ActivitiesA new “blazing” variant makes an appearance here, but if you thought Sad Panda Skyblazing (from Genkibowl VII) or Blazin' (from Saints Row IV) were fun, you haven't seen anything yet. It seems like such a minor thing, but the fact that you can fly rather than just gliding in this game makes all the difference. Unlike previous installments, this game allows you to fly up and down and even to fly at ground level without accidentally landing, and make sharp turns around corners or between buildings. There are eight Hellblazing instances, which seems like a lot, but there could honestly stand to be more, it's one of the best parts of the game.
Insurance Fraud (now called Torment Fraud) returns as well, and is basically back to how it was in Saints Row: the Third – your angelic powers actually aren't available during this activity, so you can't quite reach the levels of absurdity possible in Saints Row IV's Fraud, but they seem to have made some slight improvements over the earlier version. Maybe that's just my perception though, it's still pretty much the same thing.
The third returning activity is Mayhem, two on-foot versions (rocket launcher and Lil' Croaker – more on that later) and Tank Mayhem. Just one instance of each variant and they're basically unchanged from the earlier games. One thing that has changed though is that Tank Mayhem is no longer the absolute cakewalk it used to be. The tanks in Hell just aren't built to last, and the time limit is fairly punishing.
The one new activity for this game is Salvation, another one that makes use of the new flight ability. It's pretty straight-forward; There are souls either falling or rising through the air and you have to catch as many as you can within the time limit. Landing breaks your combo and rising souls have to be hit with the Blast power before you can grab them. Thanks to how great flying is, it's more fun than it sounds.
TargetsSurvival (aka. Virus Injection) returns again, and is basically unchanged. Kill a set number of dudes without leaving a particular area. Nothing much to say about it, it's OK.
Spires are sort of a new take on Flashpoints (aka. Gang Operations) but with a bit of Hotspot thrown in there as well as their own new twist. At a certain point in the game Satan becomes a little pissed off and activates his anti-Angel defence system, the Spires, which are basically a sort of magical surface-to-air missile launcher. They'll shoot missiles at you as you fly past, which you can dodge either by moving unpredictably or just hitting the “dodge” button when they get close to you. To take out each Spire you have to land and kill the demons guarding it, then rip out its heart by holding the “use” button for a few seconds. Some reviews made these out to be a real pain in the arse, but I found that they weren't really any trouble, and kept flying around the map interesting.
The Marshalling Grounds are another variation on Hotspots, but unlike Hotspots they won't activate whenever you get near them and stay active until you fly halfway across the city, so you don't need to take them all out as soon as you start the game. Each one is a big hole in the ground that you fly down into and activate two to four “control stones” (by holding the “use” button) while a bunch of demons try to stop you. Once that's done an Archduke (a big demon with a fiery sword) will appear. Kill it and the Marshalling Ground becomes a teleporter you can use to get around the map quicker. This is pretty much useless, since flying, sprinting or driving around doesn't take long anyway, but it's there if you want it.
Pledge Rush is probably the weakest thing in the entire game, and is basically a way less fun version of Saints Row 2's Crowd Control. You have a spiked paddle and you have to use it to knock demons through big glowing hoops. It's really easy since all it requires is for you to hit a demon while a hoop is on-screen – aiming is taken care of automatically – and that's basically it. Hit enough demons within the time limit and you're done. It's not really interesting or challenging.
Extraction Facilities are a new type of Target that remind me a lot of the Domination game type from Unreal Tournament. Each Facility has three control points; Stand on one for a few seconds and it's yours. The goal is simply to convert all three while the demons try to revert the ones you've taken over. It could easily have been a real pain to do, but it's actually pretty easy. I'd like to see what they do with this in co-op, because it seems like having two players to do it should make it incredibly trivial.
