According to TrueAchievements, I first played Saint’s Row: Gat Out Of Hell in July 2015. While I’ve dipped in for a couple of co-op sessions since, it’s been on my “I’ll finish this eventually” pile for years. My plan was to spend 1-2 hours finishing any remaining campaign missions on and fulfilling any close achievements, and then to retire the game completely.
What actually happened was that I spent around 5 hours that evening finishing every activity New Hades had to offer, and unlocked the 100% activity ending. After my second evening of exploring, I had beaten up Satan, and collected every orb, book, and piece of audio commentary. Then I saved my progress and realised I was at 98% game completion…
So the day after that, I went for full 100% completion. It’s safe to say that Gat Out Of Hell caught my attention, and my time, much more this time around.
Saint’s Row: Gat Out Of Hell is a standalone expansion pack that follows on from Saint’s Row IV. It features the same open-world gameplay and upgradeable superpowers found in IV, but moves the actions to a new location – Hell itself. As Johnny Gat and Kinzie Kensington, you must prevent Satan from marrying his daughter Jezebel off to Johnny. You do this by getting supernatural assistance from a cast that includes previous Saint’s Row characters as well as famous additions like Blackbeard and William Shakespeare.
Its sandbox world is similar to a scaled-down Just Cause, in that you roam around doing whatever you want while the world acts as an accepting non-reactive backdrop. Graphically, Gat Out Of Hell is serviceable with no major issues; the black-and-orange, cities-and-volcanoes colour scheme is exactly what you would expect, but it can become monotonous at times.
I prefer open-world games which feature smaller, denser maps rather than large maps with more barren areas. New Hades is extremely small by modern open-world standards: with fully-upgraded flight powers, you can fly from a corner of the map to the opposite corner without stopping. As a result, its collectables and activities feels tightly packed in. Given that players can fly around the outskirts of the city, run up every wall, and jump around every rooftop to find collectables, keeping a small but fully-built map seems like the best option here.
The main task of Gat Out Of Hell is to get Satan’s attention by taking over each of the 5 districts of New Hades. This is partly done by completing activities such as timed flying challenges, and partly done by causing chaos. Damaging the demons patrolling the streets raises your notoriety meter, which summons waves of progressively larger and stronger opponents, culminating in a mini-boss. Defeating the mini-boss resets your notoriety back to zero. You can then use the Wages earned from defeating each mob to upgrade your weapons, and the Soul Orb collectables to upgrade personal abilities such as health, stamina, and special attacks.
Gat Out Of Hell is presented in a storybook style, which was unexpected but appealing. It even features a literal choose-your-own adventure ending, where the voice-over tells you to turn to specific pages to choose the ending you wish to see. I love that you can replay the ending sequence to choose another new ending within the save file, rather than having to duplicate save files; whoever programmed this gets some virtual kudos from me.
Because the game is comedic and deliberately over the top, it feels less like a tickbox grind-fest than more serious open-world games do. I wanted to look for the books and orbs, because exploring the map is enjoyable on its own. From flying, to super-sprinting, to surfing on cars, Gat Out Of Hell makes movement itself part of the game’s appeal, similarly to Crackdown or to many Spider-Man games.
Its other attraction is the catharsis factor; mowing down mobs of enemies feels satisfying, especially when using creative weapons such as the Seven Deadly Weapons. Inspired by the Seven Deadly Sins, these include a reclining armchair that fires dual miniguns (Sloth), a shotgun that infatuates enemies using perfume (Lust), and a frosting launcher that causes enemies to turn on each other (Gluttony). The Saint’s Row games are known for their deranged weaponry, and Gat Out Of Hell is no exception.
However, I missed out on one aspect of this game’s potential by not looking at the challenges and upgrades. Upon realising that I could make each power recharge much more quickly, and switch between powers rapidly to combine their effects, I found the combat much more fun. It became an experiment: what happens if I use the vacuum stomp while I’ve got summoned creatures in play? What happens if the effect of the worship aura meets the effect of the infatuation gun? Which combinations of guns and powers work together well, or cause the funniest effects?
I played on Casual difficulty, which means I forgot that I even had a health meter because I didn’t need it. Casual seemed like the right choice; it’s an overpowered, fantastical adventure, after all. For me, playing on a higher difficulty would have made the mob combat more frustrating, which would have put me off from fully completing the game. During the late-game, where I had every upgrade equipped, each “notoriety loop” took less than 5 minutes to complete. At this point, I was glad I had chosen Casual, because I got my pacing wrong trying to do the final challenges. I spent a while repeatedly doing the notoriety loop to get enough money to upgrade all 20 guns, mostly by using an SMG that awarded bonus money for kills. Once I upgraded every weapon, I finished off the challenges for each weapon… which gave me another £100,000 that now served zero purpose. I’ve got to admit that was frustrating!.
Because I spent too long on that last 2%, I started to get annoyed at the repetition. But that’s my problem for getting tunnel vision about completing the game and so doing it inefficiently. If I had intended to play the game through in a shorter period of time, rather than revisiting it years later, I would definitely have changed my approach.
Based on its current usual price of £12, I would put Gat Out Of Hell in my Brilliant tier. This is partly because its an expansion pack that’s more polished and finished than some AAA games. For existing fans of the Saint’s Row series, it offers more of the trademark open-world destruction and familiar quirky characters inside a new environment. But Gat Out Of Hell doesn’t solely depend on its existing fandom; its character powers and weapons make the gameplay appealing for fans of open-world sandbox series like Crackdown and Just Cause.
It’s easy to forget that Gat Out Of Hell is an expansion pack rather than a full-fledged game. By full release standards, it would be disappointing: the campaign is short and made of repeated activities rather than unique missions, the world of New Hades is much smaller than most game worlds, and the combat and activities get shallow and repetitive for players aiming for 100% completion. For example, I reached 100% completion (and 43/45 achievements) in just over 22 hours, but the last 4 hours were solely dedicated to those final few challenges.
But despite its flaws, players who visit in bursts, and allot the suggest completion time of around 15 hours to Gat Out Of Hell, will enjoy the dumb, chaotic, and cathartic fun of wrestling control over Hell.