There is one very simple and somewhat disappointingly efficient way to review Saint’s Row: Gat Out Of Hell.
It is a re-skin of Saint’s Row IV.
There. All done.
Oh. Oh, apparently that doesn’t really constitute a day’s work.
Let me refill my calabash, set the boy to waxing the horses and I will write a little more.
I am… conflicted by the recent Saint’s Row releases. I can count on the fingers of one hand – it’s a skill every Englishman learns before he’s allowed his first butler – and one of the things I can count like that is the number of games which devote so much effort to making sure that I have such a deliriously, gloriously silly good time. With blackjack and hookers. From my flirtations with Saints Row 2, through my torrid, steamy, rattling affair with Saints Row: The Third, no other game franchise has so reliable made me giggle like a child. Some stunningly crude humour wrapped thickly around some occasionally surprisingly tight and classically referenced writing, dressed in a thong and driving a bright pink tank makes for… just a swell time. Really. Yes, there were some strange missteps, yes there are manifold issues about which one could have party-spoiling discussions, but fundamentally, there is a LOT of fun to be had.
Now, anything I say about Saints Row IV can be said about Gat Out Of Hell, so I will talk about the latest release and you can, should you so choose, print this out, sit down with tippex and a ballpoint pen, and replace any instance of the latter with the former and have a party. Or get your butler to do that for you.
Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell is… an odd beast. The ridiculous humour and ultra violence of Saints Row: The Third is still well in evidence, but the developers have let their sillier sides off the leash. Far from the almost-realistic guns, cars and cash world of Saints Row: The Third, here we are given a set of extensive superpowers and moral license to blow the hell out of
anything everything. That sounds great and for a while it is… but the the powers in the end game are far too powerful, the connection to the world rendered tenuous and any sense of accomplishment from the early game is gone.
That would all be fine if the plot, story and writing held that together. To be fair, there is still a lot of humour and joy to be derived from that, but Saints Row IV more or less entirely did away with proper missions, instead using cut-scenes and NPC interaction to compel you to complete the events and games which were once a distraction. Now, if you felt that the greatest joy to be found in Saints Row: The Third were the manifold games and challenges to be found on the map, then I guess that’s fine, but I sorely missed having real missions and a coherent (if ridiculous) story. Gat Out Of Hell is all the more blatant about this. What plot there is, is presented in short cut-scenes, some animated, some just a narrated picturebook, but the action in between only ever amounts to “complete this list of side-activities”. Some of those cut-scenes, however, are a genuine delight. A full blown musical number is a highlight, but the Saint’s Row humour is on full display. An early reference to Jane Austen was a treat and special mention must be made of one of the greatest pieces of nerd-service-casting ever in an end-game cameo as God. Seriously, I nerded out stupidly.
The actual gameplay of Gat Out Of Hell is almost identical to Saints Row IV. The powers are as close to identical and makes no bones about it, the only major difference is that we are now treated to a full-fledged (ha!) flying ability. Hell itself looks rather good, but it also looks very similar to Saints Row IV’s virtual city. Lastly, a few of the less directly explosion-related features have been stripped out; you play as either the titular (*snerk* I said titular) Gat, or the lovely Kinsey, and there are no options for personalisation of the characters or wardrobe. Gone is the (admittedly shallow) financial take-over aspects of store ownership and all weapon-shop interactions are now reduced to visits to sporadic vending machines…which also, for some reason, can re-set your wanted level. Most of the weapons are a grab-bag of trusted stand bys from previous titles, although each category now boasts an unlockable “Seven Deadly Sins” themed specials, most of which are fun, but only one of which is an honest to god mini-gun toting recliner with missiles.
I guess I sound rather down on the game… and I suppose I am a little, but only in relation to the joy I found (still find) in Saint’s Row The Third. If you’re prepared to accept the list-of-challenges mission structure as adequate then Saint’s Row Gat Out Of Hell is, for the cost, a big, brash, silly, joyous, explodey, oily, lap-dancing bundle of fun which wants you to have a good time and isn’t going to judge you for it.
Given that Gat Out Of Hell is clearly just an expansion to the fundamental Saint’s Row IV gameplay, it’s no surprise that all the things I found troubling about Saints Row IV are still very much in evidence.
I, for one, however, sincerely hope that these last two releases don’t represent the future of the series. I hope Saint’s Row V, whenever it happens, gives me a proper story and real missions. I hope it tones down the excesses of the super-powers so that I can feel more connected to the game world. I fervently wish that it will be a huge, silly, massively incendiary mix of the grand pantomime of Saints Row IV and Gat Out Of Hell and the sense of ownership and achievement that came from Saints Row: The Third‘s smaller scope and more personal plot.
So… conflicted, as I say. There are many things I feel are wrong with Saint’s Row: Gat Out Of Hell, however, there is a magnificent, silly bundle of joy there. The game’s sheer dedication to making you have fun when you play it is worth a great deal and compared to the wealth of po-faced content available these days, it’s a breath of fresh air. You will have fun, but it won’t be without some reservations.
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