I never played any of the prior Saints Row games, so going into this game I wasn’t immediately familiar with any of the characters. This review is going to be taken from the unique perspective of someone unfamiliar with Saints Row. Would a standalone expansion be enough to turn someone into a fan? Would such a person understand the game without the backgrounds? I skew my halo and head for the highway to hell to find out.
So, for those who don’t know (I didn’t, and had to go do the research), Saints Row IV ends with the player character (called “The Boss” or “The President”) defeating an alien invasion (Oh…spoilers). Gat out of Hell starts with the Saints celebrating the birthday of Kinzie Kensington, one of the members of the Third Street Saints. At the party, some of the group play with a Ouija Board, which opens a portal to hell, allowing Satan to kidnap The President as a husband for his daughter. Johnny Gat, The President’s right-hand man, convinces the board to reopen the door to hell, allowing him and Kinzie to go there and take The President back. Of course, this means war. Creating a hell of hell isn’t easy, but the entire goal of the game is to cause enough mayhem to get Beelzebub riled up enough to come after you.
Saints Row has always been placed as a comedic game, and I understand that comedy is something incredibly difficult to pull off in a game because so much of comedy is timing. You can’t just leave a bunch of bananas around and hope that someone’s going to laugh. So I was surprised to find out just how funny the game actually was. I doff my hat to the writers, because they’ve accomplished something that’s purportedly very difficult, and done it effortlessly too. Gat out of Hell makes a lot of really funny references to popular culture and video game culture, and I’d be surprised if anyone got all the references first time around. One notably funny example is when Gat picks up the first collectible in Hell and comments wryly “I hope there isn’t something like a hundred of these things to collect”. Made me guffaw out loud. Obviously, it comes across better in the game than it does in this review.
In the prior game, The Boss had super powers, and to a certain extent, they come back in this game. The first power you’re given is that of flight, and it’s a sheer joy to be able to flap across Hell. The flying mechanism is beautifully done, and it doesn’t take long for you to learn how to spread your wings, so to speak. As is natural, you pick up many powers and weapons throughout the game, and most of them exist more to further the comedic aspect of the game than to be of any general good use (although they have that, too).
Gat out of Hell allows for both “local” and online co-op play, with one person taking on Gat and the other taking on Kinzie. I put local in quotes because local means local only insofar as you’re on the same LAN. You still need two consoles and two copies of the game, which means I’m deducting points. It doesn’t make sense, and should rather have been left at online only.
What’s interesting is just how sandbox the game is. There’s no really big, deep story involvement here, although you’ll see tiny bits of story here and there as you make minor progress onto ticking off Ol’Big Ugly. And I mean it when I say the game is incredibly sandbox: fairly much as soon as you start, you have a laundry list of objectives to play with, from gathering allies, to committing fraud (!), to just being a general annoyance, and any and all of the these things increase the “Tick-off-o-meter”. When the meter reaches its limit, Yon Fallen Angel comes looking for you, and it’s final boss showdown. And it doesn’t take much for Old Hob to get ticked off, either. He IS the Lord of the Pit, after all.
What’s somewhat lamentable is that the game is so short. You’re likely to get about 4 hours out of it if you just go for finishing the main story, but you can easily quadruple this if you attempt to find everything and complete every mission. It’s just something to bear in mind that it IS a standalone expansion.
Gat out of Hell is a heck of a lot of fun to play. There are very few flaws in the game, and yes, the game is funny. It doesn’t take long for you to become used to finding your way around Hell, either, especially since flapping around is the best way to travel. Yes, you could run, but WHY? If you enjoyed Saints Row IV, Gat out of Hell will give you at least a few more hours of this enjoyable series. And to answer my original question: yes, this game has made a fan out of me, and I’ll be shortly in search of the remaining games in the series.
Final Score: 7.5 hellish prawns out of 10
Developer: Volition and High Voltage Software
Publisher: Deep Silver
Distributor: Apex Interactive
Platforms: PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 (reviewed), Xbox One, Windows
Age Rating: 16+