Saints Row: Gat Out Of Hell Review
It’s difficult to recommend that you play Saints Row: Gat Out Of Hell, let alone purchase it. This is a standalone expansion that perfectly demonstrates the danger and consequence of coasting on a series’ name and reputation, especially as it sees release in a time where the industry has made so many strides forward with open-world adventures. Developer Volition has delivered a dreary-looking, repetitive and entirely familiar experience that does little to hold attention, let alone impress in any one particular area. Dick jokes, four-year- old reused assets, systems and mechanics thrown inside a bland game world just don’t cut it in a post-GTA V world.
2013’s Saints Row IV was an unhinged and monstrously crazy entry into the long-running game series and, in spite of the fun we had with it, the cracks from the Saints Row: The Third design were already beginning to show beneath the surface. That’s only more evident here as Volition drags us away from Steelport and into the depths of Hell. Gat Out Of Hell presents an unsurprisingly crazy reasoning for this turn of events: the leader of the Saints/president of the USA/king god of the world has been sucked into Satan’s domain and is being forced to marry his daughter Jezebel. Johnny Gat and Kinzie Kensington aren’t overly pleased with this state of affairs, get their asses to hell, reunite with dead enemies and friends and push towards their goal of capping Satan in the face.
It’s undoubtedly silly, and the first hour or so will bring its fair share of smiles as it becomes evident that Volition has framed much of the story in a overblown – albeit poorly written – Disney-esque musical. But that can only distract for so long. Unlike its predecessor, Gat Out Of Hell doesn’t feel like it knows what it wants to be. As we mentioned before, many aspects from Saints Row: The Third and Saints Row IV have been reused here – and they feel frustratingly dated. The well-loved superpowers make a return with a demonic overhaul, but they feel undeniably clunky to wield and unleash. New weapons designed around the seven deadly sins are fun and suitably stupid, but the act of actually firing them surely couldn’t feel any slower and imprecise if the studio had tried.
Even the addition of flight does little to impress. Of course Johnny Gat can fly now, because why not? Despite the world being made more vertically-inclined to accommodate your smooth sailing, Hell is horribly drab. You’ll be soaring over the four districts, only to stare down at a mess of brown, grey and red blurs, marvelling at the horrible pop-in that awaits your every turn and the array of collectibles that scatter the skyline. It’s an interesting addition, and one that complements your super speed nicely, but it never feels like Volition has any real need for it – other than why the hell not? Still, it saves you the hassle of ever having to get into a vehicle. Cars – ranging from fiery monster trucks to busted old hatchbacks – are immensely unresponsive, and come equipped with a distressingly poor collision system.
It’s easy to get the impression that none of this might matter were the game’s structure stronger, but the mission design is, once again (and you might start picking up on a theme here) horribly repetitive and unimaginative. Each district offers a variety of activities to complete, though they are all either tweaks or recreations on a previous Saints Row staple. You’ll zip through checkpoints, battle for control over integral areas, fight waves of enemies and – for some ungodly reason – throw some poor tortured soul in front of vehicles until you cause enough torment and damage to continue. It’s 2015, and we are still having to laugh at the manipulation of ragdoll physics. Honestly, it’s a little embarrassing, because the modified Havok engine just isn’t up to the task.
There was always going to be the question of where Volition can go next with Saints Row. The previous two games in the franchise have gone a long way to proving there is more to see here than the simple GTA clone that it began life as, but Gat Out Of Hell is so routinely mundane, repetitive and unenjoyable that the answer is clearly the drawing board. Volition needs to step back, hone in on what people really love about the series and start again for the next generation. Gat Out Of Hell will surely be one of the last major Xbox 360 games to see release, but it lacks the polish or charisma of a game that can make the jump to the next generation. We wanted to love Gat Out Of Hell, because lord knows we had our fun with Saints Row IV, but the industry has made such insane leaps in the last 12 months that it struggles to justify its existence, let alone your time commitment. For better or worse, this is more of the same.