By John Walker on January 23rd, 2012 at 4:10 pm.
A mistake Saints Row: The Third didn’t make, but always seemed horribly likely to, was promise more than it could deliver. Those trailers, those terrifying spoof gameshows, the hype of such a scale of silliness and violence, was all delivered. Which is one of the many reasons why it was one of 2011’s best games. But how do you follow it up? With a weird cat-thing and his twisted competitive event, Genkibowl VII.
An underplayed feature of the main game was the Professor Genki theme. The homicidal cat-thing creature that themed so much of the content, really only played out in a series of missable shooter mini-games. You ran through a narrow interior, shooting men in mascot costumes, while trying to avoid hitting signs with pandas painted on them. It was accompanied by fun, if painfully repetitive commentary, and while there was nothing wrong with them, they didn’t really add a great deal to the game. So when the first major DLC for the game is Genkibowl VII, you have to imagine they’re going to step it up a little.
The first round of the mission chain being just a slightly re-skinned version of the previous activity is a touch disappointing. Yes, new commentary, and the promised addition of “water bears”, or sharks, which doesn’t really appear to be anything, but in the end it’s a bit of a damp squib. They’re just the same as they always were, and there’s nothing wrong with a small timed shooter. It’s just not what you’d want to lead off your first big DLC.
The second round is Super Ethical PR Opportunity, which is a fairly traditional (um, well, for Saints Row) driving game in which you help get Prof. Genki in the mood for his public appearance by murdering as many civilians as you can. He also throws out some commands along the way, such as targets to kill, or numbers of people to set on fire using the car’s six-way flamethrowers (charged up by running over the innocent). It’s perfectly enjoyable, but certainly nothing we haven’t seen in the main game before.
Thankfully, third comes Sexy Kitten Yarngasm, in which you do nothing more than roll a giant ball of string through the streets, crushing people and vehicles. And that’s automatically a lot of fun. Even better, this ball of yarn somehow possesses the ability to emit a hugely destructive shockwave, and that’s always appreciated.
And even more thankfully, arrives Sad Panda Skyblazing. By far the most fun event in the DLC, here you’re doing what at first appears to be some fairly traditional, Nintendo-esque skydiving through floating flaming hoops. But you soon realise they’re just the bits in between landing on rooftops and carving up crowds of dancing mascots with a chainsaw. You’ve got a limited time on each rooftop to bring on the slaughter, before you need to leap into a canon to take back to the skies.
Even more idiotic are the balloons. With the faces of the Ethical and Unethical characters, bouncing on them will launch you back up higher into the air, meaning you can return to rooftops you may have missed, or scoop up the remaining hoops if you’re a completist. The second round makes this a lot more difficult, and you realise you’re in for a lot of fun.
Except, well, here’s the problem with Genkibowl VII. There’s just two rounds in each event, and then it’s done.
I suppose that were I to be playing the game for the first time, having these events added to it as part of the overall experience, I’d be happy about their addition. I’m just not convinced this works as a piece of premium DLC, released long after the main game. With two of the events pretty much identical to what you already had, and a third – the yarn rolling game – hardly being enormously inspired, it fails to deliver what you’d hope of something called “Genkibowl VII”. It had the vibe of being a much bigger, multi-stage event. And this is especially annoying when you consider quite how simple it would have been to scatter through another five or so Sad Panda Skyblazing rounds. It just gets going, and then you’re watching the Genkibowl closing ceremony.
It’s £4.50, which while a relatively small amount of cash, is still more than a dozen exquisite indie games on Steam that’ll last you many hours. Here you’re getting eight new events, four of which are nothing especially interesting, and the other four just leave you hanging after a brief glimpse. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of it – in fact, it’s all made to the same fantastic standard of the main game, slick, gorgeous, and with tons of superb new recorded dialogue.
But I think, when you’ve produced something as outlandish and remarkable as SR3, you’ve really got to pull out all the stops for your first major DLC. And they definitely haven’t done that here. The big criticism of the main game’s content was the lack of anything that matched SR2’s shit spraying, for originality and sheer weirdness, and I was hopeful we’d see that added to the game by now. Instead it’s a couple of hours of very professional distractions, that bring with them a few new characters and costumes, but otherwise really fail to make a stamp on the game proper.
Incredibly well made, and certainly not dismissive, Genkibowl VII is instead a combination of too much of what we already had, and not nearly enough of what we didn’t.