This is the first time I have played a Saints Row game, so I really was coming into this with little idea of what to expect. Many of you will have played through these games already when they were originally released on the PS3 and Xbox 360 over a year ago now. On first impressions it’s pretty clear that this is a last gen game running on the new consoles. It hasn’t had the visual updates that some of the re-released games have had but, does this mean it isn’t worth playing? Of course not, it is just a small part of what makes a game good to play but I would have liked a bit more effort put in to make it feel like a new release and not just a game of the year type release with all DLC added. Many cross generation games have been labelled as cheap cash-ins, but I am glad to say that with this game you are also getting Gat out of Hell, which is big enough to be a full release in itself and it isn’t a full priced release.
The main game is an over the top open world game that has a twist. You are in an alien simulation and in some similarities to the Matrix films you can bend the rules of this simulation to give yourself superpowers – such as super speed, mega jumps, gliding through the air and even telekinesis. This makes the game hugely enjoyable and far more interesting than the normal drive, run and shoot mechanics of many open world games. The humour in the game is brilliant and whilst most of it is over the top it isn’t afraid to rip itself and many other games apart, which is a refreshing change from so many games that take themselves far too seriously.
One of the best features of this game is that you genuinely don’t know what is going to happen next, you have to release your imprisoned friends and to do this you have to enter different parts of the simulation, which are effectively based on other well known games. From a side scrolling beat ’em up like Streets of Rage, to a slower paced stealth based mission exactly like the Metal Gear series. As a gamer of a certain age I loved this and it was great to see what classic genres I would be playing through next. These sections are great but sadly they are surrounded by many hours of repetitive tasks. Going from one area to the next, shooting everything there and waiting for a timer to count down as you defend from more incoming hostile enemies. Having super powers helps make it a bit more interesting, but sadly it is over played too many times and it just highlights the contrast between what makes this game feel fresh and what makes it feel old.
Gat Out of Hell is a brand new release and sees you play as Johnny Gat as he descends into hell to save the President, the character you play as in the main game, after he is dragged down after playing with an Ouija board. Sadly hell is another City that is all too similar to what you will see in the main game, just with far more red and orange in the colour pallet. Cars still drive round on the streets and people walking the streets, I was disappointed as there was so much scope in the idea of Hell to make this title feel different, but sadly it doesn’t.
The gameplay is pretty much the same too, but it lacks the unique ‘other genre’ mini games that were in the main game, and as such it loses the element of surprise that kept me playing through the main story. You do have the usual Saints Row humour as you will meet many tortured souls in Hell such as Vlad the Impaler and more surprisingly a club DJ called William Shakespeare. These characters act as your crew in this expansion, so again it is the same structure as Saints Row 4, just without some parts that made the main game so fun to play through. There are a few new additions for this game and whilst some are good, (such as Gatman Begins that has you flying through a set course) but none of these are as good as what the main game had to offer.
Gat out of hell has around six hours’ worth of gameplay, so it doesn’t drag on too much and I would say is better to play with more of a break from the main game. I played one after the other which is perhaps why I felt a little jaded with doing the same missions over and over. If you had played Saints Row when it was originally released then I am pretty certain you will skip the main campaign as there has been little added and it clocks in at around 12 hours. But if you haven’t played it before like me and you are not easily offended by the humour, then you will really enjoy the game. It has its problems but these are outweighed by the game just being so much fun to play, who wouldn’t love to have superpowers after all?