Hell ain’t a bad place – SAINTS ROW: GAT OUT OF HELL

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Saints Row IV ended with the Boss becoming the leader of an intergalactic empire, so understandably at this point Volition is going to have to head back to the drawing board to figure out where the series should go from here. They have stated that the story of the original characters ended with Saints Row IV and the next game – if they make one (spoiler: they totally will) – will do something different. I expect a series reboot since those are popular with the kids nowadays, but if Volition listens to my wishes and makes another game in the vein of Saints Row 2, they risk alienating the crowd that prefers the current, batshit insane direction the series has veered into. Basically, I don’t think they can please all Saints Row fans unless the next game actually lets you choose whether you want to be a Stilwater crime lord or the superpowered god-emperor of the universe.

All of that, however, is irrelevant to today’s article, which the more astute of you might already have figured out the topic of. Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell is a standalone expansion for Saints Row IV, in which the Boss gets dragged to hell courtesy of Aleister Crowley’s old Ouija board. The Boss’ appearance and voice are imported from your latest Saints Row IV save file, at least unless yours was voiced by Troy Baker (Male 01 in Saints Row: The Third and SRIV). Baker, as every AAA publisher’s favorite choice for the protagonist’s VA, is apparently too expensive to slum it in Saints Row these days, so Nolan North (Nolan North in SRIV) replaces him as the default male voice. All the other player VAs from SRIV return, which is great because my Boss just wouldn’t be the same without Laura Bailey’s voice.

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“U… P… Y… O… U… R… S… ‘Up yours’? What a rude Ouija board!”

Satan wants to force the Boss to marry his daughter Jezebel (basically a Disney princess, who for some reason doesn’t want to marry the Boss). Johnny Gat and Kinzie travel to hell to save the Boss and punch Satan in the face. This amazing musical number explains the situation better than I ever could:

I’m not sure that releasing this as an official trailer was the best idea on Volition/Deep Silver’s part because it’s by far the best scene in the entire game, but what do I know about video game marketing?

It should be said up front that Gat out of Hell is NOT Saints Row 5, so don’t even begin to think along those lines. If you go in expecting a sequel or even a full-featured Saints Row game, you will be sorely disappointed. Gat out of Hell is, for all intents and purposes, a story DLC for Saints Row IV, much like Enter the Dominatrix and How the Saints Saved Christmas before it. It has more content than those two expansions, but not enough to be considered a full standalone game. It is being sold at a budget price point, at least, even though 20 dollars/15 pounds/20 euros still feels a bit high for what you’re getting. The game wasn’t even developed by Volition, as they took more of a supervisory role and wrote the thing while High Voltage Software did the actual development work. That’s the same High Voltage who royally screwed up the PC release of Mortal Kombat X and was responsible for the disappointing technical performance of Saints Row IV: Re-Elected on PS4 and Xbox One, released in a bundle with Gat out of Hell on those consoles.

Now, to be entirely fair, Gat Out of Hell gives you an entirely new city to play in, so at least we’re not going to Steelport for the third time (frankly, the second time was pushing it). At a glance, New Hades doesn’t look like much, because… well, it’s hell so the visuals have a lot of the old hellfire and brimstone thing going on and all the citizens are identical shambling husks, but it’s actually quite a well-designed open world environment. The districts are actually different this time around, my personal favorite being the favela built next to a lake of fire. A lot of the map is dominated by industrial and business structures, with Ultor being a major player in the city due to Dane Vogel’s efforts, but there’s also a high-end entertainment district (the highlight of which is the Tempest club, where Shakespeare himself works as a DJ and gives you missions) and other things that help the areas feel distinct.

Traversing New Hades is also a blast, as Gat and Kinzie now get wings. Flying around with the hot winds of hell blowing in your face is immensely satisfying, especially after you’ve collected a few soul clusters to upgrade your flight ability. While flying, you can hit A (up to five times, depending on upgrade level) to flap your wings and gain height, and you can also dive bomb to gain more speed. Finally, there are the aerial maneuvers, which allow you to dodge anti-air missiles later on in the game.

