Saints Row: Gat out of Hell Review

Written by Rick Lane

January 23, 2015 | 10:17

Tags: #gta #saints-row #saints-row-iv

Companies: #deep-silver #volition

These constraints on Volition's abilities are visible elsewhere too. Early on in the game it suggests you recruit Hell's biggest names to your cause, namely Shakespeare, Blackbeard, and Vlad the Impaler. The idea of forming a rebellion against Satan with some of history's greatest figures is delightful, and Volition's introduction to each is strong. Vlad, for example, is imprisoned in what is essentially a giant nursery that plays the first few verses of "Wheels On The Bus" on loop for eternity. But all these characters ultimately do is offer you a new power. Their "loyalty" missions consist of a string of side-activities you must complete, and that's pretty much the end of their influence on the story.

Saints Row: Gat out of Hell Review

Speaking of missions, the lack of a central "campaign" is perhaps the biggest omission of all. Instead, you push the story forward by completing side-activities, which fills a bar representing "Satan's wrath", eventually triggering the next plot point. It works well enough, but again Volition have a knack for creating highly entertaining campaign missions, certainly better than what most open-world games provide.

There's one other missing piece that ought to be mentioned. Because you play as a specific individual (which can be either Johnny Gat or Kinzie depending on your preference), there's no ability to customise your character. Neither can you alter their costume, or any of the vehicles. These don't leave as big a gap as the lack of core missions or the stripped-down script, but at times I did miss the ability to tailor a daft superhero costume to wear while flying about.

Saints Row: Gat out of Hell Review

Again, it's an expansion pack, so we shouldn't expect too much. But expansion packs are normally an extra portion of the same dish. Gat out of Hell, on the other hand, is a completely different meal cooked with half the ingredients missing.

The good news is, what Volition have managed to plate up is still pretty tasty. As with Saints Row IV, Volition make the simple act of getting about a liberating joy. In Saint's Row IV, flying was limited to a gradually descending glide. By comparison, Gat out of Hell's wings are far more involved, requiring controlled descents to build acceleration and carefully timed wing-flaps to ascend without stalling. Flying can also be upgraded to increase speed, manoeuvrability, stamina and the number of flaps available before you need to land. Within a couple of hours you'll be swooping gracefully around Hell, snatching upgrade clusters from the rooftops of skyscrapers, and dropping into enemy-occupied control-points to deal a dose of un-death to Satan's innumerable minions.

Saints Row: Gat out of Hell Review

The other available powers are largely re-skinned versions of those seen in IV. Blast now turns enemies to stone, which instantly kills the several types of flying opponents that pester you through the game, while stomp can be altered to send enemies flying, or emit a "Holy Flash" that does extra damage. In addition, Volition have designed a suitably hellish set of weapons; a lightning-charged hammer of the gods, a machinegun that spits lava, and best of all, a crossbow/shotgun combo that fires a half-dozen wooden stakes out in an arc.

Individually, there's no particular weapon or power that stands out. Yet when you put it all together, Gat out of Hell is a blast. My favourite tactic was to dive-bomb into a group of enemies, send them scattering with a fully-upgraded force-stomp, and pick off the stragglers with the cross-shotty, switching to the rocket launcher for vehicles. Sadly, like Saints Row IV, few side-missions cater toward such open play. Returning missions, like Mayhem, restrict you to using a specific weapon, while the new "Hellblazing" activity focuses purely on flying through checkpoints. The capture-and-hold "Extraction" facilities are set indoors, making your wings more of a hindrance than a help. The only time when you can combine everything is while assaulting the "Marshalling Grounds", control of which lets you teleport around the map. The only problem is, during the entire game I never used the Marshalling Grounds because I had bloody wings.

Saints Row: Gat out of Hell Review

Gat out of Hell sees Volition wring out the very last drops of what's possible with the current Saints Row formula. I admire that they attempted such a fantastic idea in an expansion pack, but I also feel that this particular performance deserved a bigger stage. What's more, Volition need to think a little harder about how to incorporate different play-styles into the various activities, instead of restricting the player's abilities for the purpose of individual side-missions. In the end, as a fanciful escape from January's reality of returning to work and dealing with the taxman, Gat out of Hell does its job just fine.
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