Saints Row IV was responsible for boosting a series once known for street gangs and turf wars into the stratosphere of absurdity; telling a story where the President of the United States fought off an alien invasion in a Matrix-esque digital world that endowed its denizens with powers akin to popular superheroes.
It was a game acutely aware of its ridiculous nature, relishing its unbridled over-the-top antics that gave fans the ultimate power fantasy. However, the conclusion of Saints Row IV left developer Volition with a gaping problem: How do you continue the story without taking away the omnipotent abilities they bestowed on fans?
The simple solution? Go to Hell.
Enter Saints Row: Gat out of Hell, a standalone expansion that picks up immediately after the conclusion of Saints Row IV. While using a ouija board during a surprise slumber party for Kinzie, the device spells out the name “Jezebel” before a portal materializes and whisks the player created character away to Hell.
Johnny Gat and Kinzie pursue after their boss, finding themselves in the city of New Hades where they discover that Satan intends to force the President of the United States into matrimony with his daughter.
Aided by Saints Row 2 villain Dane Vogel, the pair of Gat and Kinzie are granted an assortment of powerful skills from the possession of Lucifer’s cracked halo. Using these gifts to create chaos and destruction in the streets of Hell is their only hope of drawing the ire of the devil and saving their friend.
This zany but clever narrative provides Volition and High Voltage Software the perfect setting to allow the Gat Out of Hell expansion to maintain the principle of giving players vast amounts of power.
The demonic skills translate well to the existing Saints Row IV blueprint, taking the best abilities and giving them fiendish new spins. The blast ability, for example, retains its core design as a projectile, but now can turn foes into stone or rend their soul instead of lighting them on fire or freezing them.
Other skills are completely original, such as the player’s capacity to summon units like imps to distract enemies and aid you in combat.
Most notably, the biggest addition is flight. While IV gave players the ability to super jump and glide for prolonged distances, Gat Out of Hell lets players extend their wings to swoop through the air.
Ascending slows your speed and can stall you if your angle is too great, while descending greatly increases your momentum and speed. Balancing the two can allow you to cover great distances as long as you have stamina to keep afloat.
A menagerie of hellish weapons, including a crossbow shotgun and a grenade launcher that fires exploding frogs, meshes with these demonic abilities to make Gat and Kinzie perfect killing machines. Too perfect. It’s a power trip that wears thin relatively quickly.
By condensing the power fantasy elements of Saints Row IV into a six hour campaign, Gat Out of Hell has exasperated the issue of becoming an overtly supreme being.
In the ten hours I played, I never once perished or even felt slightly threatened by any challenge I faced. Satan’s army of demons feel like pushovers from the start, creating an odd paradox of Hell feeling like a relatively safe place.
While it is fun to blast through hordes of demons that patrol around in massive monster trucks, the novelty disappears quickly and leads to boredom. To alleviate this, the expansion comes with an ample amount of challenges and diversions that can be completed.
There are also new takes on traditional Saints Row missions, like Torment Fraud — a re-purposed version of Insurance Fraud that lets you play as a zombie husk trying to get hit by vehicles to shave years off their soul’s damnation — to occupy you.
Collectibles are ample, with many interesting items that can be hunted down by dedicated fans. There are various tomes that unlock audio logs scattered about and over 940 soul clusters that be collected to spend on upgrading your arcane abilities.
The most interesting items that can be had though are the game’s unique weapons based off of the seven deadly sins. You need to complete specific tasks to unlock these, all of which are related to their appropriate transgression. Greed, for example, is unlocked by spending $100,000 on it at the game’s weapon stations and uses your current currency as ammunition.
As things to do on the side, these tasks are an excellent compliment to Saints Row’s unabashedly zany storytelling style and large set pieces. Sadly, those large set piece elements are absent, making what normally is served as appetizers the main course.
Even the story-based loyalty missions for characters like Vlad the Impaler and William Shakespeare are composed of these small quests. Volition even jokes about making the player perform a list of arbitrary tasks during a piece of exposition midway through the game, and frankly it comes off more truthful than it does humorous.
This is all hammered home by a narrative that lacks teeth. While smaller pieces of DLC like Enter the Dominatrix took much less time to complete, it added moments that made me laugh myself to tears such as flying a spaceship through a giant soda can monster’s brain and riding a singing space-velociraptor.
The story here is all presented in narration from the historical novelist Jane Austen while turning the pages on a fairy tale book that details the game’s events. While it keeps with the game’s theme of Disney tropes, it briskly sweeps you through exposition and telling you more often than not that you are now buddies with a new ally rather than showing it.
Occasional lines made me nose laugh — with the game’s most hilarious bit being a musical scene that had already been revealed in trailers prior to Gat Out of Hell’s launch — but as a whole it falls flat.
Clearly the game is self aware that it is an expansion, providing you with a new environment half the size of Steelport to continue to play with in the same fashion as Saints Row IV.
You are not playing as a created character for a reason, as this is not suppose to be Saints Row V. I do not expect it to innovate in the same way I would expect a true sequel to, but I do expect more than an extra world filled with collectibles and menial tasks.
Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell surely will be enjoyable for Saints Row fans and to completionists, but to the uninitiated it will feel a bit shallow and easily forgettable. As a fan of the series I enjoyed my stay in Hell, but as a video game fan I felt trapped in purgatory, stuck with an endless amount of arbitrary tasks to complete and short lived satisfaction.