The last Target type are the Altars. These are similar to Survival, but with the twist that each one gives you a new Element for one of your powers and to complete it you have to use that power and Element to complete it. Simply because of the fact that they unlock Elements, I'd recommend doing these as early as possible.
|A Marshalling Ground control stone.|
DiversionsAs promised, you can kill Dex in this game. As many times as you like, in fact, although only seven times are required. Each time you kill him he'll show up somewhere else in the city with more backup, but he's never really a threat. Once you've killed him seven times it loops back to the start and he'll show up on his own again.
The new Chop Shop variant is a lot less interesting than it used to be – you just need to collect a few armoured cars, which spawn all over the place. The only challenge is getting the demons inside them to hop out so that you can grab them, but some of the weapons and powers make that very easy, and the drop-off point always seems to be really close by.
There are three types of vehicle diversion, but none of them are particularly great. Rampage involves crushing cars in a monster truck, Rambulance just involves running people down, and Balls of Fire is just driving in a car that's on fire. They're all cumulative, so it doesn't really matter if you die or your vehicle is destroyed.
The most difficult diversion would have to be Barnstorming, just because there are so many locations, they're not marked anywhere, and it's impossible to know which ones you've done. Definitely one for the hardcore completionists.
WeaponsDefinitely a step up from Saints Row IV in this regard. The classic overpowered weapons (the pistol with explosive bullets and the automatic shotgun) are back, but they're pretty boring when compared with the new stuff that's available. The seven weapon categories (melee, pistol, SMG, shotgun, rifle, explosive and special) are back, and each of them has something fun to offer, not least of which are the seven deadly weapons, which I'll talk about separately.
For melee we have the Gods Hammer, a big hammer with a shockwave attack similar to the ones used by the Deckers in Saints Row: the Third and the Omega Omega Omega, a spiked paddle that sends enemies flying. They're OK, but I didn't really use them much.
Pistols include the .45 Fletcher – your standard Saints Row pistol with explosive bullets – and the Energy Caster, a crossbow that shoots blasts of energy. These are both really cool, but just don't stand out compared with some of the other options available.
Under SMGs we have the Brimstone Belcher, a rapid-fire automatic that does ongoing damage with each hit. Sounds good but I never really used it, because the other option is the Exodus 10, a gun that shoots locusts that swarm around your enemies and continue to attack them.
The Ultor Soulsweeper is your standard issue automatic shotgun, quite serviceable but a little dull. The Damned Impaler is much more fun, a crossbow that fires an arc of explosive stakes.
The Ultor LMG is your standard automatic rifle. Its special thing is that you take less damage while wielding it. Meh. The other rifle, the Lava Cannon, sets enemies on fire, but is still nothing to write home about.
The explosive weapons are the Ultor Rocket Launcher and the Lil' Croaker, a gun that shoots frogs. They explode into poison gas and can hop around to find enemies and use their tongues to latch onto them. It's pretty fun.
The special weapon is the Umbral Rifle, your basic sniper rifle. It's not terribly interesting, but it comes in real handy early on for taking out enemy snipers. If you pre-ordered (or depending when you're reading this, bought the inevitable DLC) you also get the Jester's Skull, which is a kind of laser gun for some reason? It's kind of cool, but certainly not essential.
And of course you can still go unarmed and there's the same upgrade Saints Row IV had to make your attacks extra powerful and there's the dedicated “melee nutshot” button.
|Just 'cause you can fly doesn't mean you don't want a sweet motorbike.|
Seven Deadly WeaponsEnvy manifests as Uriel's Edge, a giant flaming sword (the same as those wielded by the Archdukes) that can be used as a melee weapon but also shoots a blast of fire. Acquiring it is fairly straight-forward – just complete all the Marshalling Grounds to activate the teleporter inside Satan's tower where you'll find the sword.
The Gallows Dodger is pride incarnate, a weapon that speaks and just really loves killing. Do enough damage with it and it will be consumed by blood-lust and begin rapidly firing extra powerful shots. To acquire it, just kill Dex seven times.
