Gat Outta Hell is not a full game that continues the story of the Saints. It’s more like a half game in between Saints Row IV and the official fifth game that’s hopefully being developed right now! It’s sort of a strange addition to the series. Gat Outta Hell is smaller than a full game, but bigger than DLC. It’s a .5 in the series. Saints Row 4.5, if you will.
Is this smaller, more contained game just as fun? Where’s the layers of the story? Where’s the recruiting? The mayhem? The insurance fraud and the radio stations full of music that becomes unbearable after your eighth straight hour of gang-related violence?
It’s all still there (for the most part) and now you get to play as Johnny Gat as he rampages through Hell. Yes, you are raising hell… in Hell.
And I’m fine with it because, c’mon, flying around Hell on Lucifer’s very own wings, all leading up to shooting Satan himself in the face? Who could say no to that?
The story of Gat Outta Hell starts with Kinzie’s birthday party aboard the ship where you spent most of the fourth game. The ship being the space ship the Saints have to live on because Zinyak blew up the Earth. But none of that matters in the face of a birthday party! There are presents, cake, and party games. None of which Kinzie is that into but Matt makes her sit down for the best thing of all: a Ouija board.
Matt, Shaundi, Kinzi, Johnny, and the Boss (who is graciously auto loaded from your most-recent Saints Row IV playthrough) sit down to ask the Hasbro board game if the Boss will ever get married. The board starts to spell out Jezebel. The Boss has just enough time to ask “who the fuck is Jezebel?” before they’re promptly sucked into a portal from Hell.
“Is that not normal?” Kinzie asks as the Ouija board proceeds to laugh at them.
Turns out Matt got that Ouija board from Zinyak’s Earth artifacts. It belonged to Aleister Crowley. Johnny decides it’s time to go to hell. Kinzie tags along, since it’s her birthday. The two descend into Hell, where they meet old friends and foes and sing their way to rescuing the Boss.
Did I say sing?
I definitely said sing.
Jezebel is Satan’s daughter but she’s got a song in her heart and a want to be something more than the daughter of the Devil. Her father is trying to marry her off to the Boss because he needs someone to lead his damned army to storm Heaven. Apparently a son/daughter in law can do it but not his own daughter? Anyways, as far as the character of Jezebel goes and the songs she sings, think Beauty and the Beast’s “There must be more than this Provincial life!” but switch out “provincial” for “demonic” and you’re good!
Even Johnny and Kinzie belt out a verse or two. Because why the hell not! Saints Row has already blown up the Earth and conquered the galaxy, why not send Johnny to Hell and have it be a musical? I see this as a logical progression of events! Am I a little disappointed that it was Johnny who got to belt out the showtunes and not my beloved punk Boss? A little. But after Johnny’s absence for the entirety of Saints Row: the Third, it’s nice to see that time made up.
Having it in Hell? That’s just icing on Kinzie’s birthday cake!
Like every Saints Row game to come before, you conquer territory, which involves recruiting to the Saints, and diversions, which in Hell include a few previously done in past games with a demonic flare to them, and a few new ones, because the series is always looking for new ways to be ridiculous! But as for who you recruit to help you in Hell, you’ve got Dane Vogel (Saints Row 2), Viola and Kiki DeWynter (Saints Row the Third), and then Shakespeare, Blackbeard, and Vlad the Impaler for good measure. It’s a motley crew that you’ll learn to love!
After helping each damned soul take over their respective area in Hell, Johnny storms Satan’s tower, crashing the wedding, and doing what he said he’d do since the beginning: shoot the Devil in the face. The ending of this adventure? Your choice, with five paths to choose from. I personally chose to have Johnny remain with the Saints but I was very tempted to make him the new overlord of Hell. Because is there anywhere else the Saints could possibly go after this?! Why not have Johnny be the goddamn King of Hell!
Ridiculous story aside (because it’s Saints Row and we’re used to that), the biggest change obviously comes with the playable character. The Boss is out and Johnny Gat or Kinzie are in. Each have their own commentary for things scattered around Hell and control exactly the same, though I can’t imagine anyone wanting to play as Kinzie over Johnny? I know she’s a fan favourite since she came in for Saints Row: the Third, but up against Johnny Gat? C’mon. There’s a clear winner there and it’s not the redhead with the nasally voice that’s constantly whining.
Also, side note, the Boss is trapped in a giant crystal and is referred to as “they” throughout the entire sojourn through Hell. Look at that, proper pronouns for the situation. Check another thing off that Saints Row does right!
Enter Johnny as he fights Satan to rescue his best friend. Have I mentioned yet in this retrospective how much I love that Johnny and the Boss never stop calling each other best friends? It’s just… the best. Friendship FTW! Brutal, murderous gang friendship, but friendship nonetheless.
