Title: Saint's Row: Gat out of Hell Release Date: January 20, 2015 Genre: Open-world action Developers: Volition, High Voltage Software Publisher: Deep Silver Platform reviewed on: Playstation 4 ($14.99") Also available on:PC,Xbox One, Xbox 360, Playstation 3
This title is rated “M” for mature audiences over the age of 17 by the Electronic Software Ratings Board.
Saint's Row is a series that has reveled in offering the player a more zany experience than its competitors. Do you want to shoot feces at people, places and things in an act of social debauchery? Saint's Row 2 had you covered. Do you want to piledrive pedestrians and pummel their naughty bits? Saint's Row 3 introduced those mechanics. Had the urge to soar above the city as a superhero/President of the United States? That's the plot to Saint's Row IV.
How do you follow those antics? Take your protagonists to hell to fight the devil himself, of course.
Gat out of Hell is a standalone experience intended to build upon the mechanics of Saint's Row IV. It won't matter if you haven't played any of the games in Volition's crime simulator, which was created a decade ago to compete with Grand Theft Auto by upping the crazy factor. This adventure is Volition's swan song for the franchise, and the concerns that have plagued the games since their inception haven't really been corrected. So, if you're a Saint's Row fan, you'll love this game. If not, maybe wait to see what Volition does with “Agents of Mayhem,” scheduled to release next year.
You play as either Gat or Kinzie, two top soldiers in the Saint's street gang. The president, the main character of Saint's Row IV, has been kidnapped by the devil and will be forced to marry his daughter, Jezebel, if you don't intervene. And intervene you do, in an adventure made up completely of sidequests the Saint's Row series has become known for. The game is entirely playable in co-op online. No couch co-op, sorry folks.
Though the series has never been known for taking itself seriously, Gat out of Hell ratchets the self-deprecation to 11. The story is told through a storybook frame, with a narrator explaining what Johnny Gat is doing in order to rile up the devil enough to challenge the Saint to a duel. You'll run across historical figures William Shakespeare, Vlad the Impaler and Blackbeard who will give you new superpowers to stomp hellish foes. The game is set in a demonic version of Steelport, the main setting of the Saint's Row games, and Johnny has the ability to fly around, rendering vehicles essentially useless. Which is good, because the driving mechanics in Saint's Row remain atrocious.
But the flight controls aren't much better. One of the minigames has you rescuing lost souls as they fall to the earth, and you're required to hover to attack certain targets in order to boost your multiplier. The controls are wonky and inverted on default settings, and while the feeling of swift flight in Gat out of Hell is thrilling for about 20 minutes, it grows tedious after that, especially with the same one-liner quips coming out of Gat's pompadoured head every so often.
Whether you like Gat out of Hell will come down to your affinity for the minigames, which are unique and varied to an extent. There's a capture and hold diversion called “Extraction,” flight races and a now-required “Horde” mode called simply “Survival.” Upgrading one or more of your guns is simply as money simply falls out of enemies, and once you do that not many of the game's enemies put up a fight.
The best new addition is a melee-focused contest called “Pledge Rush” which sees you swinging a paddle at damned fraternity brothers who are pestering Vlad in his castle. A swing sends them flying into portals above a wrestling-ring type space, followed by explosions of color and a cash register-sound as you rack up points. It's fun, satisfying and the controls of Saint's Row don't get in the way too much, which is really all you can ask for.
I completed 60 percent of Gat out of Hell in about three hours, so don't expect the game to suck up more than a weekend. Its final boss fight is dissatisfying. You'll spend so much time acquiring new powers but the fight with Satan ultimately comes down to shooting bullet-spongey targets for 15 minutes. For fans of the series, completing the game is worth it to see all the endings and how they set up “Agents of Mayhem.” But I can't recommend the game to anyone who doesn't already enjoy the Saint's Row formula.
Kip Hill joined The Spokesman-Review in 2013. He currently is a reporter for the City Desk, covering the marijuana industry, local politics and breaking news. He previously hosted the newspaper's podcast.