Greed's weapon is the Diamond Sting, an SMG that causes the enemies it kills to drop extra money, and acquiring it makes perfect sense – it's on sale right from the beginning for $100,000. It seems kind of boring and the price tag might put you off, but it's actually kind of hard to come by enough cash in this game, so it's a worthwhile investment.
The Boom Chicka seems like a real gimmick weapon, but the lust power is actually pretty useful, and the weapon does pretty good damage on its own. Anyone you hit (who isn't killed instantly) will begin dancing towards you, briefly taking them out of the fight. This even seems to have a small chance of working on Satan for a very short time. Find all of Blackbeard's treasure to unlock this one – easier to do once the collectable finder is unlocked.
The Armchair-A-Geddon is, appropriately as it represents sloth, the easiest of the seven to acquire. At some point Dane will suggest you find a nice spot to take a break. Do so and you'll have an armchair with built-in machine guns and rocket launchers. Unfortunately it's just not a very interesting weapon and its animations are pretty slow, and if you've seen the game's trailers then you know exactly what it is and does and there's really nothing more to it.
The Ark of the Covenant (wrath) is probably the hardest to get, requiring that you kill ten Archdukes and Satan's “top agent”. It's kind of a combo rocket launcher and vacuum cleaner. Suck weaker enemies up and blow up stronger ones.
Finally, the Last Supper is fairly disappointing. It's a neat idea, shooting frosting at enemies to make them attack each other, but it's just not very useful and doesn't really come across as gluttony like it should. It's also another one that's easiest to get after you have the collectable finder, requiring you to visit all three Tacos Malos drive-throughs.
|Wouldn't be Saints Row without pole dancers.|
AlliesOne of the greatest strengths of this game is its characters and dialogue. After arriving in hell, Gat and Kinzie immediately spot Dane Vogel's face on a billboard and leap to the conclusion that he must be behind whatever's going on. The opposite turns out to be true and Dane turns out to be your first ally.
Unlike previous games, there are no homies in Gat Out of Hell. You're on your own outside of missions, but your allies hang out in certain places and give you tasks to do to annoy Satan – that's actually the plan, not just something you're doing for shits and giggles. Dane can be found in the Ultor building and is the most important ally. In fact, I'm not sure it's even necessary to bother with the others at all – you may be able to complete the story without them. It goes without saying though that you'll miss a lot of the game that way.
Next you meet up with Blackbeard, for whom being a pirate in hell is all he ever wanted of the afterlife. He hangs out in his ship and knows where to find some hidden treasure.
Vlad the Impaler Is your third ally, and unfortunately he's fallen out of favour with Satan and is in Hell's version of a prison. He's also had his territory taken over by a bunch of demons who like to pretend they're American college students for some reason.
You might not expect to find William Shakespeare in hell, but it turns out he sold his soul for fame and success, and now he runs Hell's entertainment district, and even has his own private demon army, the Tragedies. Also, turns out an actor is someone who pretends to be someone they're not? Crazy.
Finally there's Kiki and Viola DeWynter. In case you've forgotten (or never played it), they were in Saints Row: the Third. Kinzie and and Viola are like sisters. They were pretty much pointless in Saints Row: the Third, but they're totally redeemed here. Some of my favourite dialogue in the game is between Kinzie and the DeWynters. They work for Ultor (Hell branch) under Dane Vogel now.
Though there are few cut-scenes, a lot of the story and character are delivered by in-game dialogue between the characters, and the dialogue actually changes completely depending on whether you're playing as Gat or Kinzie. The only exceptions are the very beginning, where you have to briefly play as Gat before you can switch, and the final boss fight, in which you also must play as Gat (unless you're playing co-op). The rest of the time you can play as whichever you like and even switch back and forth at will.
