Wot I Think: Saints Row – Gat Out Of Hell

Saints Row: Gat Out Of Hell arrives later this week, but we’ve been annoying Satan before that. And in the game. Unfortunately review code was all-too-familiarly later than promised, so this review is written before I’ve managed to complete the whole game. We’ll update it with anything crucial if necessary. Here’s wot I think:

The question, “Where can they possibly go next?” is one that has always been remarkably well answered by Volition’s Saints Row games. After the lunatic frenzy of Saints Row: The Third, they somehow stepped it up in SR4’s mad-faced computer-simulated alien interpretation of Earth, taking leave of all reality and adding in super powers, as well as emphasising city exploration and activities over extended scripted missions. On paper, the declaration that this expandalone of SR4 would take place in Hell rather sounded like they’d found somewhere even more extreme to take it.

Well, hopefully they’re saving that up for Saints Row 5. Because while Gat Out Of Hell is definitely splendid, it’s a sideways move from the fourth game, rather than presenting any sense of a step forward. And as is the case with sideways steps, it’s harder to appreciate what you’ve still got when things start to feel derivative.

But remember, it’s important to appreciate what you’ve got! And in GOOH, it’s a whole new pile of Saints Row nonsense, in a new skin, with a new script, and most of all, songs. The President (you, in the previous game) gets sucked into a hell portal after the Saints muck about with a Ouija board, so Gat and Kinzie set after him to launch a rescue. You can play as either (although I suspect this was a later decision, since cutscenes and tutorial sequences assume you’re Gat), with your goal being to piss Satan off as much as you possibly can.

A smaller-than-usual city is still huge, and jam-packed with activities and challenges. All new enemy types take the form of demons, while the civilians are once again eminently run-over-able thanks to being grey, staggering husks. Although of course, just as with 4, the chances of your ever actually driving a car are very slim – you’re very quickly bestowed with super-speed and this time the ability to fly, along with a cluster of other superpowers unlocked as you progress.

Flying is the really important change here. And it’s mostly very well implemented. Rather than just handing you wings and letting you flit as you please, you have to earn your way to that by mastering its tricky techniques. Flying requires a combination of sustained momentum, and stamina. Flapping your wings is apparently extremely costly, and heavily restricted, so you need to ensure you’re swooping and diving to pick up speed. And with upgrades coming at a tremendous pace, this all works well, and it soon feels a very rewarding way to move about the city. Apart from tight turns, which are unfortunately always awkward, hindered by a sluggish camera when playing with a 360 pad.

(I’ve adopted my previous Frankensteinian control options for GOOH, using the controller for general play, then jumping over to mouse/keyboard for gun-based combat. That it lets me be this odd is a credit to the game.)

It is, however, looking very tired. The 2013 SR4 engine was a polished version of SR3’s, and it just about got away with it. Four years on from its first outing, it’s no longer really good enough. And that’s not helped by a peculiarly dreary palette of greys and dull reds, some extremely bland textures, and half-finished looking buildings. Removing the screaming cartoon colour horror of previous outings leaves a significant gap. SR4 was extremely guilty of a same-ish city, but it’s nothing compared to the confusing ubiquity of Hell’s concrete nothingness.

The map is also inexcusably dated, to the point of being entirely useless. After the sheer glee of Far Cry 4’s specificity, this feels awful to use.

But the important question is: is it funny? SR4 is one of the funniest games I’ve ever played, with a post-credits gag that had me genuinely unable to breathe with laughter. Well… yeah, it’s okay. Which is to say, it’s about five hundred thousand times more humorous than any other open city game, but falls a little short of what I’d hoped for. The writing is good, and despite Gat being the least likeable and least interesting character they’ve created, and their continued fascination with him hard to comprehend, the dialogue is still strong. The songs, meanwhile, are wonderful. What a fantastic sentence to be able to type.

You’re assisted on your attempts to rescue the President from Hell by new characters, Blackbeard, Vlad The Impaler, and of course, Shakespeare. Rather than having specifically crafted challenges of their own, as before their individual quest chains are based on completing city-based activities. It feels far more artificial and incongruous this time out, but it’s hard to care too much since it’s invariably fun to do. And the cutscenes surrounding it all are little rewards for getting things done. (Gosh, remember when cutscenes would often feel rewarding, rather than the thing you were desperately trying to skip? Thank you Volition for remembering this is possible.)

