With THQ gone the originally planned DLC was altered to form what I thought was a slightly disappointing Saints Row IV. Although it offered the usual ridiculous Saints thrills and spills with a creatively ridiculous plot and setting. Personally I didn’t think the super powers were enough to base an entire game on. I still wish Saints IV had been the DLC to the third game so that we would now be looking at a full new title rather than using aging mechanics and technology. Still in its own right Saints IV was a great game.
Enter Gat Out of Hell: the DLC to the game that should have been DLC to the game from the last generation. So 10 minutes in after a typically wacky set of cutscenes you see the in game graphics. They just about managed to get away with basing the last gen Saints IV on the last gen Saints 3 engine but it’s just not possible now. Switching from any PS4 title I can think of to Gat Out of Hell is an obvious step back 1 or 2 years. This isn’t a bad looking PS4 game, it’s a PS3 game that has been shoved onto the PS4.
It’s not particularly helped by the setting of Hell which creates an incredibly dreary brown, brown and brown pallet, with the inevitable, if not occasional, splash of purple. Orange jets of fire, crimson rivers of blood or bright white skeletons instantly spring to my mind as ways to add colour but none are present in Gat Out of Hell. Some sort of horrible thorny vine plants could’ve added green. I’m not artistic but the sea of browns is completely depressing from the very start.
Character models, weapons and other effects are obviously PS3 quality. There appears to be no attempt at keeping them inline with current visuals at all. The engine running Saints is just too old. It’s impossible for it to look at home on the PS4. The last Saints game should really have had an update so here on the PS4 it’s just too obvious to ignore.
Even though Saints is known for being intentionally ridiculous and over-the-top the setting of Hell isn’t welcome to me. I want a city to explore and I want it to look reasonably realistic. For me being in Hell is like swamp areas on a game. There isn’t a single game I’ve ever been on and entered a swamp gladly thinking how fun it will be to navigate or how colourful it will be; and the same apparently goes for Hell.
But my biggest problem with the latest setting is the ironic reduction in the humour and insanity of Saints. The reason that gun you unlock near the end is so fun and ridiculous is because the previous 10 or 20 weapons are relatively normal. The reason the near invincible Genki mascot walking casually down the street with a taser is funny is because you rarely see him – and he can make you fall rather sadly to the floor. The humour and general lunacy of Saints relies on the contrast between the norm. In Gat Out of Hell there is no normal. So when you grab yourself a monster truck with flames blaring out of the exhaust pipes and sirens on top there’s no shock. You just get in and drive off. If that had casually driven down the street once every 10 hours on Saints 3 heads would have turned.
With none of the humour and whit of the more ‘creative’ elements of Saints and an unimaginative, bleak setting that belongs on last gen all that’s left are the missions. Usually sandbox mayhem like Saints Row needs a ton of content to keep us busy; it’s one of the best things about an open world sandbox and particularly Saints Row. The missions are varied but sadly it’s really nothing we haven’t seen in the past few Saints games. Also considering Gat Out of Hell actually is DLC it has far less content than the recent ‘full’ titles, punching in at only 4 hours or so. You can probably extend this a little if you try but you will struggle to get past 6 hours.
For me there’s something missing when you don’t get the customization and connection of creating your own character. Given the setting I found it difficult to really feel connected or care about the stuff I was unlocking. There’s an amazing difference between unlocking stuff for my customized gang hideout with my customized character driving a customized car from my garage and unlocking a weapon from hell for Gat. Add in the fact that before 10 hours it’s all over it’s difficult to care.
Gat Out of Hell is simple. It’s DLC that offers a small amount of extra Saints Row gameplay. It looks shamefully last gen because the dev absolutely refuses to let go of the Saints Row The Third engine. It’s old and it looks it. No amount of polish can fill in the cracks, Saints Row has needed an updated engine for a long time but now it’s just ridiculous. The franchise can’t move on unless it gets an update and starts living in the now.
So Gat Out of Hell ends up being a short and disappointing DLC that offers little new content for those who’ve played Saints 3. Without the contrast of a close to real world most of the ‘crazy’ humour is lost. There’s still no significant visual updates and the environment is drab and just draining to look at. Gat Out of Hell is nothing but a blatant attempt to drag as many titles as possible out of a game that’s already done and very finished. Saints Row The Third was great, but making countless sequels and DLC using nothing but a re-skin is not the way to move Saint Row forward. I say it’s time for a real Saints Row IV.