This week saw the first major additional content release for Saints Row: The Third – one of the best games released in 2011. Referred to as Genkibowl VII, the aforementioned pack is the first (of three) downloadable expansions scheduled to release for the crime driven sandbox title. As a result, it happens to be free for those who previously purchased the game’s Season Pass, while others have to dole out 560 Microsoft Points or the equivalent of seven American dollars. Is it worth it? Well, that depends on just how much you enjoy causing chaos in the unlucky city of Steelport.
If you’ve played through Saints Row: The Third, then you’ve surely had a hard time forgetting the colourful feline mascot known as Professor Genki. He plays a sizable role in the secondary objectives portion of the game, providing us with several over-the-top and murder-filled game show challenges. Those Professor Genki’s Super Ethical Reality Climax activities are hilarious fun, delivering one of the game’s many highlights. Within its time-limited confines, players must shoot a certain amount of armed enemies, as they make their way from the entrance to the exit. Once a blood and score-based plateau has been reached, a gigantic brute will be unleashed onto the map. At the same time, the producers unlock the exit door, allowing the event to come to its end. Along the way, different types of score multipliers and detractors can be found, alongside health and time bonuses. It’s quite unique, to say the least.
Those who enjoy the over-the-top content that this series is always full of, wouldn’t be wrong to feel that the obnoxious pink cat was underused within this outing’s core campaign. He’s isolated to those specific activities, never really appearing in any of the other missions. However, as some lucky players know, Professor Genki can also be spotted walking amidst the populous. If you’re lucky enough to come across him, make sure to stop and beat him into oblivion, because your reward will be two hundred thousand dollars. Just make sure you’re well-equipped beforehand, because he can put up a decent fight if you’re not prepared. In my thirty hours spent playing this game, I’ve only seen him once.
Based on promotional materials which Volition and THQ released, it became obvious that everyone’s favourite, evil-minded cat, was to play a larger role before things were said and done. That is made evident by this extra content pack, which shines the spotlight straight onto his unlawful interests. It pits players into the the midst of Genkibowl VII, which happens to be an outrageous ‘sports’ competition. Then again, these aren’t the traditional type of sports that a lot of us know and love. Instead, they happen to be four deadly games, which ask competitors to risk their lives for the sake of glory. At least, that’s the principle idea, despite the fact that countless retries are available. Of course, that comes with the medium and its territory.
As mentioned previously, this new content is predominantly based around the activities section of the game. There are zero new story missions to be found, although you do get some new homies (including CheapyD), as well as some interesting outfits and unique vehicles. Those who enjoyed committing insurance fraud, shooting meticulously placed bad guys while running or causing chaos, will fall into the target audience for this release. Conversely, gamers who skipped over that part of the game, might want to wait for the next batch of upcoming DLC. For seven dollars, you will receive between half an hour to an hour of new gameplay, but it’s all spread throughout a set of new challenges. Unfortunately, they don’t live up to the quality that the full game presented, but there is some fun to be had.
Where Genkibowl VII excels is in its creativity. You will never find anything like this in another game. It takes the campaign’s absurd themes and turns the dial up to eleven. The problem is that there’s a severe lack of content to be found, as each activity only has two individual challenges available to the player. Taking into account the fact that they’re several minutes long on average, it’s easy to understand how they fly by. It would have been nice if there was more to this set, such as expanded or new content. As it stands, players will come across two different difficulty levels for each one, meaning easy and medium. The full experience had up to six different unique challenges per activity, encompassing three different difficulty levels: easy, normal and hard. It’s a shame that Volition didn’t use that same formula here. If they had, it would be easier to recommend this purchase.
The first activity you will come across is known as Apocalypse Genki. Expanding upon the Super Ethical Reality Climax structure, it asks players to once again race against time as they battle gun-toting enemies (mascots this time around). This time around however, players must run through environments that are designed to reflect the deep jungle. What that means is that water has become a noteworthy addition, where gigantic sharks lurk. If a mascot is thrown into a specific section of the liquid depths, then he is guaranteed to become food for the large-scale predator. It’s fun to throw colourful characters into the water, where they’re unaware of the peril that awaits them. However, doing so can take up a decent amount of time, meaning that it’s important to use guns and melee weapons more than your throwing arms.
Although I enjoyed both instances of Apocalypse Genki, it was never challenging and ended far too soon. There’s not a lot to it, which makes it hard for the activity to stand out, especially considering how similar it is to something that is already available on the game disc. The opportunity to take out a large amount of mascots, while earning points, is a bit of fun. Then again, so is using the shark. Though, after you do each a few times, the novelty tends to wear off. At that point in time, most players will decide to move onto something else.
After you shoot your way through a trap and enemy filled building covered in jungle elements, it will be time to move onto Super Ethical PR Opportunity. It’s during those two challenges that players actually get to interact with the mysterious feline Professor (at least, as an ally). The strange inhabitants of Steelport are in love with him, and they’d like to have the opportunity to take some close-up pictures. Begrudgingly, the large headed one has taken on two specific public relations appointments. The problem is that he’s not willing to go anywhere until certain requirements are met. In order to make the appointments, a large amount of innocent sidewalk strollers must be run down as Genki sits in the low-rider’s passenger seat. News vans must be avoided while the chaos is performed (with the help of a vehicular flamethrower), and the odd mascot-killing or vehicular damage challenge will pop-up. Once those requirements are met and the good meter is filled, it’s time to drive over to the storefront appointment, for a quick dance.
