You'd be forgiven for thinking that Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell isn't actually a PlayStation 4 game. Right from the word go, the now-zany franchise's latest romp looks unashamedly last-gen, and while we all know that graphics aren't everything, even we had to check twice to make sure that we hadn't somehow lowered our television's resolution. Textures are muddy, clipping issues are abundant, and overall, the underworld outing is downright ugly.
Fortunately, the chances are that you won't care too much about visual fidelity when you're causing absolute, unadulterated chaos. In fact, you may even be encouraged to prolong each murder spree purely out of pity for your poor eyes, which will probably still be reeling from a sandbox world that somehow sports more greys and browns than Watch Dogs' decidedly drab version of Chicago.
If you're new to Saints Row, all that you really need to know is that this standalone expansion carries on the series' love for the ridiculous. Since Saints Row: The Third, developer Volition's creation has nosedived into total madness, and there's still nothing quite like it on today's market. With a map littered with optional objectives and a storyline that'll often have you staring at the screen in near-disbelief, it's the definitive sandbox option for anyone who wants a title that doesn't take itself seriously, and loves nothing more than being showered in customisation options, bizarre weaponry, and preposterous super powers.
As the adventure's name suggests, the expansion focuses on fan favourite Johnny Gat as he journeys into Hell to save the Boss. The story's arguably even sillier than Saints Row IV's – and that was utterly bonkers to begin with – but there's nothing particularly wrong with this, purely because it's so self-aware. There's some genuinely funny writing scattered throughout, and proceedings never overstay their welcome as the expansion only lasts roughly six hours.
Over those six hours, you'll be following what is essentially the same formula that's found in the Saints' last outing. You'll speed around the map in a vehicle or via your satisfying flight ability, crossing off optional activities like time trials, assassinations, and survival challenges, all while occasionally dropping into short stints of storyline that keep things moving at a brisk pace. You can take your time and explore the underworld to your heart's content, of course, but unlike other open world games, Gat Out of Hell is built purely to house the over-the-top mayhem that you cause. Put simply, if you're not booting every single damned soul that you come across squarely in the rump, then you're probably not playing this right.
Returning briefly to the matter of side activities, the selection that's on offer here isn't too different to what's found in Saints Row IV, but everything's just as fun. Adopting the form of a decrepit ghoul while throwing yourself into oncoming traffic in the insurance fraud missions can be hysterical thanks to brilliant ragdoll physics, and plain old survival battles are made entertaining by the never-ending stream of super powers and armaments that you're gifted.
Indeed, the weapon variety is fantastic, ranging from relatively standard rifles and pistols to bizarre shooters that are based upon the seven deadly sins. Much like its parent title, the expansion is at its best when you're casually switching between abilities and firearms to mutilate your foes, and thinking up your own ridiculous and overpowered combinations can be a lot of fun.
That said, there's a definite air of familiarity about Gat Out of Hell. In many ways, this is just a re-skinned version of Saints Row IV, with a few new animations and cutscenes thrown in. Hell isn't as big as Steelport, and doesn't provide as good a sandbox environment, so if you're not up for more of the same on a smaller scale, then you may want to think twice about stepping into the fire.
Those who love the franchise's madness will no doubt find a lot to like here, though, especially when the release introduces its own version of William Shakespeare – who now DJs at Hell's only nightclub – and there's enough narrative exposition to keep the expansion tied in well with Saints Row IV's preposterous plot.
Speaking of which, genius girl Kinzie is also along for the ride, and you're able to switch between her and Gat at your base of operations. It's not a huge deal as there aren't too many cutscenes to begin with, but if you grow tired of Johnny making jokes about collectibles almost every time that you pick one up, switching him out for his female accomplice may alleviate the annoyance. Then again, repetitive lines aside, the voice acting is top notch – especially when the game decides to take a musical turn, and each character is belting out their dialogue to a typically corny tune.
Gat Out of Hell provides a few more hours of fun for those who adored Saints Row IV, but it'll quickly outstay its welcome if you aren't down with the gang. It'll also prove to be a confusing and bogus journey for newcomers, so we recommend grabbing the full package on the PS4 if you're not even sure who Johnny Gat is. With entertaining powers and some great new weapons, the standalone expansion holds its own – but don't expect your otherworldly vacation to be anything more than a quick and familiar break.