Monday, January 30, 2012

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Saints Row: The Third - Genki Bowl VII Review

If you've already spent time in Steelport, you know that it's a place where an enterprising gang leader can earn cash and respect by chauffeuring tigers around, protecting friends from attack while perched in a helicopter with a rocket launcher, laying waste to city blocks with a tank, and participating in all sorts of other activities. Genki Bowl VII, the first mission pack add-on for Saints Row: The Third, brings four new activity types to the smorgasbord of mayhem and violence that is Steelport. Unfortunately, only one of these new pursuits measures up to the inspired zaniness typified by the activities included in the original game. Genki Bowl VII is a slight piece of downloadable content that mostly feels downright mundane compared to everything that came before.

Professor Genki, the homicidal man-cat whose Super Ethical Reality Climax competitions are a staple of the Steelport entertainment scene, ups the ante once a year, devising deadly new contests for a select group of proven warriors. As the leader of the Saints, you're given the opportunity to enter this annual tournament and prove yourself worthy of being crowned Genki Bowl champion.

Story is a minor part of this escapade, and laughs are in short supply. There are a few cutscenes in which returning commentators Zach and Bobby set up the events you're about to participate in, but the main game's hilarious scenes featuring your customized character engaging in the business of ruling a gang while naked and speaking in a zombie voice (or sporting whatever absurd characteristics you've selected for him or her) are sadly absent. Without these spirited interludes and the humor they inject into the proceedings, the events of Genki Bowl VII feel a bit lifeless and isolated from the rest of your character's adventures in Steelport.

Your participation in Genki Bowl VII begins with an event called Genki Apocalypse. In Genki Apocalypse, you're tossed into a booby-trapped, mascot-infested gauntlet, in which you must kill your enemies and make your way to the exit alive. If you think this sounds an awful lot like the Super Ethical Reality Climax events you've already played, you're not wrong. The only things that differentiate Genki Apocalypse from SERC are the amusingly cheap jungle set dressings that decorate the obstacle courses, and the shark-infested pools and streams within them. The first time you see a mascot wander into water and instantly get devoured by a great white, it's a delightful surprise that's perfectly in keeping with the cartoonish carnage that helps make Saints Row: The Third so exciting.

But as amusing as this little touch is, it can't keep Genki Apocalypse from feeling like more of something we got plenty of already. And the two instances of Genki Apocalypse don't even measure up to the better SERC events. The Genki Apocalypse layouts are a bit labyrinthine, and although Saints Row: The Third manages to make a surprisingly wide range of activities enjoyable, maze navigation isn't one of them. Failing an event not because you were shot one too many times by a guy in an energy drink costume but because you failed to find the exit before time ran out is no way for a Saint to go down.

After completing your first Genki Apocalypse event, you're invited to take advantage of a Super Ethical PR Opportunity. Here, you must drive the psychopathic professor himself to a public appearance. Professor Genki's ride, the Genki Mobile, is especially effective at mowing down pedestrians, and it sports flamethrowers on the front and sides. These features come in handy, because Genki is a demanding passenger. In addition to keeping him away from the overzealous fans who try to swarm around you, you must appease him by causing a tremendous amount of death and destruction before delivering him to his destination.

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