And just like Saints Row IV, there’s returning characters from past games. Only instead of a load of code in a computer simulation, they’re damned souls. Dane Vogel makes himself known quickly, aligning himself with the Saints and not even double-crossing them in the end! There’s commentary littered around Hell where he talks about how he got what he deserved for going up against the Saints and how he wouldn’t make the same mistake again. Character development from beyond the grave, people! It’s a wonderful thing!
Kiki and Viola DeWynter from Saints Row: the Third are also there. Kiki was killed by Killbane in the third game, Viola got blown up on Earth in the fourth. They get their twin reunion in Hell and go straight to work making money while they’re there. I’m happy to see them back. Not having Viola around in the fourth game made me surprisingly sad. She grew on me. A lot more than Zimos ever did. Which is to say that he didn’t. Fuck Zimos, he sucks. I’m glad you don’t even see him as a Husk around Hell.
Oh! Speaking of Husks, they play a big role with bringing back old characters without actually bringing them back. Throughout Hell you can torment Dex and help Luz (Saints Row), and you can help Tobias and Troy (Saints Row 2). You get a little voice over talking about them, but all the character models for the Husks are the same. Smart. Simple. Cheap. I love it.
You also manage to recruit some new Saints while you’re in Hell. William Shakespeare, Vlad the Impaler, and Blackbeard join you once you help them out of their particular torments. Is it strange to have Shakespeare in your gang? No, not at all. Is it strange that he’s a DJ and runs a club? Nope. Entertainment evolves, so must the entertainer. What’s strange is that he talks in third person. That gets old pretty damn quickly. Just… why? Speak in the antiquated English you wrote your plays in Will, I understand that, but ditch the third person.
Oh! And God appears for a bit at the end before you choose which ending you want. He’s voiced by Nathan Fillion. So, Firefly fans take that as you will.
What’s got to be my biggest complaint for Gat Outta Hell (besides Shakespeare’s third person) are the gameplay glitches. Every videogame is going to have a few bugs and I’m fine with that. It’s not like Saints Row has ever been as bad as any of Ubisoft’s AAA titles. It’s just when games get pumped out to meet a deadline, problems arise. While I played Gat Outta Hell I got stuck in walls, fell through buildings, and the enemies I engaged in melee type attacks never, ever lined up with the action that Johnny performed. Not game breaking things at all, but frustrating for me and my single microbe of patience.
Glitches aside, Gat Outta Hell plays a lot like the last two Saints Row games in the series, though the main story does unlock a little differently here. Since Gat Outta Hell is a shorter game, there’s a gauge that fills up when you do the side quests/diversions to unlock the narrative beats of game. So after every diversion a little more gauge fills up and when it reaches one of the pre-determined story beats, it’s going to play whether you’re ready for it or not. It can be a little jarring to finish a random task and then be launched into a musical cutscene. Maybe I played the game differently than how they assumed I would? This honestly might just be a ME problem.
The diversions that you’re going to be playing to take over each part of Hell are tailored to fit the fact you’re in Hell. Survival has you surviving waves of demons, Rambulance has you in an ambulance running people over instead of picking them up, Torment Fraud has you take possession of a Husk and run it into traffic, but instead of insurance money, you get time taken off their stay in purgatory. The only diversions that seem brand new are Salvation where you save damned souls and Pledge Rush where you ass paddle frat boy demons around.
That one’s great fun.
You also have weapons and superpowers (aka Arcane Powers) based on your surroundings. You can summon a swarm of imps to kill your enemies or fire off some shots with a shotgun that instills lust in those it hits. The powers aren’t much to write home apart, but the weapons based on the 7 deadly sins? I’m all about that.
Gluttony: Last supper (a vomit gun as far as I can tell? The other ones are better, I swear! Oh god why did I start with this one?!)
Envy: Uriel’s Edge (sword)
Pride: Gallows Dodger (handgun)
Anger: The Arc of the Covenant (rocket launcher)
Sloth: Armchair A Geddon (machine guns/rocket launcher. You can upgrade this one to move faster so you can just cruise around town half asleep when you don’t want to fly. Just don’t ask where it disappears to when you stand up)
Lust: Boom Chicka (shotgun)
Greed: Diamond Sting (an uzi that gives you extra money with each enemy riddled with bullets)
But the best part of the gameplay–the absolute best fucking part–is being able to fly. Not just jump and glide (aka falling with style) like from Saints Row IV, but actual flight on wings that you can flap and zip around Hell on like the goddamn bird of prey you are!
The flight is honestly worth the price of admission on this game because it is the most fun I’ve ever had getting around an open-world, sandbox game. And that’s even including the super sprint and jump from Saints Row IV!
Gat Outta Hell has a lot of red in it. No surprise there since we’re in Hell. But I’m left wondering where the hell is the Saints colour? Much like Saints Row IV which took a blue motif, Gat Outta Hell is denying me the colour I associate with the Saints. The map does turn purple as you take over neighbourhoods, but the Saints brand is purple. Give me purple! Because I am a crazy person and I care!