On the down side, there's absolutely no customisation (other than wing colour if you pre-ordered), you're stuck with Gat and Kinzie's default looks, and you can't even customise vehicles or weapons. In fact, you can't even save vehicles to your garage, although there's only a handful of different vehicle types anyway and you'll be flying most of the time, so it's not a big deal.
|Oh hey, I have one of those too!|
EnemiesVolition have clearly learned the lessons of Saints Row IV well, and the enemies in this game really prove it. Where Saints Row IV had a whole lot of enemies that just weren't much fun to fight and the low-level ones stopped showing up at all as soon as your notoriety got too high, this game keeps throwing a nice variety of enemies at you the whole time and none of them are too annoying.
At the lowest level you've got the basic demons. They come in both male and female varieties and are your standard cannon-fodder enemy. Most are standard issue, but around Vlad's territory you'll find Bro Demons and around Shakespeare's you'll find Tragedies. Neither seem to be functionally different from their generic equivalents, but there are separate challenges for killing them.
You'll also see demons with wings flying around, but other than their ability to follow you to higher ground they're pretty much the same.
Dark Inciters are probably the next most common. They don't attack directly but summon other demons to attack you. They're able to float and have shields that have to be destroyed before they can be hurt, but they're not as annoying as Saints Row IV's portals or, god forbid, Marauders. One hit with pretty much any power or a few shots from a weapon will take out the shield and then you can kill them pretty easily.
Shadow Demons carry sniper rifles and can teleport. At the very beginning they can be a bit of a pain since you won't be able to get close to them, but with a few weapon upgrades they stop being much of a problem.
Imps are tiny little demons that latch onto you if they get close enough. They're really hard to hit with single-shot weapons, but once they grab you you can just mash the “use” button to kill them, and they're very vulnerable to the Stomp and Aura powers.
Legionnaires are big bastards with melee and stomp attacks who can leap way up in the air and come down on you, but are equally happy to stay on the ground and charge.
Grenadiers carry Lil' Croakers and rocket launchers, and things tend to be pretty chaotic when they're around. As always, explosives can knock you off your feet and those frogs bouncing around can be a real distraction.
I mentioned Archdukes earlier in connection with the Marshalling Grounds, but like Saints Row IV's Wardens they also show up when you max out your notoriety. Unlike Wardens though, they're not a complete pain in the arse and you won't max out your notoriety almost instantly like you could in Saints Row IV. They do still despawn all the other demons in the area though, so you still can't go on an extended rampage.
Additionally, demons will show up in vehicles if you're in an area where that's possible (ie. there's a road), including monster trucks, armoured cars and tanks. The vehicles generally aren't too troublesome though, and demons will continue to exit vehicles and show up on foot, so you don't end up just fighting vehicles and flying enemies once you hit level two notoriety.
The equivalent of civilians in Gat Out of Hell are the husks, damned souls wandering Hell. Most of them are irrelevant (except as a source of cash or health), but some of them carry their sins with them. They can be recognised by the glowing orb embedded in their torso and a yellow dot on the mini-map. When one of these sin carriers is killed the sin orb is freed and can be caught.
The sin orbs are essentially identical to the control CIDs of Saints Row IV, including the fact that catching one resets your notoriety. Where they differ is that sin orbs seem to be a bit harder to catch and rather than just hanging around until you catch them or your notoriety decays on its own, the sin orbs attempt to make their way to the nearest “sin drain”. If they reach it you're out of luck and will have to find another sin carrier.
Fortunately there's another way to reset your notoriety, in the form of Sinterpol vending machines. As well as serving as weapon shops, these also allow you to pay to have your notoriety wiped. Although cash is somewhat hard to come by, the notoriety wipe is pretty cheap, so it's not too bad.
|I'm not sure what you'd even get arrested for in Hell, but there are demon cops.|
PowersSome of the same Powers from Saints Row IV return (Blast, Stomp and Buff – now called Aura) but Force Field and Death From Above have been integrated into Sprint and Flight – which itself replaces Super Jump – and Telekinesis has been replaced with Summon. But even those powers that return have a new set of elements. This is a major area of improvement over Saints Row IV where most Powers seemed fairly situational and it was often better to just stick with Ice Blast most of the time. Flight and Sprint are fairly self-explanatory, but the other powers are more interesting.
