It has to be said that there can be few people who weren't salivating at the prospect of a new game set in the Saints Row universe being released for less than £16. Even fewer when you consider that the new title would also be available with a rehashed edition of the excellent Saints Row IV for less than £40 for the pair. Indeed, the Saints themselves wouldn't have baulked at the price when the announcement was first made.
In Saints Row: Gat out of Hell, the leader of the Saints is pulled down to hell and, playing as Johnny Gat or Kinzie Kensington, your job is to head down there after him and prevent his soul from being given away. The open world style of Saints Row IV returns, albeit with zombie-like pedestrians, rivers of lava, and enemies that look like something out of Tenacious D video. The superhero powers return too, meaning that while you can steal any car that you can see, the ability to do that quickly becomes useless as you can traverse the game world faster on foot. Alternatively, you can super-jump into the air and sprout some less-than-heavenly wings in order to fly your way around the place.
Initially, your superpowers are limited by the amount of stamina your character has. After a while – once you've collected some of the hundreds and hundreds of power-up clusters that are dotted around the world, you'll get to a point where you can fly almost without time limits, and sprint through any obstacle that should dare to get in your way. It's incredibly freeing to feel that whatever you can see, you can reach within just a few seconds, without having to negotiate roads, bridges, and other traffic that's hell-bent on getting in your way.
Aside from playing through the main story missions, which see you essentially trying to make Satan angry until he throws down with you, there are an absolute ton of things to do. Diversions in the form of a Flatout-style ragdoll crash mode, time trials, destruction challenges, base captures and more are on the cards, and you'll rarely be stuck for something to do. In fact, while the main story mode can be beaten in just a few short hours, we found ourselves nowhere near to completing it some 10 hours into play. The reason is simple. You go to fly to William Shakespeare's nightclub (no, we're not kidding) and happen upon a base that you can take down. Ten minutes later, you get back on the trail and happen across a time trial event. Another ten minutes pass, and you spot a power cluster way, way up on the top of a building. Y'know…you may as well grab it, now you're here. Before you know it, an hour has gone and you're no closer to reaching the next story mission.
Indeed, everything that's on the cards to entertain you in Gat out of Hell can be taken on entirely at your leisure. If you don't fancy heading up to the next story marker, you can just do something else for a while. The choice is entirely yours. You'll have fun experimenting with new weapons, coasting around looking for new clusters in order to max out your elemental powers, and just seeing exactly what you can get away with doing inside the game world.
So that means that the new adventure merits the initially paltry-seeming outlay, right? Well, it does depend a little on what your expectations are.
If you purchased the Xbox 360 edition of Saints Row IV and enjoyed it, then you'll likely already be familiar with the problems that prevent Gat Out of Hell from being considered to be a slam dunk. If not, then they may irk you. As was always the case in the last-gen edition of the main game, flight through tight spaces is incredibly glitchy. If you so much as touch a wall, the camera goes insane and can cause extreme disorientation. That's fine when you're just tearing around the map for kicks, but when you're against the clock in a time trial event, it isn't ideal. Fortunately, most of the flying that you'll be doing will be in the open world, but you'll have to fly through tunnels, tubes, and through gaps in buildings enough that it should be mentioned. There are also the returning issues of being able to fall through the game world floor, and a framerate that seems to have trouble keeping up with what's going on at times. These were all issues with the main game on old hardware and while Gat out of Hell does look a little nicer on Xbox One, it has to be said that there's no huge generational leap to be seen here. That's disappointing, to say the least.
But as we say, a lot of those problems existed before and didn't really get in the way of what was a truly solid game. The same can be said here – especially if you take it online and play through in co-op mode.
Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell is a bargain for fans of Saints Row IV. There's less content included, but what is on offer here is good. We expected a slightly more mind-blowing jump to the current generation of consoles from the Saints after the relatively impressive showing that we saw on Xbox 360, but that isn't to say that the game isn't fun, compelling, and a real time-sink.