Saints Row IV hasn’t had a shortage of downloadable content since its 2013 release. How the Saints Saved Christmas and Enter the Dominatrix both launched as part of the Season Pass for the game. These wild, over-the-top additions have given players a reason to keep coming back to Saints Row, even though even the most ardent of fans wouldn’t call them challenging, meaningful, or anything other than dumb fun. Gat out of Hell, a standalone expansion for Saints Row IV aims to be more of that… with mixed results.
Say what you will about the constantly evolving Saints Row series, but Volition has managed to keep it fresh and full of humor with great writing. They’ve offered new locales, and new ways to enjoy their open-world playgrounds in each iteration. In Gat out of Hell, the new way to enjoy the open-world is flying. The new locale is Hell. The President, the player character from Saints Row IV, is sucked into the underworld by a magic Ouija board. Satan himself wants the President to marry his daughter, Jezebel, and the Saints are hell-bound to save their friend. Fan favorites Johnny Gat and Kinzie Kensington are the playable characters in this expansion, and the ones that will ultimately be tasked with saving the boss. Just as soon as your heels hit the ground, it’s clear that this is simply more of Saints Row IV though. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just unfortunate that so much of Gat out of Hell is rehashed and re-used in this expansion. Gat out of Hell just doesn’t have the same charm or finish that Saints Row III and Saints Row IV have, it relies heavily on the player’s enjoyment of the open-world aspects of the game. Most of the content here is of the meandering side-mission variety.
It’s just unfortunate that so much of Gat out of Hell is rehashed
It’s not mandatory that you’ve played Saints Row IV to enjoy Gat out of Hell, but IF YOU HAVEN’T played the original, your money is probably better spent there. Gat out of Hell isn’t quite the size and scope of the main Saints Row IV campaign, nor does it have a very compelling set of story missions, though it reuses the same structure and delivery methods as the main game. If you HAVE played Saints Row IV, you’ll be in very familiar territory in almost every aspect, except for the new addition of being able to fly. Gat out of Hell is par for the course when it comes to expansions, we weren’t necessarily expecting a brand new adventure, but something with a little more meat than this would have been a better payoff for the long wait. Ultimately, Hell feels like little more than a re-skin of a smaller version of Steelport, with many of the side missions being almost identical to those that you’ve played in the original game, now with new names or modified aesthetic. It’s fun stuff, as Saints Row IV had a pretty good structure. The side content was mixed in with a nice amount of story content, and it was all tied together with a fun progression system to keep you constantly collecting. It WAS a winning formula.
Unfortunately that really good story content is nowhere to be found in Gat out of Hell. Sure, there are a few cutscenes, and a Disney-esque musical number, but the actual missions themselves send you off to rescue famous residents of Hell, with little explanation as to why. These four historical characters: Shakespere, Blackbeard, Vlad the Impaler, and the DeWynter sisters are there to introduce you to four new power-ups. These missions to rescue the famous residents and secure the power-ups are the main four story missions of the game. Each one of these characters has a set of loyalty missions behind them that feel like little more than a series of familiar challenges. It’s set-up exactly like Saints Row IV, but with repetitive gameplay behind it, and none of the humor. It’s pretty underwhelming, even more so when you take into consideration that these challenge missions are repeated more than once, some up to four times. As you complete the challenge missions for each character a meter builds that will ultimately unlock a final battle with Satan, and that’s the game. There’s plenty more to accomplish and complete, as is the case with many open-world titles, but this one can be completed very, very quickly.
It’s up to the players to get the most out of Gat out of Hell.
So it’s up to the players to get the most out of Gat out of Hell. A lot of the same gameplay mechanics are in this expansion. Upgrading powerups, Collecting new weapons, upgrading all the many different facets of your character’s skills — you can certainly spend 10-12 hours in Gat out of Hell if you wanted to. There’s a host of new weapons to play with, 7 Deadly Weapons to be exact. Modeled after the 7 Deadly Sins: Gluttony, Envy, Greed, Lust, Pride, Sloth, and Wrath. Each weapon has a unique feature, and they’re undoubtedly fun to mess around with, upgrade, and then turn on the demons of hell. The new flying mechanic does add some new ways to reach and collect Soul Clusters, which function as the currency needed to upgrade your new power-ups. Hell is littered with stuff to collect and activities to complete. So if that’s what you’re looking for in this expansion, you’ll be happy with the amount of stuff to do, and collect.
But there’s a lot that’s been peeled back from Gat out of Hell. There’s no customization when it comes to the player outfits and appearance. That’s been a pretty big part of Saints Row in the past. A lot of corners just feel like they were cut in Gat out of Hell. The humorous writing, a cornerstone of the series, is nowhere to be found. The storybook presentation feels like it was substituted for actual cutscenes in most cases. There are no radio stations at all, cars simply don’t play music when you get in them. Ammo shops are vending machines instead of actual stores. Gat out of Hell feels, well, soul-less. Maybe that’s deliberate given the setting, but the world feels more static than it has in the past. That’s a problem for open world games, especially for a game like Saints Row. The world needs to be something that is begging to be explored. That just isn’t the case here.
For all the things right that SRIV and the series in general has done over the past few iterations, Gat out of Hell isn’t a promising glimpse at the future. Perhaps its just a case of the game continually trying to top itself in outlandishness, and coming up empty with this attempt. The new gameplay mechanic, flying, is fun and shows promise, but just isn’t enough for fans craving that next big Saints Row experience. While it should get people talking about where the series will head next, it’s clear that there are many ways this can go. Hopefully, there’s more Saints Row in the future. Hopefully it’s better than Gat out of Hell.
- This article was updated on January 21st, 2015