The Dark Steam Hunt Volume Nine: Saints Row: Gat out of Hell
Updated: Dec 16, 2020
Saints Row 4 is a favorite of mine. I adore the madcap pile of nonsense that covered a surprisingly intelligent satire on video games at large. The Boss was a stroke of genius in terms of characterization, a fully customizable (to an absurd level) protagonist with a fully fleshed-out personality created an endlessly fun and compelling character made the total product extremely funny. Saints Row: Gat out of Hell is none of these things, a bland and inoffensive sandbox with boring protagonists and no structure.
During Kinzie Kensington’s birthday party, the third Streets Saints (as narrated by Jane Austen) decide to play with an Ouija board for giggles. As a result, The Boss gets sucked into hell and forced by the Devil to marry Jezebel. Johnny Gat and Kinzie Kensington follow The Boss to rescue him. Then the story just rather happens afterward. The two Saints mess around in hell until an arbitrary limit of time when they fight the Devil. Honestly, it is quite a boring piece as opposed to the character-driven madcap insanity of the predecessor.
Johnny Gat was a satire on the boring, generic action hero whose sole job was to be awesome and look pretty. So it would make sense that he should be the hero of the story. Unlike The Boss, who was charismatic and genuinely fun. Johnny Gat is a boring non-character whom we are forced to play as. The ending result is one where the comedy falls flat, because instead of a blue-skinned president of the United States with a cockney accent. We have a boring generic cool dude whose only joke is that he solves every problem through violence. Kinzie Kensington is a bit better but she does not have the charisma to be a protagonist. All her love for Kink and hatred for 50s clothing is gone, just the casual bland enjoyment of violence. Everything is just bland, safe, and lacking in stakes.
The lack of structure
There is not much of a plot structure to Gat out of Hell. You perform a series of repetitive side quests until Satan takes notice of you. A nice idea in theory as Saints Row 4 enjoyed a wide selection of crazy side missions to take a break from the plot stuff. The problem in practice is a sufficient lack of stakes. Gat and Kensington don’t propel the plot forward, the plot sort of happens to them regardless of actions.
There is nothing memorable to be had in Gat out of Hell's side quests, like the text adventure, the 1950s simulation, or the Metal Gear Solid parody from four. The characters and quests are pure function and blur together. Saving Shakespeare involves the same process as saving Blackbeard. Two characters that could have been fun in a Saints Row game but are utterly unmemorable because there is no interaction in their quest lines or unique gameplay features. They exist as a means to an end.
What is being satirized here?
The Christian afterlife has plenty of material for the Saints Row series to satirize. I look forward to the day when it does that. Hell as a setting is grossly underused and could honestly be swapped out for just about anything and there would not be a lot different. There is no commentary on the absurdity of hell as a concept nor does it play up said concept to the ridiculous levels found in the 1950s sitcom level in four. It is just a bland use of a setting rich in potential but lacking in creativity or stakes.
If you have played Saints Row 4. Then congratulations! You have played Gat out of Hell. The super speed, jump, and flying all make a comeback along with stomp, buff (now called Aura), and blast. Death from Above, Force Field, and Telekinesis are absent from the project. The only new power is Summons, which summons cute little hell demons to fight for you. There are some new activities: like catching falling souls or knocking elite college demon graduates into portals. The weapons are nowhere near as interesting anymore and the main missions are gone. Please keep in mind that I am aware of the fact that Gat out of Hell is practically an expansion pack for Saints Row 4. There is nothing wrong with that, what I am criticizing is how much of a downgrade Gat out of Hell is in comparison to Saints Row 4.
There is a sequence of side missions that I think encapsulate the problem I have with Gat out of Hell. To get all four powers you have to get the loyalty of four hell-bound souls. These include famous historical figures like Shakespeare, Vlad the Impaler, and Blackbeard. Every single mission requires the player to do the same thing-that being shooting a set number of demon waves. Upon completing this you get the power. Repeat four times and you are done.
Then later, when Satan has captured the four, you have to fight off more waves of demons until you kill the floating wizards. Repeat this four times with no change at all. The character loyalty missions revolve around doing the side actives that have relevance to the character you are doing them for. My point is that there is a distinct lack of originality in the quests. A lack of effort to mix them up. Tie to them Shakespeare’s image and personality for example. Instead, we get a series of repetitive tasks that have nothing to do with anything. They lulled me into a trance and left me wanting to play 4 again.
I only ever needed to do about a third of any actives before I was able to defeat the final boss. There is not much that challenge after you unlock the basic powers. You can instantly kill any low minion by super speeding them and attacking. Not only do you imminently remove a foe but you get healed by a significant amount. You can perform this action right away afterward. Granted, Saints Row 4 was completely broken in terms of difficulty, but it made up for it with fun weapons, cool superpowers, and dressing the boss as a nightmarish alien cross dresser. But without these elements, you are left with a game where there isn’t a lot of challenge and the player never really feels any sort of threat. Gat out of Hell again, becomes boring.
The guns are weaker now
Do you remember the Dubstep gun, the Dilido Bat, the Inflato-ray, or the Black Hole launcher? All gone. The weapons that replace these fun, silly and cathartic weapons are utterly generic and boring. A pistol, a crossbow, and a baseball bat with nails. None of them have the punch the dildo bat offered nor they have the memorable strangeness of Dubstep gun. That is not to say there is no creativity at all. A gun causes enemies to explode into money when they die and a skull that fires a burning beam. The problem is that these are two are outliers, the rest are boring unless you grind through a series of repetitive tasks. I do not think the rewards are worth it for the time and effort I have to put in. They have no punch and behave very similar to the standard ones.
Arts style and Graphics:
For a game of its time, Gat out of Hell looks perfectly fine. The use of red, brown, and yellow are a befitting color scheme for hell. There is something of a cut and paste job about the city layout. I swear Stillwater and Hell are the same cities. I cannot be too sure of this, however.
Suffered two crashes and persistently low frame rate whenever I performed a melee takedown. The crashes were far apart enough to not be an annoyance. However, what kills the game is the frame rate slows down due to the sheer frequency you as the player have to make melee take downs.
The biggest sin any game/piece of entertainment can make is to be boring. A boring Saints Row post 4 is unforgivable and lends credence to the fact that you cannot follow the insanity of four, without seeing a drop in quality. The inexplicable use of Johnny Gat and Kinzie Kensington as protagonists was a dumb move, to say the least. The lack of narrative structure or thematic focus only makes an uninteresting game even more boring.
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