While there are a great deal of collectables, and the city offers many extra challenges to complete as you progress (lots of them flying themed, like finding small gaps to swoop through), the overall content is pretty brief here. It isn’t going to take you more than five or six hours to get through to the end, and that’s with a fair amount of going off track along the way. £15 is a fair price, with it being at least half the size of the regular entries.

But despite the extraordinary opportunity the setting provides, it doesn’t really seem to go to any extremes to surprise. It’s important to be clear that there’s lots that is unique, not least the flying mechanics, and a number of the challenges (swooping around to collect falling souls is a peculiar one, certainly). But an armchair with machine guns in the arms is about as exciting as it sounds, and that’s the game’s big comedy weapon this time out. It’s hardly a dubstep gun, or wobbly giant dildo. Although I think an armchair with guns neatly sums up Gat Out Of Hell. It’s a comfortable game, lots to do, very silly, definitely fun to play. But it’s also sitting still, putting its feet up, rather than surprising us with something delightfully new.

64 Comments

  1. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    Saints Row 5 will be set inside Johnny Gat. You heard it here first.

    • oden says:

      And it will be called Let’s Get The Hell Out Of Gat.

    • Shuck says:

      I consider this a serious possibility. After all, what else are they going to do with the series at this point? Go into space? Return to the “real” world, which is a post-apocalyptic wasteland as a sort of Saints Row: Fallout? Go fantasy with a Saints Row: Tolkien Derivative?

      • vlonk says:

        As the Algorithms of the RPS site mysteriously decided, next to your comment are 3 articles: Have you played Quarantine?, WOT: Elite:Dangerous, WOT: Tengumi, who represent the 3 genre-settings you just named. Is that a coincidence? Did this sidebar put a sublime message into our brains? Will the next Saints game go there?
        I hope for space btw. We can call it Gat-taca.

        OR Time travel <= edit function is like time traveling isn't it?

      • ZombieJ says:

        Time Travel. You heard it hear first.

        Why? Because when any lead writer looks into their barrel of ideas only to finally find it empty they always reach for time travel, desperately wishing that they themselves could travel back to when their barrel was fresh and wonderful. No such luck. Someone’s gonna find the lever that controls time.

        I mean, the only superpower left to add-in is bullet time right?

        • Fanbuoy says:

          SR IV SPOILER:

          Actually, I heard it first in SR IV. It’s the post-credits scene IIRC.

        • April March says:

          I thought what was at the bottom of the barrel was shark-jumping.

          Less cynically, I realized you’re absolutely right; when a show that takes place in a realistic context that doesn’t allow for time travel starts to sag, if it’s an American show, it’s absolutely certain that there’ll be a Wild West episode, with the ‘ancestors’ of the characters as just the characters themselves in the Wild West. That’s as close a realistic premise can get to time travel.

          So SRV will be in the post-apocalyptic wild west, with demons, and shark jumping. You heard it here first.

        • TheTingler says:

          Actually, going back in time to Saints Row 1 would be a good idea as that could finally validate the po-faced GTA rip-off original, before they started embracing the silliness in SR2.

      • Fnord73 says:

        Saints Row vs. Sauron. Oh, that is a winner.

        • vlonk says:

          Bustin’ Saurons crib. Gettin’ it on with the Rivendell chicks. If only licensing was cheaper. But a modder can dream.

        • Wret says:

          Saint’s of Mordor? @_@

    • jonahcutter says:

      Actually, I hope they take it to the next logical step. The Saints storm the gates of Heaven, to battle God and his heavenly host.

      Saints vs Angels. Winner sits upon the throne of Heaven.

      Righteously blasphemous.

    • Horg says:

      Gat would of course be required to escape from inside himself. The crew would have to battle Johnnys internal monologue, making an existential point about man being his own worst enemy, whilst fighting poop monsters to escape through Gats own bowels.