Blast starts out with the Stone element, which is functionally identical to the Ice Blast from Saints Row IV. Freeze enemies in place and do extra damage to them with attacks while they're frozen. The Soul element is basically just a fireball, but reskinned as an attack on the target's spirit, and Shadow is sort of like a cross between the two, doing damage and slowing (but not stopping) the target. Whereas Blast was my go-to Power in Saints Row IV I didn't really find much use for it here, thanks to the other options being so much improved.
Summon's three elements do essentially the same thing, which is to summon demons to fight on your behalf, the only difference being which type of demon is summoned. The Imp element summons one or more Imps, the Titan element summons a Legionnaire and the Tower element summons a Spire. They're more novelty than utility, but they're certainly not useless.
Stomp is the big winner when it comes to this game's rebalancing of powers, having become the most essential and the one I left equipped by default most of the time. The Force element is basically the same as Saints Row IV's Rock Stomp, just knocking enemies away from you and doing damage. I don't know if it's quicker, more powerful or what, but it just seems a hell of a lot more useful this time. The Holy element does even more damage, but won't send enemies flying, so it's a bit of a trade-off. However, the Vacuum element is king. It knocks enemies off their feet and drags them close to you, and if they touch you they die and disappear (and that even includes their vehicles), but even better, it drags money and health items to you as well. Even if you don't use it in a fight you'll want to equip it afterwards just to grab all the goodies.
Buff was my least favourite power in Saints Row IV, and as well as being renamed to Aura it's received a much-needed power boost in this game. It's still not as useful as Stomp most of the time, but I didn't feel handicapped by using it like I did Buff. The Coldfire element is just Fire reskinned for the Hell theme, causing damage and panicking demons a bit. The Worship Aura is basically Ice reskinned (but is way cooler somehow) but rather than Lightning you get the Vamp aura, which actually heals you as it damages your enemies. Really useful in situations where they're not dropping enough health items.
As with Saints Row IV you need to collect Clusters to purchase upgrades to your powers (as well as earning experience points to unlock those upgrades), but there are no Clusters that require specific powers to access. Instead there are, in addition to the regular Clusters, purple Clusters which split into several smaller ones when you hit them and require you to get each smaller part within a small window of time. Collecting the purple Clusters is up there with Hellblazing as one of the most fun parts of the game and is genuinely challenging at times, requiring quick reactions and sometimes unconventional thinking.
|Just one of the first signs the damned see on arrival.|
MiscellaneousThe city of New Hades is a definite improvement over Steelport, with plenty to see and do and some distinct districts and unique places; It's no Stilwater, but it's got character, and the various signs and billboards are done well. Plus there are thirty different spots around the city where Gat and Kinzie will comment on various things you see around you and voice logs (Tomes) for each of the allies to collect as well as scattered chapters of Satan's primer on Hell for new citizens.
The cutscenes and dialogue are great – it would always be nice to have more, but what you get is funny and makes good use of the characters. Plus there's a musical number (which I still loved the third time I heard it) and a bunch of incidental dialogue if you want to hang around your allies to hear it. And five different cutscenes to choose from for the ending. You can replay the final boss-fight as many times as you like to see all of them, or, you know, YouTube.
I've played 18 hours so far and I'm still having fun, though I'm basically down to challenges and achievements at this point – at least until I go back and play through again to hear Gat's dialogue; I played as Kinzie the first time through because Saints Row IV soured me on Gat a bit, but they've cut way back on the hero worship angle and he's back to being the laid-back psychopath of Saints Row 2.
And although there is a bit of grindiness to many of the challenges and achievements, there are some good ones in there that give you more stuff to do after you're done with the rest. I probably won't get as much play time out of this one as I did Saints Row: the Third – 99 hours according to Steam – and Saints Row 2 is still my favourite, but I have no regrets as far as pre-ordering goes and I strongly recommend this game. Don't even wait for a sale, it's good enough to pay full price for.