Saints Row has never been stranger to crazy ideas and ludicrous design choices and ‘Re-Elected/Gat out of Hell’ is simply a continuation of it’s childish game play, brainless characters and nonsensical story line. Its outlandishness will continue, as it has in the past, to divide sandbox fans between those that love the consequence free chaos and those who find it too immature to be enjoyable.
NOTE: This review will cover both Saints Row IV and Gat out of Hell together. If you are only interested in the latter, skip to the bottom of each section in order.
Story: “you didn’t really come for the story did you?” 4.5 out of 10
If you’ve played Saints Row 2 or 3, you’ll find that beginning of number 4 as crazy as them all. From the very start, Saints Row IV goes from the sublime to the ridiculous without skipping a beat. More accurately, I should probably say that it skips the sublime altogether and jumps straight to the ridiculous. There is no complexity or depth to the story that fills me with any dread about giving away spoilers by detailing virtually the entire plot in paragraph. In fact, detailing the plot probably sums up the game more than any of the other sections and its largely all you need to know if you’re on the fence about giving this game a go.
At the start of the game the player takes his/her masked character through a missile silo on a terrorist hunt; a short and violent prologue that results in the player saving the world from a nuclear bomb by climbing up the rocket and detonating it, while its in flight. Skip forward in time and the hero has become president of the United States and the Saints are a more established presence in America than they ever have been. Suddenly everything falls apart when Aliens invade earth and UFOs start abducting the populace. After a puny attempt at resistance, the President and all their buddies are captured and locked into individual pods onboard the evil Alien leader’s space ship where they are funnelled into a digitally simulated world. It then becomes the player’s job to liberate themselves and their allies from the simulation so they can find and eliminate the aliens. In true ‘Matrix’ style, the player divides his time between dodging the real world aliens while awaking their friends from the simulation and entering the simulation itself and causing chaos with super powers. Cause too much chaos however and the simulation will start to track you down. The whole ‘Matrix’ feel to the game is uncanny, even if it is 20 times as stupid.
The simulation, which puts the players in an alien occupied ‘Steelport’ is Voilition’s licence for craziness. Because it is a simulation and the player’s job is to cause as much chaos as possible to disrupt it, anything can happen. This means that as the player progresses through the game, they will unlock increasingly more super powers, absurd weapons, and unworldly experiences. It is a simple device that explains away some truly wild ideas that would otherwise have been tossed out. Unfortunately that also means that the story gets tossed out with it. Sure it has a few good ideas, but they’re stirred in with the ridiculousness of it all. Whats more is that the story has only a few original moments, the rest simply require you to do side activities that were already available to you beforehand. The story lacks ideas, depth, character or just about anything really, but thats not to say it doesn’t make you smile. More over, who expected one?
Gat out of Hell, which is the stand-alone expansion that comes with Re-Elected takes the story in a somewhat different direction. This tale begins with a simple birthday party gone wrong when the President (player from Saints Row IV) is pulled through a portal into Hell. In Gat out of Hell players take on the role of Gat himself, who enters Hell to save the President when he discovers that he/she has been abducted by the Devil for marriage to his daughter, Jezebel. Gat finds himself in Hell, a new locale for the series which replaces water with lava, citizens with zombies, and sky scrapers with a ruined city. Its all very dark, red, and evil and aside from a few alternative enemies (wing devils), its employs all the same game play mechanics as SR:IV with a few additions. In this expansion, Gat and fly and has a few extra toys to play with. Generally speaking however, the story line requires Gat to get the Devil’s attention and distract him before the wedding when the president will be lost. This requires you to cause as much chaos as you can to draw him out. Sound familiar? At least the devil and Jezebel are pretty amusing.
Gameplay: “mad as a hatter” 7.5 out of 10
It an industry that is increasingly focused on hardcore, serious games, Saints Row does a good job of keeping things light and funny. For PS4, this game certainly provides an open, crazy sand box unlike most that is currently available. On Microsoft’s consoles however, it is possibly in direct competition with Sunset Overdrive. The game is a 3rd person action game that largely gives players the freedom to do as they please. While your most basic form of attack and defence is your weapons, the player also access to a skill tree of super powers that allow them to sprint hyper fast and jump mega high. You can also unlock fireballs, ice blasts, telekinesis, and a bunch of other ‘magical powers’. It can be a bit tricky learning the micro manage them all, especially when trying to switch to specific weapons or abilities and fumbling about with the controls. They’re still great though! All these are largely employed in the wealth of side activities presented to you in the ‘simulated’ steel port. By wealth, I mean treasure troves! There is an overwhelming amount of side activities you can take part in and for the most part, that is what the game is about. It is less about following the story and freeing friends and more about just messing about. The story quests emphasise this when you begin to notice that large chunks of story and side ‘quests’ are not actually missions at all, but rather devices that take you to a location on the map to do a specific activity or two. Activities include a range of ideas, from simple speed runs, to collectibles, to using telekinesis to throw people, cars and objects through balloon hoops. There is so much to do and each one is as crazy as the other. These activities are available all the time however, so why the story and side missions take you to them rather than devise a unique mission structure is bizarre. Its arguably lazy scripting, but if you’re really enjoying the madness of it all then you probably don’t care. You get a lot of weird and wonderful weapons (including one that basically fires fart grenades), quirky characters, trippy side missions, wacky outfits. You can even customise your character at any time to look like anything you want. Male or female, you can have purple skin and be super fat if you choose. The choice is yours. The most enjoyable part of the game is probably the super powers that allow you to jump and sprint at hyper speeds and rain down senseless death on your enemies. Free sprinting around the city and leaping across sky scrapers is where this game shines; especially since there is no intelligence in the bullet-sponge AI, the shooting mechanics are poor, and vehicles are utterly pointless. Its a sand box with just so many toys that if you seek some sort of deeper meaning and purpose you’ll quickly tire. This is about quick fix lunacy and side splitting absurdity.
