By the end of Saints Row IV, we were left wondering where in the hell they could go to top the sheer absurdity of the events we had just seen. Turns out that Hell is where they went, or more specifically, where series favourites Johnny Gat and Kinzie go in this standalone expansion of Saints Row IV.
Taking place immediately after the end of the last game, our Saints Row protagonist is enjoying a victory party in space with all his friends and allies until somebody decides to introduce a Ouija board to the mix and it naturally opens a portal to the underworld, sucking in the protagonist. Johnny and Kinzie decide to follow their glorious leader into Hell and thus begins an adventure to rescue the boss from an arranged marriage to Satan’s daughter, Jezebel. As you might have gathered, you don’t play as your regular character in Gat out of Hell, instead you’re using either right hand man Johnny Gat or sarcastic hacker Kinzie (you can switch between them at their base of operations). They are joined by an array of Saint Row’s characters past who vary between being welcome and forgettable additions, with plenty of new characters also featuring, such as the thoroughly entertaining pastiches of Vlad The Impaler, Blackbeard and William Shakespeare (who, of course, owns a nightclub in Hell and spins the decks). So yes, Saints Row is as daft as ever, but does that dilute the fun juice over time?
A common complaint of Saint’s Row IV was that it felt like more of an expansion of The Third than a full-blown sequel, using much of the same assets while ramping up the silly with extreme superpowers and intergalactic warfare. Gat out of Hell is an actual expansion, but this time Steelport is left behind and we have a newer, smaller area set in the Underworld. Here, the damned roam the streets instead of civilians, bodies of water are swapped out for lava, Demons replace gangs and superpowers are given a more holy twist with Johnny or Kinzie getting wings to glide with (the world is built with flight in mind) and abilities such as Hellfire. The story is as barmy as you’d expect as the crude humour is complemented by genuinely funny moments such as the musical scenes and fairy tale story book narration.Oddly, Gat out of Hell seems to dial down on the flatulence and penis jokes.They’re still there of course, but it feels less ‘full-on’ than the recent main additions to the Saints Row series. These changes do freshen up the stale whiff coming off the overused resources to a degree, but being an expansion, it still suffers from a feeling of familiarity that some may be tired of at this point.
We may be in a fresh area, but the entire setup is still safely ensconced in Saints Row territory. The upgrading process is almost identical to the one in Saint’s Row IV, bar the odd twist on the established, while the side missions also get the same treatment; though your powers come from a broken halo instead of a computer program they tend to be the same ones with a biblical coat of paint. As I alluded to before, how willing you are to overlook the same exact formula for a third time will probably determine whether you’ll pick this up. Gat out of Hell is at least playing to the series’ strengths of causing mayhem and doing ridiculous activities and that more than compensates for any staleness. Whether it’s killing and re-killing the same two-bit gangster, booting demons in the unmentionables or cartwheeling your limp body from car crash to car crash, there is always a highly enjoyable mission or oddity to indulge in. A constant stream of joyfully dumb mini-games are the lifeblood of Saints Row and there’s plenty of claret in Gat out of Hell’s jug. Once you’re in deep, tearing about Hell on a mission to punch Satan in the face, any concerns you may have had about predictability and rehashed assets melt away until the end appears in sight five or six hours later(longer if you’re on a collecting spree of course).
There are a few other slight issues that might pick at your enjoyment of Gat out of Hell however. An extremely limited soundtrack, a game world that feels slightly soulless (perhaps that’s the point) and lacking the level of customisation found in the main game, they all make sense in an expansion and are forgivable omissions. The same goes for that oft-mentioned issue with Gat out of Hell being Saints Row The Third re-reskinned, because of course it is. It isn’t a sequel, it’s a nicely-sized nugget of a game that encapsulates all that is good and bad in an increasingly ludicrous franchise while experimenting with a handful of new parts. If Saint’s Row is to return revitalized and full of new levels of wonderful stupidity, then Gat out of Hell is a fine epitaph to this section of its history.