The Saints Row series has been upping the ridiculousness factor steadily since its first release. In Saints Row IV, Volition introduced super powers to the unapologetically over-the-top open-world game. Where do you go from there? To hell, of course.
I first played Gat Out of Hell at PAX Prime last September, and in the short time I got with it, I left unsure of how it would pan out. I probably should have a little more faith. I loved Saints Row IV, and in replicating the feelings that game instilled in me, Gat Out of Hell succeeds.
Volition is quick to point out that Gat Out of Hell isn't a sequel to Saints Row IV, it's a standalone add-on designed to flesh out the story of the original. There are plenty of activities to partake in, many of which will be familiar to players of SRIV, albeit with a demonic twist of sorts.
My favorite minigame in IV, for instance, insurance fraud—a game in which you hurled yourself into oncoming traffic to collect insurance money—is back, though you'll be a ghoul hurling yourself into flaming and often exploding cars to help run the clock out on your punishment sentence.
From the beginning, every mission is available for you to tackle at your own pace. Completing objectives drives up Satan's rage, which will eventually lead you to the final battle to rescue the President of the United States (who's imported from your Saints Row IV save, if you have one) from Beelzebub himself.
I found myself bouncing back and forth between mission types and quest chains, returning to one when I got bored of the others. It's a great way to tackle something like this, but might not work well for longer games.
Gat Out of Hell takes about four hours to complete. As far as full games go, that's really short, but this is an add-on, and even so Volition managed to pack quite a bit into their special version of hell.
Not only is there quite a bit to do in those short four hours, but the city itself is new and about half the size of Steelport. On top of that it was designed to fly around in, one of the powers you gain at the start.
As a game that kind of just drops you into the middle of hell with the sole objective of pissing of Satan in order to get your friend back, there aren't really any plot points in-between A and B. Because of this, Gat Out of Hell is smart enough not to drag the inevitable conclusion out too long, nor does it hit you over the head constantly reminding me that all that you're doing will lead up to this.
You'll see Satan well enough, and sure, there are a couple of cutscenes interspersed throughout the adventure to remind you that there's a plot happening behind all of the mayhem you're causing, but it never felt too heavy-handed.
Volition did a good job getting a story into this side adventure without making the player feel like it was just some slapped together justfication for destroying everything in sight.
Flying, and Other Super Powers
Do yourself a favor and start off Gat Out of Hell by finding as many orbs as you can and upgrading your flight and running powers, followed by your stomp power. These powers are all variants of existing powers in Saints Row IV, but flight in particular feels so much better.
Hell's buildings and structures are all placed thoughtfully with flying around, over, between and under them in mind. It just feels good to fly under a bridge, up close to a building, then run up the side only to vault off and start over again. Just like IV before it, Gat out of Hell is one of the only open-world games that makes cars seem useless, and for good reason.
Though Gat Out of Hell may be missing dildo bats and hulk hands, Volition has shown that they haven't lost their touch. Unique to the add-on are new weapons, seven noteworthy ones, based on the seven deadly sins, in fact.
My personal favorites are Sloth and Pride, known as Armchair-A-Geddon—a lounger fitted with gatling guns and rockets—and Gallows Dodger, a talking gun that lives for, well, killing.
Once fully upgraded, most of these weapons are game-breakingly powerful, but that's kind of what Saints Row is about, isn't it? Using each of these is ridiculously fun not just to use yourself, but to show to your friends.
Saint's Row IV: Re-Elected
If you pick up the current-gen version of Gat Out of Hell at retail, you can shell out an extra 20 bucks to get the full version of Saints Row IV along with it. If you haven't played Saints Row IV before, or just want to play through it again, you should absolutely do this. If the preceding sentence doesn't describe you, just hold off.
Saints Row IV's current-gen port doesn't add anything you can't already see on Xbox 360 or PS3. The graphics, though updated, are done so in very subtle ways that only trained eyes will notice. The frame rate for Re-Elected also seems to be improved over that of its predecessor, though only slightly. Slowdown still occurs at points, though when it's smooth, it seems to be running at 60 frames per second.
Visual and frame rate enhancements aside, Re-Elected is still very much the same game Kotaku's Tina Amini played and recommended in 2013. If you want to know more about it, read her excellent review. It's worth your time.
Glitches and Bugs
When I first played Gat Out of Hell at PAX Prime 2014, it was then a just-announced title being shown to the public for the first time. I was a little more forgiving of what I saw because of that. Sadly, the few bugs I encountered back then are still in the game today. They're not game-breaking, mind you, but they take you out of a bit.
For instance, when playing as Johnny Gat (both Johnny and Kinzie are playable characters in this one) you can execute demons using two knifes he carries by default. Roughly half the time, however, Johnny ends up stabbing the air, only to see a demon halfway off frame react to his missed attacks.
Several times flying through hell, I'd also knick a structure like a curved section of a freeway, or the side of a building, only to get completely stuck to it, requiring some combination of creative jumping and use of powers to snap my character free.
As I mentioned, none of this is game-breaking, I never had to restart or anything, but it definitely detracts from otherwise exciting moments.
Gat Out of Hell is a game that isn't in for everyone. It's aware of itself and the fact that it isn't trying to be that kind of game, and it's great for it. Whether you've played Saints Row IV or not, this is an excellent diversion worth picking up. And if you haven't and have current-gen hardware, you should definitely pick up the combo pack, SRIV alone is worth the price of admission.
Though subject to some minor flaws, Gat Out of Hell comes off as thoroughly enjoyable and just as funny as its predecessor, even if it's a tad short.
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