When I wrote my review of Saints Row IV, I commented that I thought it was what happens when Volition completely takes the shackles off of reality and simply lets it get weird. The main character becomes President of the United States, aliens invade, and their ruler Zinyak ultimately destroys the planet. It looked like this was going to be Volition putting it in park for a while to give them a chance to tackle the newest platforms over a longer stretch of time.

It got weird again.

Saints Row: Gat out of Hell opens right after the destruction of our planet, with the Saints aboard a hijacked space ship when, during a birthday party bit of Ouija board fun, a rift opens up on the bridge and sucks the President into Hell. Johnny Gat and Kinzie Kensington jump in after to rescue their Commander in Chief, kicking off the strangest Saints Row adventure yet.

Johnny Gat: “Hell yeah. Who doesn’t wanna be Johnny Gat?”
All previous Saints Row games have kicked off with creating your character, but Gat out of Hell focuses on everyone’s favorite arisen sociopath. You can also switch out to play as Kinzie at will for all but the last battle. Other than the 30 hidden snippets of observation dialogue, cutscenes, and the odd bit of voice work, they are essentially the same. As Gat and Kinzie enter Hell, they meet up with an old enemy from Saints Row II – Dane Vogel. Vogel, the Head of Special Projects for mega-evil corporation Ultor, and voiced by returning comedian Jay Mohr, has been sent to Hell and has turned it very much to his advantage. He rebuilt Ultor in the underworld and has already begun turning torment into a tidy profitable venture.

Party hats for everyone!

Party hats for everyone!

Gat’s mission is simple enough — shoot the Devil in the face and rescue the President. Dane suggests that it’s not that simple, and that a few allies would smooth the process. Who would you enlist? How about The Twins, Kiki and Viola DeWynter from Saints Row: The Third, Vlad the Impaler, Blackbeard the Pirate, and Shakespeare, of course! Earning their loyalty will provide the support needed to take on Mephistopheles…but this is Saints Row — you know there has to be a twist.

You see, the reason why Old Scratch has kidnapped The Boss is to force him (apparently, canon says The President is a man) to marry his daughter Jezebel. I know this because there is an extended singing section (you can check that out in this trailer) that explains it all, twisted-Disney style. It all unfolds as if being read from a storybook, and it’s all very silly. After Saints Row IV, I wouldn’t expect any less.

Dane Vogel: “I’ve enjoyed our time together too, but I think it’s about time we moved on.”
There is one thing that you need to be aware of for Gat out of Hell — it is a standalone expansion pack, but the bulk of the heavy lifting comes courtesy of the always-fun distraction minigames. Normally you’d have 30 or so main missions to tackle in addition to these side missions, but Gat out of Hell doesn’t have that on offer. Instead you’ll tackle new versions of familiar diversions. These diversions (more on those in a moment) serve to fill a meter measuring “Satan’s Wrath”, which pushes the story forward at regular intervals.

The game is still an open world sandbox, and with Satan’s cracked halo in hand, Gat and Kinzie are both granted fallen-angel wings to fly around the twisted hellscape of “New Hades” that kinda looks like Steelport. You can take over the neighborhood once again, with the boroughs being named Shantytown, Downtown, Forge, Barrens, Den, and some familiar island locations on the outskirts. The days of driving, and to an extent, even super-speed running are well behind us.

Who knew that Old Scratch had such a solid singing voice?

Who knew that Old Scratch had such a solid singing voice?

Without a traditional mission structure (which the game acknowledges in a fourth wall breaking nod) you’ll instead tackle the aforementioned side missions. There are eight altars that provide new elements for your powers, some capture and hold missions for facilities, survival rounds, and rampages, but that isn’t where the fun lies.

One of my favorite distraction types in previous games was Insurance Fraud. In Torment Fraud, you’ll do the same thing, only instead of racking up dollars of insurance money, you are letting a poor dead husk get hit by cars to cut years off of their eternal damnation sentence. Hellblazing is similar to Blazin, only you’ll be flying through waypoints instead of speed-running. Beyond those two, there are a few new goodies to be had.

Salvation has souls trying to ascend to Heaven, and others falling to Hell. Using your blast power, you’ll pop the barriers around the ascenders and capture them to bump up your combo meter, then try to catch as many of the fallers as you can. This one was a bit of a mixed bag for me as tight maneuvering became difficult as I spent collected souls (how you earn powers) to ramp up my flight speed. Beyond that is Soul Extraction facilities that ask you to hold three chokepoints simultaneously to capture the building. Marshalling Grounds have glyphs you’ll have to convert to the familiar fleur-de-lys to capture a warp point, after defeating a demon guardian. I didn’t find a lot of use to the Marshalling Grounds as flight is entirely too much fun to simply pass up.

