun slice of classic Saints Row action wrapped up in an atmospheric demonic underworld. It’s probably not the best place for newcomers of the series to start, but for anyone who’s enjoyed a Saints game before this should be very easy to pick and get stuck into.
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