Aside from the colour scheme, there’s another noticeable visual change to Gat Outta Hell. The Saints Row team decided at the third game that they were done with the realism of actual human faces and bodies, and since their switch from people to cartoon characters, they’ve also added a cell-shaded aspect to their games. Personally, I’m all for it. It helps it stay good looking for longer. And that’s pretty important in the world of videogames when appealing to the more casual players.
Because as much as I love Saints Row 2, since it came out in 2008, it hasn’t visually aged that great. The graphical innovation that occurs over even one generation of a console is staggering and I’m not alone in thinking that a lot of early PS3/Xbox games look objectively bad against what’s coming out now. I mean, Mia’s eyes in Resident Evil 7? ‘Nuff said. But Gat Outta Hell compared to newer stuff? It’s more timelessly stylized and it’s holding up.
The music of Gat Outta Hell is by past Saints Row composer Malcolm Kirby Jr. and it’s amazing once again. Besides the fact that it’s a whole, brand new and unique soundtrack produced for a half game, the soundtrack here fits to an absolute tee! It’s dirty and heavy sounding. Very grinding, mechanical, and industrial type stuff that verges slightly on horror. It’s the type of soundtrack that I imagine would make Trent Reznor hard if he listened to it.
Different from the Saints Row games that have come before, Gat Outta Hell has no radio options, just atmospheric score. Going from Saints Row where you had no score and just the radio, it’s interesting to see it all come full circle with a game that doesn’t have any licensed music at all.
Considering you’ll be flying most places and not hijacking cars, you won’t really miss it. But consider for a moment the type of music they’d have on the radio in Hell. I personally assume all heavy metal. A clever but completely missed opportunity would have been bringing back the heavy metal radio station that was cut from Saints Row IV and having it be the only radio station in Hell.
Your loss, Gat Outta Hell. Your loss.
Since Gat Outta Hell takes place in Hell, how does Saints Row portray literal Christian damnation? Much the same way it’s portrayed all its other cities: a series of islands connected by highways. It’s very Steeleport in how straight forward it is in its design, but thankfully it’s not just Steeleport again. And honestly, I’m a little disappointed that they, once again, didn’t bring back Stilwater. How appropriate would it have been if Hell looked exactly the same as Stilwater? It would have been a perfect call back to the series’ roots and a perfect way to get me to shut the hell up about how we need to get back to Stilwater!
Okay, look, I get it. It’s a half game, pretty much just extended DLC, and the five islands that make up Hell are the right size for the narrative you play through, but thinking about this logistically, and you know, assuming that Hell is a physical place for souls to wander around in, this place just isn’t big enough for however many damned souls there surely are!
Despite yet another insanely clever missed opportunity in making Hell Stilwater, I do like its design. The different islands all have very different feels. There’s an industrial area with cranes, quarries, and warehouses. A downtown area with skyscrapers that are fortified against attack. An outskirts area with natural looking architecture that feels like it formed more than it was made. A ghetto that’s crowded and crumbling. And, of course, there’s a sleazy entertainment district with neon and strip clubs and shops.
With each area being so different from all the others, it gives the game an implied feel that Hell grows based on influxes of damned souls. There are different areas that spring up as the need arises. I’m not sure that’s how the developers intended it or if I’m just looking too deeply into it, but I like what I’m assuming it all means!
Gat Outta Hell is such a satisfying game. Taking control of Johnny Gat is a fanfic fantasy come to life and having it be in Hell? How did it take them this many games to send the Saints to Hell? Gat Outta Hell is a shorter game to be sure, but flying around Hell on angel wings or blowing up a tank in a reclining chair equipped with rockets will take your mind off the weaker aspects of the game.
If you haven’t picked up Gat Outta Hell do it. It’s fun to go to Hell!
So what’s my personal rating of Saints Row games? Saints Row IV and Saints Row 2 are tied for the best. They’re both so different from each other that it would be no surprise if people mistook them for different franchises completely, and that’s what makes it so hard to choose between them. The grittier realism of Saints Row 2 or the over-the-top ridiculousness of a sci-fi adventure of Saints Row IV? Don’t try and make me choose because I won’t!
Then there’s Gat Outta Hell. Not quite a full game but better than DLC. It comes in second because it’s a fun stand-alone diversion and a good way to tie up the current Saints’ storylines. Because c’mon, Johnny’s been to Hell. That feels like a definitive ending to this particular group of people. Though it does pain me to say that.
Coming in at the bottom of personal enjoyment are Saints Row and Saints Row: the Third. Both are still entertaining games and I hold a special place in my heart for the third game because it was what brought me into the series. But honestly, the first game is kind of bland and the third game is kind of a tonal mess. Neither really does enough to make them stand out in my mind. Plus, fuck Zimos.
But Saints Row as an overall series? Taking all the bad with the good? I think it’s pretty obvious that I love this series and will follow it wherever it goes. My loyalty is pledged to the Third Street Saints!