Saints Row has become known as an over the top series now, a view that has been fully embraced by Volition as the studio continues to expand on the series. So far in the Saints Row canon you’ve had alien invasions, wrestler crime lords, virtual reality simulations, and of course Mayor Burt Reynolds. Now a new frontier opens itself up for a saintly invasion, one where such a term would be a grave insult; Hell. This new story has Satan kidnap the boss of the Saints, leading Gat & Kinzie to head to Hell to bring him back. This expansion is set after the events of Saints Row IV, and so does contain some minor spoilers if you haven’t finished the main campaign.
It’s a premise that should take advantage of all the humour and outlandishness of Saints Row, but something about the whole experience felt off. When playing you can take control of either Gat or Kinzie, switching between the characters by going to a specific point on the map. There’s not much difference outside of appearances between the two as both will have access to the abilities you unlock. They do say different things though when going around Hell, though they only have a few phrases each which become tiresome once you’ve heard them over and over again.
If you’re expecting a gameplay overhaul then don’t as Gat Out Of Hell plays almost exactly the same as Saints Row IV, though instead of ‘Powers’ you have ‘Arcane’ abilities that grant Gat & Kinzie flight and super sprint. You do gain additional abilities too like Stomp, which sends a shockwave knocking enemies down, or Summon where you can call on some of Hell’s inhabitants to help you in a fight. These powers are fun to play around with when fighting demonic hordes, and the ease of switching between them using the d-pad means that you can have some fun trying different combos. To upgrade these you need to fly around and grab soul clusters,which are remarkably similar to the data clusters of Saints Row IV.
Graphically there isn’t a major leap forward in Gat Out Of Hell on PS4, with the character models perhaps getting the most out of the new generation. The environments wouldn’t look out of place on the last gen of consoles, and with Gat Out Of Hell also releasing on those consoles it likely explains why the PS4 version won’t blow you away. For example on the lava flows you can clearly there is no true upgrade. The world itself doesn’t have a lot of colour variety to it with shades of red, grey, and orange making up most of the scenery.
Combat-wise it’s the same you’ve experienced before in previous Saints Rows. The guns have different names and different ammo types but the end result is the same, while melee sees Gat use knives while Kinzie uses her fists. At first the fights can be tense and you may find yourself running away to recover, but once you’ve upgraded a bit most of the combat feels like a walk in the park. There are a couple of enemy types that do prove a challenge even after you’ve upgraded but nothing that can’t be handled.
The story itself isn’t very long at all. Looking at the quest log there are 13 to complete in total, but many of them just task you with completing the side missions to take over territory, such as Survival. You also have Hellblazing where you must fly around a course as quickly as possible, and of course the classic insurance fraud, known as Torment Fraud here, where you throw yourself in front of cars. Yes, Hell has cars which are pointless to the player almost instantly since it isn’t long before you get super sprint making you faster than any vehicle.
Outside of those quests I think there were four or so main story missions. You can unlock the final boss fight really quickly, but you need to upgrade your gear and abilities to have a decent chance. Of course the quickest way to earn the rewards to do that comes from completing the sidequests, but you could also do the challenges. Either way you can level up Gat & Kinzie without having to do the other nine quests, just as long as you have enough wages to pay for the upgrades like better health or unlimited ammo. The main story could probably be completed properly within a few hours. You’ll spend a lot more time on the challenges.
What Gat Out Of Hell also exposes is how much of the humour relies on the Saints interacting with each other. Take the majority of the cast away and you’re left without many jokes. Without Pierce and his singing along to songs, or Shaundi with her unwavering confrontational self, Gat & Kinzie don’t have anyone to bounce off of. New and returning characters are put in to fill that void, but they get so little screen time anyway that there’s no time for true bonds to form between the characters. You have historical characters, for example Blackbeard, who could have added an extra layer of humour but feel wasted. In fact all of these additional characters have great initial set-ups but the plot takes them nowhere.
Speaking of plot Gat Out Of Hell teases another plot that could have been amazing had it been used instead of what was given. I won’t spoil that alternate plot too much but it would have had some returning rivals of the Saints facing off against their new allies. Instead all of that plot is detailed and wrapped up through the main story’s own cutscenes.
One of my favourite things about previous Saints Row games has to be the soundtrack, and I was kind of looking forward to hearing what tracks could appear in Hell. There are no songs except a couple that appear in story context, though those are original pieces. In a series that does silly things surely a Hell radio station isn’t that far fetched. The lack of any kind of music, even something playing quietly in the background, leaves behind a dead atmosphere. You don’t actual realise how much of an impact background music has on a game until it is taken away.
Saints Row is a series that is also known for absurd customisation, but since you’re playing as established characters there is none of that here either. There were no silly costumes to unlock for either Gat or Kinzie even though you see plenty of outfits that could work worn by Hell’s inhabitants. There’s a group that wear sheep head masks. Why can’t I wear one of those while flying around? You may also notice on the box art of Gat Out Of Hell the character is shown as dual wielding some guns while flying. You can duel wield and you can fly, but you can’t do both at the same time. That would have been amazing, but it just doesn’t ever happen.
The thing about Gat Out Of Hell is that it feels like Saints Row IV but with things stripped away instead of expanded on. Sure you have the challenges to complete, though they aren’t different to the other games in the series, and there are a lot of collectibles to hunt down to unlock everything. Outside of that though Hell as a location feels a bit bland, and without the other Saints to bounce off Kinzie and Gat aren’t that interesting or funny. Combine that with the lack of in-game music and customisation options and this entry is a step backwards for the series.
Don’t get me wrong, this game can be fun when you’re engaged in big battles against the demons, but outside of that it is lacking character. Gat Out Of Hell does come included with Saints Row IV: Re-Elected on new generation consoles, but you can also download the expansion on its own on both Xbox One and PS4. On last gen the boxed version currently costs £25 but I don’t think there’s enough there to warrant that price unless you’re genuinely a huge Saints Row fan.
Version tested: PS4