Saints Row, as a series, has always put fun at the very centre of each game. It took the idea of fun, and silliness, to new heights in the third game and completely blew that out of the water with the fourth. Gat out of Hell on the other hand ends the series on a very low note. The difference here is that every Saints Row game, up until this one, has had a story and interesting missions to back up the fun and ensure a logical progression right up until the final credits rolled. Gat out of Hell on the other hand seemed to, for the most part, forget it had a story to tell which in the end resulted in around four hours of the same few mindless mini games…over and over again.
The story picks up where the fourth game left off with the Saints sitting in a spaceship above Earth. A mysterious portal opens up and drags the US’s president down to Hell. It’s up to Johnny Gat and Kinzie to save the day by jumping through the portal. This is where the game’s first major problem becomes apparent. To make up for the fact that they either didn’t have time to, or didn’t bother to, make a traditional campaign with interesting missions the developers decided to just fill the four hours with mini-games. The goal is to complete enough mini-games to fill a bar, which will in turn grab the Devil’s attention and gain you access to his palace in order to save the president. Basically they ripped off Just Cause 2. In Just Cause 2 you have to rack up enough Chaos points to unlock the next story mission, but the difference is when you rack up enough points in Just Cause you actually get a proper story mission.
The gameplay is inconsistent. When you’re flying or traversing the map it’s generally quite good, although it does struggle to transition between animations at times. The best thing about the shooting is it’s functional, although like most things in the game it’s inconsistent. Some enemies will perish with a single burst from your machine gun, while others, of the same type, will happily soak up an entire clip. The weapons for the most part are uninspired. Previous games in the series had at least a handful of memorial weapons, such as the dubstep gun. The only one here is the armchair, which has dual machine guns and rockets, but sadly serves as the perfect showcase for the poor transition between animations. There is a basic upgrade system for both your guns and abilities, which I actually really liked. You can upgrade your gun’s clip size, damage and so on, while ability upgrades will allow you to fly for longer, run up walls, and more.
As I mentioned, the bulk of the game is made up of mini-games. These range from flying through check points with your new angel wings to survival. Most of the mini-games are okay, but generally feel a bit half-hearted and rushed. For example, survival consists of three waves of enemies that come in increasing numbers. The problem here is the developers forgot to add in the waves of enemies, so there’s just a consistent stream of them coming at you which defeats the purpose of having ‘waves’ in the first place. Most of the mini-games feel uninspired and lack the traditional Saints Row zaniness we’ve all come to expect. There is one exception in the form of a cricket inspired game. You basically run around hitting demons with a spiked cricket bat through rings. The problem is it lacks any kind of challenge: you just run up to an enemy, hit them, they fly off through a ring, and you rinse and repeat until you’ve done it enough times to win the game. On a few occasions mini-games glitched and I had to completely restart them. There is a small attempt at some traditional story missions, which you complete for the likes of Blackbeard or Shakespeare. However, they only involve going to a location and killing a few enemies so ultimately they just feel like more mini-games. The main saving grace in the gameplay department is the co-op. I’m not sure if I would have even bothered finishing the game on my own.
The game’s new open world takes place in Hell, obviously. Unfortunately, the landscape reminds me of the boring, dark, muddy colours recent games have been moving away from. You can’t look far without seeing a bland shade of red somewhere. Two other issues are the graphics and art direction. The game just looks bad, it’s an awkward mash-up of wanting to be both realistic and cartoony. It’s a pity the developers didn’t just veer towards one or the other because the game would have strongly benefited from it. The voice acting is strong. All of the characters are believable, within the context of the game. One of the game’s most memorable, and goofy, scenes comes in the form of a sing along with the Devil and his daughter. The score in the background on the other hand is forgettable, there’s also no in-car radio. However, the biggest and most unforgivable omission of all is Meatloaf’s – Bat out of Hell.
I know a lot of people will probably turn around and say something along the lines of ‘you’re being awfully hard on the game, after all it’s just meant to be fun.’ Well the problem is while the game is meant to be fun that’s no excuse for bad, and at times frustrating, game design. The best analog I have for this is, the aforementioned, Just Cause series. Just like Gat out of Hell, the main idea behind Just Cause is to have a fun time. The difference is the Just Cause games, for the most part, are extremely well designed and have good missions, decent story, solid gameplay; with great sound, graphics and animations. Just Cause 3 also has a ton of mini games, but they’re linked to leader boards which makes them competitive, they’re well designed, and they’re a secondary part of the game not the entirety of it. Gat out of Hell on the other hand is just a poor attempt at recreating the type of fun found in the Just Cause games without fully understanding why is was fun in the first place. The result is a rushed, badly put together game with very little story, and no challenge whatsoever. You simply go through the motions and eventually the credits roll.
Gat out of Hell truly does feel like the poor man’s Just Cause. It takes the same ‘create havoc in the open world to unlock the main missions’ approach as Just Cause does, but instead of messing around in a fun open world you have to complete uninspired mini-games, which mostly feel unfinished. The graphics and art direction are characterless, the music is forgettable, and the gameplay is functional at best. One of the game's high points was the voice acting which is well performed all around. It even feels a little strange to finish up by saying the best part of this third-person open-sandbox action-game was a sing along with the Devil and his daughter. It was really well done and, again, highlights the terrific effort put in by the voice actors. Although it still doesn’t justify not playing Bat out of Hell even once.
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