A little while ago we reviewed Saints Row IV on the PS3, and found to be really good fun, and totally barking mad. With a virtual settings, the emphasis moved away from real world weapons and vehicle-based map traversal and brought in some crazy guns and some very cool superpowers lettings you sprint at incredible speeds and jump over entire tower blocks in a single leap. The review is over here if you fancy it, and it’s worth a read if you want to know whether to pick up Re-Elected or not considering it’s the same game just with prettier visuals and all of the DLC which was released.
So let’s not worry about that. We know it’s a fun game, and we know that if you’ve played it before then you probably won’t need to go into it again unless you really enjoyed it and want to play it again. Instead, it’s worth focussing on Gat Out of Hell, the standalone expansion-cum-stopgap which has been released alongside Re-Elected to give you something else to try out while Saints Row 5 is still a while away.
Gat Out of Hell kicks off with the remaining Saints – yourself included, still the president of the US – flying around space while having a harmless session with a ouija board. Things do take an awkward twist though when the Devil rocks up and you’re plucked out of space and dropped into Hell. SO much for that harmless ouija board. From this point on you’ll be flicking between Johnny Gat and Kinzie Kingston from SR4, trying everything you can think of to rescue the president. This is done not through a normal campaign like you’ll find in the “main” game, but instead through a series of smaller tasks which you complete to stir up trouble and generally piss off the Devil. You won’t be able to customise your characters in any real way and obviously the idea of rival gangs gets lost in the trip to Hell, but the settings itself is quite cool with five main areas with a big tower in the middle of it all. They help to focus your efforts to certain places, which is handy with the smaller nature of the tasks on offer. The super-powers are still here from SR4 though which is all good fun, although limiting them to a 15-second timer does take the edge off the fun a bit, especially when you find the joy of flying around town. Your four main abilities have cooldowns too, but at least you can use others while waiting for the one you’ve just used, so having done a huge stomp on the floor and sent bad guys scattering, you can quickly set yourself on fire and spread it to nearby minions for burny times. Not something I thought would be effective in Hell, but apparently it’s quite useful.
The diversions themselves will seem familiar to anyone who’s picked up a Saints Row game before, with the games picking up old ideas such as throwing things into traffic to cause the most damage, fighting off waves of enemies and destroying as much stuff as you can in a certain time limit. They’re good fun and still every bit as nuts as they were the first time you tried them, but new ideas are thin on the ground and if you weren’t too fussed about them before, you certainly won’t get a kick out of them this time either. They might have different names or moderately different target outcomes, but they’re still the same mechanics behind everything.
Elsewhere you’ll find weapons linked to the seven deadly sins, including a brilliant armchair suited with huge guns for the sloth category. You can also shoot exploding frogs and various other bizarre things, and despite the fact they’re basically standard weapons with new sound effects and projectiles, they’re still fun to use and able to raise a smile. And that’s a theme which runs through the game, as you’d expect. After all, how many games feature Shakespeare in Hell, DJing in his own club having sold his soul for a heap of fame back on the nice green version of Earth? Not many that I’ve played, that’s for sure.
And yet despite the fun, despite the funny moments, and despite an awesome musical number which would give Disney a run for its money, something doesn’t quite feel right. It might be the lack of proper campaign content (this is a standalone don’t forget, not a DLC extra), it might be the fact that Kinzie isn’t used as well as she might’ve been, or perhaps it’s Gat himself lacking the charm and charisma which we enjoyed from the president in Saints Row 4. Through smaller individual missions and the removal of some key Saints Row ingredients we’re left with a small game which, while never claiming to be anything huge, is watered down and a pale imitation of the games which have spawned its very creation. If you enjoy the Saints Row series then it’s worth picking up, there’s absolutely no doubt in that, but if you’re a bit undecided then it’s a tough call to make. Ultimately it comes down to one thing: do you want to tit around in Hell with some bizarre weapons? Then go and get Gat Out of Hell. Want structure, a meaningful campaign and a more wholesome experience? Maybe wait and see where the series goes next.
Reviewed on PS4
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