Saints Row: Gat Out Of Hell
The Saints Row series has always had an odd relationship with its collection of side missions. At first they were required in order to access the story. Then they were just there for money and diversity, peppering the sandbox with dozens of little games to play. Gat out of Hell, the standalone expansion to Saints Row 4, is built on a foundation of side missions.
The story is simple enough. It’s local hacker extraordinaire Kinzie Kensington’s birthday and everyone’s there for the party. Celebrations must commence, whether she likes it or not. The tail must be pinned to the donkey. The oujia board needs to be brought out of the closet to commune with the spirits. This is about tradition. As to be expected, a portal from Hell opens up and the boss of the Third Street Saints is kidnapped by the Devil, to be married off to his daughter.
While the character you might have created for Saints Row 4 gets imported into the expansion, he or she only shows up for a cutscene or two. The real stars of the show are Johnny Gat and Kinzie, both of whom go to Hell to save their boss the only way Johnny knows how. Cause chaos, kill bad guys and shoot the Devil in the face.
Both Gat and Kinzie are playable characters, but there is no difference in how they play. In previous Saints Row games Gat was the murderous psychopath and Kinzie the hacker, but neither bring any specialties to the table here. The only thing that changes are their murder accompanying wisecracks.
Within Saints Row 4’s storyline superpowers could only be used inside the virtual simulation, and then performed outside it via a mechanized suit. In Hell, logic dictates that said superpowers aren’t available, and that is true for less than five minutes. In this case it is a misc. artifact that grants Kinze and Gat powers, albeit with a Hellish theme, plus the ability to fly.
Flying around Hell is a fantastic time. At first it’s slow and limited, but once powered up the act of soaring in between shattered buildings and just above molten rivers becomes natural. It’s too bad that most of the time spent in the air is used to collect the near one thousand “soul” clusters that lay throughout. In Saints Row 4 it was the acquisition of data clusters that powered up the Boss, and this expansion is very similar. Instead of having blue clusters, they are now red, and they are everywhere. The problem is trying to figure out what amount is too few and what amount is too many without having to worry about returning to areas just to collect clusters later.
In between collecting clusters there is the usual plethora of side missions to be expected from a Saints Row game. Survive against waves of bad guys! Race against the clock in perilous flight! Throw yourself into cars in some sort of insurance fraud scam! This is how to progress and earn money.
It is given that causing chaos and destruction, along with the completion of side tasks are what’s necessary to cause Satan to make an appearance. A progress bar is presented on the status screen, and for every objective that is completed, for every demon that is slain, it fills up ever so slightly. Fill it up enough and the next cutscene unlocks, and then it’s back to the streets of Hell to cause more mayhem.
There are allies that can be summoned to your cause. The twins, formerly employed by the Syndicate, are willing to fight on your side, but they’re the only previous Saints Row characters that can be acquired. The rest of your potential allies include historical figures of note, including Vlad the Impaler and William Shakespeare.
The tasks that need to be undertaken to acquire these allies are just as side mission-esque as the rest of the game. Meet up with the twins and fight three waves of bad guys. Meet up with Shakespeare and fight three waves of bad guys. Once you get them on your side you can start doing missions for them, which are really nothing more than waypoints to the side missions in their territories.
Despite how exciting flying is, despite how much fun blowing demons up can be, Gat out of Hell still leaves an awkward feeling. It’s the flow of the game. Because of the unorthodox method of plot advancement, a person could fly a race really well and that might be the tipping point for the story to progress. After some time there are two more cutscenes, a final battle, and then that’s it.
And while the story is fun enough, the plot isn’t the centerpiece. This expansion to the Saints Row universe is here to give a new sandbox to blow things up in. It is a sandbox to play around, without either worrying or caring about the direction of any overall plot.