While it’s nice to be able to interact with the titular character, this activity also doesn’t leave much of a memorable impact. It’s a lot like the escort activity missions found in the main campaign, where the player must drive prostitutes and their clients around, while avoiding news vans. In fact, it’s very similar, considering the fact that both share the same two challenge requests (hit and run murder, plus vehicular damage requirements). It’s too bad, but this is yet another moderately entertaining yet forgettable experience. There happens to be a bit of fun to be had, but that’s about it. Seeing Genki dance could be the highlight here, and it only lasts for about ten seconds.
Next up is Sexy Kitten Yarngasm, which happens to be named after a scantily clad young woman named Sexy Kitten. In fact, the last two activities included within this pack are named after the feline’s feminine followers. This one just so happens to like giant balls of yarn. As a result, her game spells bad news for the shopkeepers and everyday citizens of the digital city in which it takes place.
Players are tasked with controlling the gigantic ball of yarn from the inside, using it to roll over gang members and their cars. If you’ve played any of the chaos activities, then you’ll know the drill. A certain score plateau must be met, using lengthy combos. Planning your rolls and each shockwave power-up usage, will aid in your conquest. Also, in keeping with the cat motif, there happens to be one other way to make your score tally skyrocket: running over a mouse mascot. Each attempt will have one to be found. If you can kill it, then your score will receive a noticeable assist.
Those who’ve spent hours driving throughout Steelport will probably remember hearing radio advertisements for Sexy Kitten Yarngasm. It’s a televised activity which the city’s inhabitants enjoy watching. Actively participating within its parameters on the other hand, is a bit of fun, mixed in with frustration. Creating panic and getting resulting high scores is a mildly entertaining element here, but it’s tarnished by tank-like controls. Since momentum plays a large role, it can be challenging to roll the ball with on the spot precision. Having a time limit also means that you must think (and sometimes act) quickly, which is challenging at times due to that control problem. The ball’s ability to get stuck between lamp posts also creates hindrance.
Last, but certainly not least, is Sad Panda Skyblazing. If you change the last word in the title to skydiving, it will paint a better picture of what to expect from this one. Here, your avatar must dress up as a crying panda. Afterwards, he or she must jump out of a plane, in an attempt to earn a high amount of points before landing on a designated island. How do you earn points? A small amount can be earned by flying through flaming rings, which are set-up within the night sky. Though, the majority of your points will come from killing varied rooftop mascots along the way. The goal is to hit as many rings as possible, while you fly towards and stop on different buildings. While grounded, a time limit will force the player to kill as many mascots as possible, using a viscous chainsaw. If time runs out or you fall too far, then it’s game over. Luckily, two different types of trampoline-like balloons are strategically positioned to allow for a bounce back mechanic.
Out of the four events included, this one is probably the best. While Sad Panda Skyblazing won’t blow you away, it does provide a unique form of gameplay that we’ve never seen before. Comparing it to the list, you’ll notice that it’s the only activity that doesn’t borrow from previous in-game events. For that, it deserves a positive nod. Going further, Sad Panda’s murderous flight game is also a relatively fun event. At least, while it lasts. Like the others, this activity provides very short-burst content, lasting for a few minutes or so, per round.
Since this pack of downloadable content runs off of Volition‘s existing (and colourful) Saints Row: The Third design, there aren’t many new elements to discuss in the presentation category. Its new content looks and sounds well, with a few new character models and some different vehicle designs (such as the yarn ball, which can be called in whenever you’d like to use its flattening powers). Each of the new homies has its own individual look and voice, with creative designs and unique one-liners.
In the end, the only major change to the game’s core formula, comes through the sporting spectacle’s use of news show cutscenes and constant announcer commentary. Both of those elements were created in decent fashion, benefiting from the odd comedic one-liner, although neither one is memorable by any means. Then again, the fact that those presentation quirks fit into the experience is the important thing. It’s also important to note that neither one had any detracting problems. However, the aforementioned activity gameplay did feature occasional screen tearing and the odd glitch.
Overall, Genkibowl VII is mediocre at best, and a missed opportunity. In the end, it’s only for the die hard activity fans, who like to hop in and out of short burst challenges. Its lack of content makes the seven dollar price tag harder to swallow, even though there is a bit of fun to be had for thirty minutes to an hour. Gamers who decide to take part in the festivities can look forward to some laughs and a bit of replay value if one or two of the events happens to strike a chord within, but there’s nothing special here at all. It’s too bad, considering how high my hopes were for this release. Thankfully, we still have two major downloadable content sets to look forward to, as well as a core game that is unlike anything else we’ve ever seen. Plus, you still receive several new homies, as well as some new vehicles. They will add some hilarity to your campaign completion and chaos causing attempts.
This review is based on downloadable content that was supplied to us for review purposes.