    • leeder krenon says:

      I think they’ll go in the opposite direction, and make it dreadfully boring. Set in Reading. No guns. You have to obey traffic rules and drive to your job where you are an accountant.

    • LionsPhil says:

      It is shameful that nobody has mashed together Descent and Inner Space properly yet.

      • Neurotic says:

        I wonder how many of us want to be inside Dennis Quaid though?

  2. FriendlyFire says:

    I’m hoping that the reason they’re playing it safe is that they’re simultaneously working on SR5 with a new engine. More likely is that development was affected by the Deep Silver transition somewhat.

    • Turkey says:

      Yeah, I suspect they’ve been just trying to stay afloat since the THQ thing.

  3. gbrading says:

    Saints Row 3.5.5.

    I felt SR4 was lacklustre compared to 3, I’d like them to do a full blown sequel with a new engine and new ideas. It seems that they’ve really tapped the same well once too often here.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      I’m with you here.
      SR3 was next to perfect. The DLCs covered the wacky bits.
      Now SR4 was the wacky bits. Over the top story was ok but all character missions were really only activities. Cars were useless and the world was dark reddish all the time.
      I’d rather like to play in a normal world with cars and gangsters and a weather system again.
      SR:Gooh looks like a SR4 standalone-Addon in my opinion -I’ll skip it.

      • Baines says:

        Saints Row 3 honestly felt a bit incomplete compared to Saints Row 2. The engine change cost them features like a night/day cycle and more interactivity with the environment. SR3 also felt like it was both missing content and reason to do content.

        • April March says:

          Saints Row is objectively bad compared to 2. Everything got worse except for the writing. Of course, ‘worse’ in this case means between ‘slightly worse’ and ‘quite worse but not that much’ so not many people complained. It’s still a valley of quality between the full realization or the franchise in SR2 as GTA Except Fun Again and the other full realization of the franchise in SRIV as Videogames: The Videogame.

        • malkav11 says:

          Yeah. I loved the writing in Saints Row 3, and the technical quality of the port was infinitely superior, but in terms of gameplay and world construction 3 suffers significantly compared to 2. (And for that matter, narrative coherence pretty much went out the window in 3.)

          IV was better than 3 because superpowers. Also the story was less disjointed. And the side activities were generally more fun because, again, superpowers. It’s the only entry in the series to date where Insurance Fraud is fun rather than a great concept poorly executed. But the seams were definitely showing.

      • Chrysomore says:

        S’pose it depends what you wanted; I thought SR3 more or less marked the pinnacle of what could be done with the standard GTA model, so I was super-pleased when SR4 turned out to be the Crackdown sequel I’d been waiting for all this time. Both are good in their own right, but I can understand how there might be some disappointment.

  4. Tacroy says:

    Since the release of SR4, I’ve thought that the way to fix cars would be for Volition to hire the Distance / Nitronic Rush guys to import some of their amazing car physics into the game.

    Make “Awesome Car” one of the super powers, bind summon favorite car to a hotkey, and give the car Nitronic Rush powers and I would drive that thing everywhere.

  5. Stevostin says:

    5 or 6 hours seems crazy short. I remember previous games being 20-30 hours. Am I wrong ?

    • jezcentral says:

      It’s not a full price release.

      • MeatMan says:

        And according to Enhanced Steam, it’s already been discounted to 75% off (Jan 16 at “GameStop PC”). So if you don’t want to pay the launch price of $20/£15, I’m sure you won’t have to wait long to get it for less than that.

        • leeder krenon says:

          That was a pricing error I think.

          • malkav11 says:

            Hard to say. It seems unlikely to have been intentional since Gamestop was the only place that did it and it’s a far steeper discount than preorder items generally receive, plus there was a similar discount on everything else Saints Row that weekend. But on the other hand, it wasn’t fixed all weekend, and my order still shows as open.

          • Jalan says:

            One interesting thing I noticed (this was after the discussion line in Cassandra’s bargain post with malkav11) was that they had a notice up there mentioning that they don’t charge anything until the game is actually released so that leaves open the door for them to adjust the price or issue refunds if it was in fact a pricing error. I’m assuming the former is considered an unethical business practice so the latter seems possible if they don’t simply just honor all purchases made at that price.