Understandably, Gat out of Hell takes most of its inspiration for SR:IV by including more of what was already there. For better or worse, this expansion is largely more of the same (although perhaps lacking some of the character). Aside from a few of the contextual changes from being in Hell, the game has little identity of its own and feels more like a ‘Lets do it again’ spin off than anything else. Sure its got a new location and alternative methods of getting around, but its the lack of real changes in the game play mechanics that soon become obvious.
Graphics: “muddy and plasticine” 5.0 out of 10
From a performance point of view, both Saints Row IV and Gat out of Hell run pretty well. Considering the amount of chaos and action that can be taking place on the screen at any one time (especially in coop), it would be easy to think the game would slow down and stutter. Thankfully this is not the case and its runs smoothly and without hitches.
That being said however, for a re-released title the graphical improvements go unnoticed. Much of the textures remain caught between fuzzy and muddy and the character models and lip syncing feel very ‘last generation’. Its a shame that the improved frame rate didn’t come with some upgraded visuals. The game world is also very bland on the eyes, being a persistent assault of blacks and reds that grow tiresome fast. A lot of the city simply looks the same and considering it is a fairly small map, this means you get tired of the game’s appearance faster than you’ll run out of things to do. Sometimes you’ll get a great view of the city and the setting of the massive sun, but you’re rarely going to stop to admire the craftsmanship.
Sound: “Fart noises are always funny” 5.3 out of 10
The game boasts a 109 track sound track divided between seven radio stations that provides you with plenty of music to listen to during your escapades across the city. Thankfully, Volition recognised that their addition of super powers had rendered vehicles pointless and allow you to tune in to the radio on foot. This allows you to simply set a backing tune to your actions that allows the radio to play no matter what you’re doing. Again, this is easily explained away since you’re in a simulation, but makes for a nice touch in giving your president his own theme tune. There are plenty of good tunes to listen to and its easy to flit between stations at will.
Sadly, the rest of the game is fairly lacklustre in the sound department. Weapons and explosions only sometimes feel like they carry the punch you want and even though they have range of different sounds, the main assault rifles, pistols, and machine guns sound weak. Then again, you’re likely not using them if the far more amusing fart gun is available. Complete with gassy fart sounds! Outside of the script and super power smash sounds, the AI dialogue in game is entirely bland and missable. The best sounds are where you least expect them, such as in magical side activities or strange weapons. Where sound is used to build a better and more interactive world however, is where it is really lacking.
Given that it is built on the same engine, Gat out of Hell is no exception to the above in both sound and graphics. Again, aside from contextual changes in aesthetics and weapon sounds, there is little noticeable difference in sound design. Although hearing the swooshing swoop of demonic wings is pretty cool.
Overall: “Stuff stuff stuff” 8.2 out of 10
Saints Row IV: Re-Elected and Gat out of Hell have two very big things going for them. Both are rammed with stuff to do and nutty as a fruit cake! The biggest draw is undoubtedly from the appealing sound of super powers, mad, explosive side missions and an open city to reek havoc. If you’ve played and enjoyed Saints Row games in the past, then the familiar characters, humour and sheer randomness of it all will make you giggle with excitement. For anyone else, this is just a trip down the rabbit hole you simply won’t understand. Volition wants you to throw caution to the wind and just have a good time in their game and from that point of view, they have given you an arsenal of tools to play with. There is so much to do and it will keep you entertained for hours and hours, even if none of it makes any sense. Complete with all the Saints Row IV DLC and Gat out of Hell, its hard to say that this game isn’t worth its money. If you’ve played it before on previous consoles, you may be disappointed with the lack of visual improvements, but at least the performance is there. If you missed number 4 and think you’re up for a little madness, then this is the game for you. If you think saving the world from an alien invasion by beating people to death with dildo like weapons is too much, then maybe steer clear.
FINAL SCORE OUT OF 10
see our scoring system here
You can’t say it contributes to the industry in any way other than providing an alternative to the serious first person shooter. To some, Saints Row is mad, wacky, and outlandish good fun. To others it is your idea of a bawdy, crude, brainless hell. Its story and characters are shallow, its graphics and sound uninspiring, but its gameplay and value for money is full to the brim with things to do. Its up to you to decide if this is a game for you based entirely on what you want. In the words of the game itself, “Hell is what you make of it”