Last time out, the Saints Row series went crotch-first into superhero sci-fi territory. Now, its newest expansion Gat Out of Hell is going the occult horror route. But the game's creative director Steve Jaros says you don't to worry about them "shitting out variants" to the open-world franchise.
I spoke with Jaros last week after playing Gat Out of Hell at PAX Prime and he described the shift in milieu as a way to offer a new filter on an experience that would still feel familiar to fans. Jaros did say that he thinks a fantasy-tinged Saints Row would be delightful, if only for the chance to write the words "Ye Olde Saints Row." I got to try out a few of the game's typically funny-lethal weapons—like a Barcalounger with mounted machine guns on it—in an open-world Hades. The city where you'll fight off hordes of demons isn't Steelport. It's an all new underworld metropolis where Johnny Gat and the rest of the Saints will be trying to rescue their fellow gang member/POTUS.
So why hell? "No matter what, we wanted you to have powers," Jaros told me. "But we wanted to put you in a location that felt fun and unique." He went to reference the famous cover of Captain America #1 from 1941 as one inspiration. The Marvel Comics character famously punches out Hitler on the front of that comic and Jaros said that the idea of Johnny Gat doing the same to Satan was one that energized the team at Volition.
But the movies from the house that Walt Disney built are another inspiration. In Gat Out of Hell, Satan wants daughter Jezebel to marry the President of the United States. But she doesn't want this arranged ceremony to happen, dreaming instead of falling in love for the first time. "Our version of Hell takes cues from classic Disney films like The Little Mermaid," Jaros said. The opening happens at a birthday party, as in many of the studio's animated films, and sees the main Saints characters whisked away to a whole new world where things work differently. And instead of a talking animal companion, players get a talking gun linked to the deadly sin of Pride, which constantly talks about how great it is. Additional hell-weapons will be linked to the Seven Deadly Sins, like a Lust gun that lures enemies closer to the player.
Despite all the Disney love Jaros and team are putting into the game, he told me that "we know we're making games and not movies." This expansion won't be as story-heavy as previous Saints games and goes more for open-world roaming than a traditional mission-based structure. It's also aiming to be scarier than its predecessors. As goofy as the series' games are, Jaros says that Volition's trying to make Gat Out of Hell feel genuinely creepy and scary. "If it doesn't feel like Hell, then you won't want to win as much."