          • malkav11 says:

            My order was in fact honored and I have redeemed both the game key and preorder bonus key. Sounds like they cancelled some other people’s orders prior to key distribution. I have no idea why I got mine and they didn’t, but this is sounding like a game that’s likely to be worth $5 and might or might not be worth $20, so I’m just as happy to be one of the lucky ones.

  6. MeatMan says:

    “(I’ve adopted my previous Frankensteinian control options for GOOH, using the controller for general play, then jumping over to mouse/keyboard for gun-based combat. That it lets me be this odd is a credit to the game.)”

    This has been an option since SR3, in which I took advantage of it by using a controller for vehicles and M+K for everything else. I didn’t use a controller nearly as much in SR4, because they give you the ability to glide so early.

    • SalaciousJames says:

      Actually, I’m almost positive that you can do so in SR2 for PC as well – I just played through 2, 3, and 4 in the past year (thanks HumbleBundle) and used that same control scheme throughout.

      (Except that I use keyboard/mouse for helicopters – trying to finish the final boss battle in SR2 with a gamepad would’ve been an absolute nightmare.)

    • welverin says:

      I swap between them myself, and do so in a number of different games.

      M&KB when I need to aim, pad for driving.

  7. derbefrier says:

    i still dont get the hate for Gat. Its not like the rest of the characters arent just walking stereotypes either. gat is basically every 80s action hero rolled into 1 and turned up to 11. Then theres the hot nerd chick, then there’s the hot sassy chick, then theres the other guys that all fit predictable archetypes( i dont feel like going through it all). his character seems to fit in with the general theme of the series. /shrugs

    • Xizore says:

      I found Gat endearing after the opening of SR2. Shooting your way out of a trial is hilarious, but also showed how much the main character cares for Gat. I can only assume that Gat feels the same way, but is much worse at expressing it.

    • Premium User Badge

      Qazinsky says:

      I always liked Gat, playing SR2, he felt like the one person that could match the Boss step for step, like a buddy cop movie, only sociopathic criminals instead.

  8. Melody says:

    their individual quest chains are based on completing city-based activities.

    This is a key sentence for me. When I got to the end of SR4 I felt fatigued (as opposed to SR3), because so many interesting powers and rewards were locked behind side-activities that were not “side” anymore, and many of them just weren’t really fun. They’re mini-games for a momentary distraction, they’re a side-dish to enhance the main offer, but SR4 put those things front and center and asked me to do those activities all the time, occasionally more than once in order to get gold. The real fun of Saints Row 3 and 4 for me was in the scripted mission, and SR4 simply didn’t have enough of those, even though they few it had were as good as the old ones. And overall, SR4 wasn’t bad, but as I said by the end I was fatigued.

    So, GOOH sounds like more of the same. Except for the songs, I suppose.

    • Fanbuoy says:

      Well put. I feel the same way. I’ll probably pick it up somewhere down the road, but it’ll be a long while. SR IV was super monotonous outside of the few hours of story missions.

    • April March says:

      The worst thing about SRIV was that so many of the minigames were set in their own ‘hacking’ world. The fun of the franchise has always been causing havoc in a city, and I think it was a loss to force us to get away from that for upgrades. The minigames were mostly pretty drab too. I think that was a worse sin than the long segments where you don’t get any powers since I found those to actually be a nice break from the actually fun minigames/sidequests where you do get a lot of powers.

    • Premium User Badge

      Qazinsky says:

      Agreed, side activites has no place in the main chain, unless as possible one-off missions with some kind of interesting twist absent from the regular activites, and even then it should be only like once or twice through the whole chain, not three out of every four missions.

  9. Crafter says:

    I had totally forgotten that this was a thing.
    I don’t mind another samey DLC since these Saints won’t appear in SR5 and it is still fun to immerge myself in their world.

    I wonder what SR5 is going to bring though. Continuing the current story of the Saints world would need to place the action on another planet. It does not sound bad, a Saint Rows-esque Red Faction Guerilla with the most well known personalities of human history as Forefathers does actually feel in line with the franchise.
    Or maybe they will just reboot the story ?

