Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Saints Row: Gat out of Hell review

    Saints Row is a video game series which I have been with since the beginning. Its funny, irreverant, serious, dramatic, and stupid in equal parts. Starting as a transparent rip-off of Grand Theft Auto III: San Andreas, it evolved into its own darkly comedic crime thriller in Saints Row 2. In Saints Row III, it became a wacky superhero universe in Saints Row III. In Saints Row IV, it became about as sensible as Team America: World Police only it took place in The Matrix and had you fight an alien overlord to Stan Bush's "The Touch."

    Gat out of Hell is the capstone to the series' continuity before the series is rebooted and has the premise of your long-time companion, Johnny Gat, taking out Lucifer to rescue series' protagonist the Boss from marrying the Devil's Daughter Jezebel. Johnny Gat is assisted in this quest by playful hacker Kinzie Kensington who is an optional player character during Johnny's rampage through Hell.

The choice of both a male and female protagonist is a nice bit of progressiveness.
    Did I mention the game has musical numbers? The Devil's Daughter, you see, is a Disney Princess and loves singing. She can rock the narrator from Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat too, I have it on good authority. Oh, and you have to recruit Blackbeard, Dracula, William Shakespeare, and a pair of identical twin villains from previous games. God makes an appearance at the end, voiced by Nathan Fillon.

    My reaction?

    Not quite over-the-top ENOUGH to be the ending of the franchise.

    But close.

Flying is, unfortunately, a huge part of this game while boring as all get out.
    The game is more or less identical to Saints Row IV with Johnny Gat getting a variety of superpowers by collecting glowing magical balls, buying power-ups with cash, and running around smashing things. All of the traditional mini-games are present like Insurance Fraud, Trailblazing, Survival, and so on with hellish twists. For example, Insurance Fraud consists of you taking the place of a damned soul in order to cause him enough injuries he gets out early. Apparently, Hell works like Purgatory, which is a lot better than many fundamentalist interpretations of the place.

    A major addition to the gameplay is the addition of winged flight, which I didn't actually care for all that much. Unfortunately, it's an unavoidable and plays a role in numerous missions. Not only are all the race missions done from the air but it's also your primary means of egress. I would have much preferred to do my travel around hell on foot. On the plus side, there is far-far less platforming in this game and that makes it superior to its predecessor in at least one respect.

    There's no music licensed for this game, which is unfortunate, as a fully-realized sequel to Saints Row IV would have been boss with Meatloaf's "Bat out of Hell" album. The song, "I would do anything for love" would have been perfect for Kinzie or Gat rescuing the Boss from his infernal wedding to the Devil's daughter. Likewise, all of the Hell Lords you can befriend make too little of an appearance. Still, I can't complain too much when Jezebel bursts into song like its Les Mis.

The wedding of the six-hundred and sixty-sixth year!
    Longtime fans of the series will appreciate the return of Dane Vogel, main villain from Saints Row 2, and the DeWinters sisters from Saints Row 3. I was surprised to see being in hell has improved Dane Vogel's disposition, turning him from an incredibly smug snake into a surprisingly savvy ally to the Saints. You also get the opportunity to hunt down and kill, seven times, series' antagonist Dex who was set up to be the villain for Saints Row III but fell off the map.

    Much of the game's story feels wasted as we get introduced to the four Hell Lords, rescue them from peril, and then never really see them again. If you're going to have Shakespeare running a night club while rapping his works then I want to see more of him. The lack of cutscenes is understandable in a game which only costs twenty-dollars but the game feels like a tease, especially since there's a bit at the end where you get to see how a team-up of your favorite foes might have gone. That felt like a mission I would have loved.

    Indeed, the game's length is its biggest flaw as opposed to the boring flying sections. I was complete with the game in under four hours with little incentive to do any further missions. You could maybe squeeze in a full six-hours of gameplay but that would be pushing things tremendously. Normally, I wouldn't say a game leaving me wanting more was a bad thing but there's a difference between good enough I wanted more and serving an appetizer but no real meal. This feels like the latter more than the former.

What does a machine-gun comfy chair have to do with Hell? Who cares?! It's Saints Row!
    I can't be too hard on the game since it's clear they were interested in telling a loving homage to the franchise. Saints Row IV didn't need a epilogue, which this game serves as, but I feel better about the franchise as a whole with it existing. The ending, while supremely silly, had enough heart I was actually kind of moved. Saints Row IV was pretty dark in places, despite its silly sci-fi premise and getting the option to undo some of that darkness felt good. Like the Doctor saving Gallifrey in Day of the Doctor. I also liked the weapons in this game, including the addition of a mobile comfy chair with attached machine guns and rocket launchers.

    Some fans may object to the use of Johnny as opposed to the Boss but I think it makes a great deal of sense. Not only is Johnny's passionate love of his friends a major cornerstone of his character but we also have been getting hints, for some time, he's suicidal. Johnny has been wanting to die since the death of his lover Aisha and seeing his final fate is, well, Hell is more dramatic than expected. Kinsie doesn't really do much in the story and I can't help but think Shaundi might have been a better choice. Hell, no pun intended, it might have been fun to have the second character be Jezebel.

Jezebel is adorable. As adorable as Elizabeth from Bioshock.
     Hell's design is serviceable enough, even if it is the third re-use of Steelport. There's a lot of fire, brimstone, and the quarries to make it look suitably hellish. Sadly, there's not that many interesting new locations. I liked Blackbeard's pirate ship, the shopping mall you rescue Vlad the Impaler from (complete with daycare), and the return of the Ultor building. There's also some cool visual touches like the fact most of the cars are badly damaged with quite a few being on fire. It's these little touches which make the game fun.

    This is definitely a good buy for fans of the series but too long for a short game and too short for a long game. It feels like a lot of unrealized potential and that brings down its overall enjoyment factor.

    Still, singing Devil's Daughter!


1 comment:

  1. I thought the flight was very well done. Certainly better then the Arkham games version.