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FLY ON YOUR WAY LIKE AN EAGLE, FLY AS HIGH AS THE SUN

On the ground, the super sprint returns from Saints Row IV and works exactly the same as it did there, and you also have various attack powers that work mostly the same as their SRIV counterparts as well. Ice blast is now stone blast, stomp is, uh, stomp, and coldfire aura lets you iceburn enemies that are touching you. The most interesting skill is Summon, which does exactly what it says on the tin and lets you sic various imps and demons at your foes. You can unlock different elements for your attacks at altars around the city, but generally the first one you get is the most useful.

Of course, if you’d rather pump your enemies full of lead, that also works. There are various demonic weapons used by Satan’s henchmen, and if you’re a traditionalist you can choose one of the Ultor guns that are your basic shotguns, rocket launchers and so on. Most of the time, however, you’ll probably be using one of the special weapons based on the seven deadly sins, as those are the most interesting ones. For example, Sloth is a comfy chair with machine guns and homing missiles, and Greed is a diamond-encrusted SMG that makes enemies explode into money.

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Sounds good so far? It does, but there is a good reason for the mixed reviews Gat Out of Hell received. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that there really isn’t much of a game here. There’s only a few actual missions, each of them activating when you’ve done enough activities to raise the “Satan’s Wrath” meter up to a certain point. I finished the story in five hours, and that involved doing all the loyalty missions (chains of activities) for each of the five major NPCs and collecting about 700 (out of 940) soul clusters.

The activities aren’t particularly interesting, there’s your usual Mayhem, Survival, Fraud (which is now Torment Fraud and has you play as a husk representing a familiar character from the old games, trying to shave years off their sentence in hell) and Blazing, the latter of which is quite fun with wings. In Salvation, you fly around and try to save unfortunate souls before they’re completely dragged to hell (or something, I didn’t really pay attention to the description), and in Pledge Drive you hit fratboy demons with a spiked bat to send them flying through rings. You can also unlock teleporters around town, shut down soul processing plants, and destroy those annoying anti-air spires, or if you want a break from the action you can hunt down audio logs from various characters, or find glyphs that let you open Blackbeard’s treasure chests. Actually, that sounds like quite a lot of content when you describe it like that, but a lot of it isn’t really worth it. There is co-op, of course, and while I didn’t get to try it yet it should work just the same as before.

Even though some of the actual content is less than impressive, taking over New Hades is actually completely worth it this time around because for each district you 100%, you get a little cutscene showing what becomes of the NPCs in charge. 100% control of the entire city gives you a special ending cutscene unrelated to the actual (rather brief and unsatisfying) storyline endings, and it’s completely worth doing if you’re a fan of the series. And if you’re not, you’re probably not playing this anyway, let alone reading some idiot’s article about it.

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The worst part of Gat Out of Hell is easily the lack of customization. Saints Row was all about customization since the very beginning, and being forced to play as regular old Gat or Kinzie without any clothing options or anything is rather disappointing. This is hell, so there should be a wealth of demonic garb or 80s heavy metal apparel to put Gat and Kinzie in, but we get nothing. Speaking of which, there’s no licensed music this time around. Really, the setting would have been perfect for a Brütal Legend style metal soundtrack (albeit maybe not as expansive, as this was obviously rather a low-budget affair), not to mention some Meat Loaf, but we get none of that. All you hear while flying around in New Hades are the screams of the damned and the occasional quip from Gat or Kinzie. I will say it’s nice to hear Kinzie sounding happy for once, instead of being all sarcastic and/or condescending like in previous games.

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Oh, Johnny. emot-allears We may have forgotten since he’s recently been portrayed as the coolest and awesomest badass ever, but Gat never really was very bright.

So, is Gat out of Hell worth it? At 20 bucks or your local equivalent, probably not. At half price or less, sure. It was also free on PlayStation Plus a while back, which was pretty much ideal for what this game is. Gat out of Hell is still fun and has some excellent writing as is generally the case with the Saints Row series, but the lack of customization and music and the barebones campaign hurt the experience quite a bit. A shame, really, because there was a lot of potential here and only a fraction of it was realized.

I’ll leave you with the official launch trailer for Gat out of Hell and SRIV: Re-Elected. At least these guys still know how to put together amazing trailers:

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