  10. Bishop149 says:

    “. . . despite Gat being the least likable and least interesting character they’ve created, and their continued fascination with him hard to comprehend, the dialogue is still strong”

    Amen to that!
    I too find it incredible that Volition seem to like him so much. If I get this I will be playing “Kinzie out of Hell”
    I assume that “Kensi” in the article is a typo?

  11. SlimShanks says:

    There is probably some sort of law against this opinion, but I lost all interest is Saint’s Row when the third one was announced. They basically ruined the world for me. Now I know that the story and setting of Saint’s Row isn’t that special, but without a consistent and quasi-believable world, the humor doesn’t work. See, that’s the thing about humor. It is a reaction based on something being unexpected and jarring. Humor is a subversion of our expectations. So when everything is stupid, we expect it, and then none of it is funny. It’s just stupid. Which is basically making a game out of American style humour, which I frankly find appalling.
    RIP drug dealing soccer mom

    • drinniol says:

      There’s more than one kind of humour, dude.

    • addahn says:

      No, he’s right.
      Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Louis C.K., Bill Burr, Chris Rock, Doug Stanhope, Bill Hicks, Dave Chappelle, Seinfel, Mel Brooks, Sam Kinneson, Lenny Bruce, Bill Cosby, Zach Galifinakis, Bill Cosby, Lewis Black, Conan, Redd Fox, Patton Oswalt, David Cross, Johnny Carson, Aziz Ansari, Joan Rivers, Sarah Silverman, Steve Martin, Bob Newhart, Milton Berle, Andy Kaufman, Flip Wilson, Dave Attell, Eddie Grifin, Steven Colbert.

      Appalling.

      • Syme says:

        I wish there a way to “like” this post.

      • SlimShanks says:

        Hey now, you may not like it, but the US has a reputation for a certain kind of humour, and they do slather it on everything. Quoting the existence of comedians who are not like that doesn’t change a thing. “American style humor” is generally acknowledged to refer to slapstick comedy and random idiocy. Also, most of those comedians like to use a serious delivery to emphasize their jokes, which is just what I was talking about. There are certainly many kinds of humor, but some are wittier than others.

        • addahn says:

          Well, Jews have a reputation of being greedy. Blacks have a reputation of being lazy. Asians have a reputation of being studious. All of which I have seen the contrary personally.
          You are talking about a simplified and cartoon version of Americans. I have been to England 4 times and have a good deal of English friends. The one thing that broke my heart is the random hatred for American’s and American culture. We have alot of trash, but as far as I can tell from my travels, no more than any other country.
          The usual attitude when traveling is to uncle tom that shit and agree. However, when my country is trashed, I ask them “aren’t there horrible, lazy, crazy, greedy, ect. people in your country?”. It usually silences them.
          We are an absolutely massive country with absolutely massive amounts of different types of people. So, just like when I went to Ireland and saw that they weren’t all drunks (thats a lie), why don’t you come here, meet the people and quit spewing ignorant nonsense? Many of us are clever and witty but above all incredibly warm and kind people. I have never once heard of someone coming to this country feeling unwelcome or hated. I have felt that in England, France, Russia and Germany. I understand we are hated and have a certain reputation but I can’t imagine someone who would judge a 316 million people by what they seen on tv.

          btw- I was naming many if not most of our most popular comedians, so that is the “American style humor”, nary a stick slapped or any idiocy random about them.

  12. Fnord73 says:

    Wouldnt it be nice if they make #5 a grimly realistic tale about a kid living in some Glasgow highrise who fantazises about the Saints Rows unlimited powers? Where every over the top action sequence is mirrored by him having to fight speedfreaks at the super?

  13. SaintShion says:

    “The writing is good, and despite Gat being the least likeable and least interesting character they’ve created, and their continued fascination with him hard to comprehend, the dialogue is still strong.”

    I agree here, in that Johnny Gat is the Saint Row games’ ultimate badass, but is also dull as all hell. When he was in SR3, I was like, Wait I barely remember this guy from 2, why am I wearing a Johnny Gat head. Shouldn’t *I* be the hero here? I’m the one that stopped… Oh, he’s dead. Ok. I didn’t mind the ogre version of him in the DLC at all either.

