While the idea of downloadable content is certainly new to console gamers, it’s something that has been around in some way, shape or form for PC gamers since the Internet exploded into existence. On paper, it seems like the ideal way to prolong the life of some of your favourite games – after all, what could be better than adding an entirely new section to a title months after the original release? However, as we have seen in the last few years, things haven’t quite worked out as well as we might have hoped even six or seven years ago.
While the DLC scene for PC gamers is supplemented by the free mod scene, where the more creative among us build huge libraries of new levels, skins, weapons and story lines to share with gamers across the world, console gamers have had to make do with minor additions and costume packs to bridge the gap between the very occasional piece of worthwhile DLC.
With micropayments becoming more and more popular, we have decided to take a look at some of the best, some of the worst and some of the most downright outrageous uses of DLC in the past five years. So before you open your virtual wallet to buy yourself that latest bit of additional content, we suggest you read on to see just how stupid these game developers seem to think you are…
Before you decide to write in and abuse us, while telling us how great DLC is, we aren’t for one second saying that it’s a bad thing; far from it in fact. Our beef is not with the DLC concept itself, but more to do with how certain publishers utilise it. When you take a look at DLC like Grand Theft Auto IV’s The Lost and Damned, and The Ballad of Gay Tony, it’s hard to think of many negative things to say. These add-ons are exactly what DLC should be. Not only do they build upon the already established game world created by the original, but they add whole new storylines, characters, settings and features that will really leave you feeling like you’ve actually gotten your money’s worth.
There are many more fine examples of just how well it can be done. To use another offering from Rockstar, we’ll take a look at the excellent Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare, the zombie shooting add-on for Western title Red Dead Redemption. Not only was RDR a bloody good game in itself, but with Red Dead Nightmare Rockstar took things to a completely different place. With between six and eight hours worth of gameplay in the single player mode, just like the two GTA IV packs, and plenty of additional extras, you really felt like you were getting real bang for your buck – because you were.
Bethesda are another publisher who know what they’re doing when it comes to delivering top notch DLC to their customers, with excellent offerings for The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion (The Shivering Isles pack in particular offering as much as many full priced titles) and both Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas. And Gearbox must be commended for their four excellent packs for the sublime Borderlands, especially The Secret Armory of General Knoxx which is an essential purchase if you haven’t already checked it out.
Capcom’s Super Street Fighter IV Arcade, which was available as DLC for owners of SSFIV or as a standalone product for those who chose not to fork out for what was essentially a half arsed patch to the original SFIV, is one of the most recent examples of splendiferous downloadable goodness.
It would also be a crime to talk about DLC without mentioning the phenomenal support for Burnout Paradise from Criterion. Not only did they decide to offer gamers a huge array of impressive freebies, but their Big Surf Island addition was one of the few DLCs that we can say was worth every penny – adding huge amounts to a game that had already grown to be much larger than the title shipped on the disc.
Unfortunately, these few examples are in a minority when it comes to the overall standard of DLC across the board, whether we’re talking about PC or console games, and it seems like things are getting worse with every passing month.
Obviously micro transactions were going of huge interest to publishers across the globe, as they sought to make additional income for the least amount of work possible, but some examples of their sheer laziness are just taking the piss out of hard working gamers everywhere.
The one thing that immediately springs to mind is the horse armour in Oblivion – one of the few times Bethesda have really dropped the ball. For 200 Microsoft Points, you could get… well… horse armour. That was it. It didn’t add any new functionality, or quests, or characters, or weapons to the game, just armour for your horse. If ever you needed to see an example of developers and publishers chancing their arm to see if they could get away with flogging us something utterly pointless, then horse armour is it.
To make matters worse, people bought it. In fact they’re still bloody well buying it. As recently as March of this year Bethesda VP Pete Hines told the Official Xbox Magazine that “Everything we’ve done has done well, including the much maligned horse armour. I swear to you I don’t have the report in front of me, but multiple people bought horse armour yesterday for some inexplicable reason!”
When the vice-president of the company who makes a product uses words like “inexplicable” to describe the fact that one of their products are selling, you know that something is terribly wrong. In this case we’re willing to overlook it, since Bethesda has since shown that they are fairly on the ball when it comes to DLC, but for others we aren’t willing to be so unforgiving.
What really bugs us is being required to pay for content that was already ready when the game was shipped. Surely that’s just a slap in the face of gamers everywhere. You wouldn’t buy an album only to have to pay an extra fiver to listen to one of the tracks, would you? So why aren’t more people up in arms about the fact that there are countless games released these days with content already on the disc that you need to pay to access? It’s shocking carry on from the publishers in question, but ultimately it’s gamers who are at fault.
If you lot would stop buying stupid DLC like alternative costumes, or character skins, and refuse to buy content that was already included on the disc, like all those unlockable courses in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 (shame on you EA) then the publishers wouldn’t charge us. Sure, there’s a good chance that the content would never exist in that case, but couldn’t the additional development time be spent on additional features or, and here’s a controversial one, making sure that the bloody game works when you get it?
How many times in the last few years have you bought a game only to face a massive download in order to render it playable? Maybe if developers weren’t spending so much time trying to fleece us of every last penny they’d do their jobs correctly and make sure that these post release patches weren’t necessary.
It saddens us to see so many publishers taking advantage of what could have been a truly great opportunity to engage gamers and extend the life cycle of their most popular games, but until players stand up and be counted, and stop paying for nonsense, things will continue to worsen. By all means spend as much money as you like on the good stuff, but for the love of whatever you think lives in the sky, don’t encourage this laziness any more by buying rubbish like horse armour – you’re ruining it for the rest of us!