Professor Genki gets a replacement in the form of Frat paddling enemies through colored rings. It’s far less specific than Genki’s games, allowing you to just wreak havoc without as much concentration.

In fact, if there is one thing I noticed, it’s that Gat out of Hell is significantly easier, even on Normal setting, than its predecessors. Throughout the course of the half dozen hours of play, I only died twice. That may be a direct result of some of the all new weapons on display.

Johnny Gat: “Whatever, I was gonna blow that place up anyway.”
Saints Row has always had a pretty wide variety of weapons, and Saints Row IV pushed the crazy to a whole new level, but Gat out of Hell’s weapons are downright nuts. You’ll start off with fairly conventional weapons, but shortly after that you’ll start acquiring implements of distruction based on the fire and brimstone setting. A gun that shoots locusts? Check. A rifle that launches lava and rock? Present. An armchair that reclines to shoot rockets and has a pair of chainguns on each side? Comfy! There are nearly two dozen new weapons here, including seven of them based on the seven deadly sins. My personal favorite was a weapon called the Gallows Dodger which, when upgraded, took out the final boss in under a minute. That weapon compliments you on your mayhem techniques and laughs maniacally as it goes into overdrive to pummel your foes into submission. They aren’t what you might call ‘balanced’, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t fun!

Noteworthy! (enjoy that pun, it's free)

Noteworthy! (enjoy that pun, it’s free)

Johnny Gat: “All I’m sayin’ is that since you got here you’ve been nothin’ but talk.”
I’m going to sum this up with some words I’ve already said at least twice — the voice repetition in Saints Row: Gat out of Hell will grate on your nerves in the half-dozen hours of gameplay on display. Put another way:

From my Saints Row III review:
There is one area where the game does fall short in the audio department, though – repetition. More times than I can count I’ve heard “You still think I’m just a pretty face?” or “Somebody had better buy me a drink!” or “After that, I need a massage” from the main character. The game spans a good length of time, so after a while it does begin to grate on your nerves a bit. Similar repetition from the pedestrians just adds fuel to that fire.

From my Saints Row IV review:
There is still plenty of voice repetition from the main character like we’d seen in previous Saints Row titles, so that wasn’t surprising, but hearing a “Whohooo!” or something similar every 3rd or so data cluster you pick up (and there are over 1000 of them) gets old in a hurry.

Current consoles (and, of course, PCs) have more than enough storage space where voice repetition is simply a matter of lack of effort. If I have to hear “Let’s see what these things can do” or “GRAAAAAVITY!” ever again, it’ll be far too soon. Hear me on this Volition – record more than 5 things for the main character to say.

These guys are easy to kill.  Use the summon power and detonate.

These guys are easy to kill. Use the summon power and detonate.

Dane Vogel: “You can’t build an ivory tower without killing a few elephants.”
There are five endings to the game. Once you choose one of them, you can easily re-run the last battle and see the other four. All told, doing all of the loyalty missions and achieving a 82% completion rating (sorry, I’m not collecting over 900 orbs) I finished the game at six hours. There is likely three or so hours more of collectable grabbing to do, I’d guess. Not a bad amount of gameplay for the $19.99 asking price. If you skipped the insanity of Saints Row IV, check out my review here and pick up the combined product — Saints Row IV: Re-Elected and Gat out of Hell are bundled for $49.99.

I did run into a crash during gameplay, and a minor glitch that had demons chomping on me that I couldn’t shake off no matter what. Having reviewed all previous Saints Row titles, I’ll tip my hat to the team — the title is stable and fairly problem-free. That’s more than I can say for most games that have shipped recently.

Flying is a whole lot of fun.

Flying is a whole lot of fun.

Johnny Gat: “You better start getting with the times.”
Given that this is Volition’s first current-gen title, it was unsurprising to see them keep one foot firmly planted in the previous generation. Gat out of Hell is shipping for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, as well as PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. That, of course, comes at a cost. It means that the graphics look to be equivalent to a PC’s “High” or perhaps even “Ultra” settings that we saw on Saints Row IV. While that looks decent enough, it’s not going to win any awards against other PlayStation 4 titles, even open-world ones. You’ll see some muddy and repeating textures, and a few character models stand out but others are somewhat jagged or plain. Thankfully, the framerate is stable at 1080p, and what looks to be 30fps locked, and I didn’t encounter any screen tearing issues.