    So when he came back in SR4, I knew they internally like him way, way too much. I in fact hate him. I think almost every other character they’ve designed is 100x better. The duality of Shaundi, the crazy-cute-crazy Kinzi, and Washington, the straight man to your insanity and best bud. Where does Gat fit in? In a comic book somewhere that goes out of print.

    I love Saints Row 2, 3, 4 and all of the DLC. But this? I don’t know. It seems like they added Kinzi as playable because it would be controversial not to have a female lead in a series that has always offered one (even if it’s always been a male inside of a female’s body in terms of sexuality and aggression). I still appreciate that they tried, but am sad that this wasn’t a full choice with her starring in the cutscenes equally. Why Gat? Gah.

    Will I buy it? Yes. Now? No. Steam sale.

  14. vorador says:

    I will wait for a price drop, as i did for SR4.

    But personally, i find the SR series much more entertaining than GTA. GTA takes itself too serious for a game where you can get away with serial murder by painting your car in a different color.

  15. April March says:

    So instead of Ludicrous Crackdown (Except In The Matrix), it’s now Ludicrous Prototype (Except In Hell). I can roll with that.

    I promised myself that I wouldn’t buy any more SR games full price, but since this is cheaper AND I’m getting it as a birthday gift, last time you guys, honest.

    Also, I think the discussion of where the series’ setting wil go next is secondary to the real discussion:

    Saints’ Row 2
    Saints’ Row: The 3rd
    Saints’ Row IV

    What numbering convention will they go with next? My money’s on 5AINTS’ ROW.

    • Chrysomore says:

      Saints Row 101
      It’s a reboot, but 101 equals five in binary!
      Yeah, yeah, I’ll just pants myself and save time, shall I?

    • malkav11 says:

      IV was way more similar to Prototype than Crackdown. In fact the only thing that resembled Crackdown in the first place were the orb collectibles. I’ve never quite understood why that made Crackdown the go-to comparison.

  16. SuicideKing says:

    I hope Volition stop making SR for a while and get on with FreeSpace 3 (Deep Silver needs to buy the license back, though).

    • Premium User Badge

      Grizzly says:

      There will be no FS3. They will not be able to give us a squad name which is as awesome as “Suicide Kings” :P

      I do long for FS3 though. Mabye the popularity of recent space games may do something about it.

  17. MadMinstrel says:

    I keep enjoying these less with every release. I think GOOH will be the first one I won’t buy at any price. Seriously Volition, you used to be my favorite developer, but you need to innovate, not get increasingly infantile with your games. More of the same, just more stupid isn’t going to cut it any more.

  18. Syme says:

    I was in the weird position where I played Saints Row 2 and 4 but not 3, which made a lot of 4’s plot incomprehensible to me. (The Aliens and superpowers, that’s the only stuff that made sense to me) I barely remembered anything about 2 either, so it’s weird that they assumed you’d have so much familiarity with the characters backstories. In any case I’m also baffled that Gat, the least interesting character is the star. He’s basically the Poochie of the Saints Row cast.

    Clearly Kenzie should have been the default with Keith David as the alternative male option.

  19. Scousegit says:

    I actually like Gat because in a series that doesn’t take itself too seriously and isn’t afraid to poke fun at things, Gat’s attitude and bravado fit right in. Part of this, I think, is down to Daniel Dae Kim’s voice acting which (to me, anyway) is possibly some of the strongest in the series and really helps sell the character.

  20. ffordesoon says:

    “After the sheer glee of Far Cry 4’s specificity, this feels awful to use.”

    I love you, John, but sometimes I find your opinions utterly baffling. This is one of those times. I really like FC4, and it’s probably the first game in the series I’m going to 100%, but the map in that game is just awful. Granted, the generally underwhelming world design is at least partly to blame; it’s so lacking in variety and/or memorable landmarks that navigating it would become a bit of a chore even if the game had a perfect map. But the map itself is still cumbersome and weird, with plenty of aggravating quirks.