September 2015


I bought a new graphics card this week, since new games require more graphics juice than the old one could provide.  I can now start Arkham Knight. (It still crashes regularly, so I’m waiting for the next patch.)  I’ve also been replaying old games to see if the graphics are better.  I got to playing Saints Row IV, and then thought, why not do more of the same and pick up Gat out of Hell?

Hell's business district. Capitalism really is Hell

Hell’s business district. Capitalism really is Hell

Rock Paper Shotgun recently anointed SR4 as the best action game ever. I’d put Arkham City first, personally, but SR4 is pretty close to the top.  It’s fun, reasonably challenging, completely unserious, and yet has a certain unexpected heart.  It’s one of the few games where the protagonist’s companions really start to feel like her friends.

The setup of Gat is simple: ill-advisedly playing with Aleister Crowley’s Ouija board, the Boss (aka the President of the US) gets taken to Hell where Satan wants to marry her to his daughter.  (The game imports your SR4 save so you get your own Boss. Satan doesn’t seem to notice or care that the Boss is female.)  Then Johnny Gat and Kinzie Kensington jump into Hell to save her.  Amusing bit: Gat convinces the Ouija board to make a portal by shooting it.

The overall mechanics are the same as SR4.  You get superpowers, the NPCs give you missions.  You can drive the battered-up cars if you like, but you won’t because you can fly.  At least they didn’t bring back Steelport– “New Hades” is a new town.

The imagined urban hell is fun.  Damned souls– husks– wander the streets, naked but sexless, moaning, or drive around endlessly.  There’s one on a stripper pole.  The most amusing conceit is that some enterprising damned souls have made their own little fiefdoms, most importantly Dane, who was the evil CEO of Ultor in Saints Row 2, but also Vlad the Impaler, Blackbeard, and William Shakespeare.  (He sold his soul to the devil to be good at writing, you see.)  These become your allies against Satan. As in most pop culture, traditional theology is mined for ideas with no attempt to take it seriously… this is Hell like the Saints are an investigative report on street gangs.

The best part of the game is the flight power.  It’s like SR4’s gliding power but not quite, the most important difference being that you can steer up and down using the mouse.  It took me a bit to get used to it, and then I loved it.  Zipping around Hell’s airspace is a lot of fun, and there are special side missions that concentrate on it.

The challenge level is variable.  I got really frustrated with the rescue missions you get at one point.  But after leveling up some more I got a gun called the Gallows Dodger, which basically makes all fights cake.

You can play either Gat or Kinzie.  The creators have a weird belief that Gat is their best character.  They took this lightly in SR3 (the giant Gat heads were hilarious), while they made a huge thing about him in SR4– although the other characters had become interesting and quirky enough that Gat fell flat.  I think it’s great that their ultimate badass is Asian-American… but I played as Kinzie, who’s a lot more fun.  It’s just a pity that for cutscenes and for the climax, they go back to Gat.

It also feels very un-Saints Row to be playing a character you can’t change.  There aren’t even any stores, so you can’t dress Kinzie or Gat up or give them a tattoo.  They have the technology, so it’s not like they saved a lot of work.

Vlad's not so bad

Vlad’s not so bad

The game is short– it took me just 11 hours– but at least it’s less than half the (original) cost of SR4.

All in all: if you liked SR4, you will like this.  Just don’t think of it as a completely new thing, or it will seem like a trifle, too much like the original.  Think of it as fancy DLC– better, in fact, than any of the actual SR4 DLC.

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The oldsters never like the new music. This is a quotation from 乐记 Yuèjì (Record of Music), from the Warring States period, at least 2300 years ago.

The marquis Wén ask the sage Zǐxià why the old music puts him to sleep, while the new music does not.

子夏对曰:“今夫古乐,进旅退旅,和正以广。
Zǐxià duì yuē: “Jīn fū gǔ yuè, jìn lǚ tuì lǚ, hé zhèng yǐ guǎng.
Zǐxià back say / now EXCL ancient music / advance troop retreat troop / harmonious correct with wide
Zǐxià replied, “Now, in the ancient music, movements were in sync; there was harmony, correctness, and amplitude.

弦匏笙簧,会守拊鼓,始奏以文,复乱以武,治乱以相,讯疾以雅。
Xián páo shēng huáng, huì shǒu fǔ gǔ, shǐ zòu yǐ wén, fù luàn yǐ wǔ, zhì luàn yǐ xiāng, xùn jí yǐ yǎ.
string gourd pipe reed / can observe tap drum / begin play with culture / again disorder with martial / rule disorder with picture / examine quick with elegance
The strings, percussion, and pipes all follow the beat of the drum; they all begin in harmony, play their parts with martial vigor, master disorder with togetherness, play rapidly with elegance.

君子于是语,于是道古,修身及家,平均天下。
Jūnzǐ yú shì yǔ, yú shì dào gǔ, xiū shēn jí jiā, píng jūn tiānxià.
gentleman at this say / at this way ancient / repair body and family / level all heaven-under
In this the gentleman speaks and follows the ancient ways; mends body and family; the whole nation is pacified.

此古乐之发也。
Cǐ gǔ yuè zhī fā yě.
this ancient music SUB pattern PT
This is how ancient music was.

今夫新乐,进俯退俯,奸声以滥,溺而不止;
Jīn fū xīn yuè, jìn fǔ tuì fǔ, jiān shēng yǐ làn, nì ér bùzhǐ;
now EXCL new music / enter face.down retreat face.down / evil sound with excess / drown and not stop
Now in the new music, movements are dispirited; the sound is evil and excessive; it is like perpetually drowning.

及优侏儒,糅杂子女,不知父子。
Jí yōu zhūrú, róu zá zǐ nǚ, bù zhī fù zǐ.
with artist dwarf scholar / blend mix son woman / not know father son
There are dwarf artists, men and women mixed together, of unknown family.

乐终不可以语,不可以道古。
Yuè zhōng bù kě yǐ yǔ, bù kě yǐ dào gǔ.
music end not can with speak / not can with way ancient
Such music is not to be spoken of, and does not follow the ancient ways.

此新乐之发也。
Cǐ xīn yuè zhī fā yě.
this new music SUB pattern PT
This is how today’s music is.

今君之所问者乐也,所好者音也!
Jīn jūn zhī suǒ wèn zhě yuè yě, suǒ hào zhě yīn yě!
now noble SUB PASS ask NOM music PT / PASS good NOM sound PT
Now, what you ask about is music, but what you like is just sound.

夫乐者,与音相近而不同。”
Fū yuè zhě, yǔ yīn xiāng jìn ér bù tóng
EXCL music NOM / and sound each.other near and not alike
Music and sound are similar, but they are not the same!

The sage goes on to offer this useful advice: “The airs of Zheng go to a wild excess, and debauch the mind; those of Song tell of slothful indulgence and women, and drown the mind; those of Wei are vehement and rapid, and perplex the mind; and those of Qi are violent and depraved, and make the mind arrogant. The airs of those four states all stimulate libidinous desire, and are injurious to virtue;–they should therefore not be used at sacrifices.”