Opinion: Eight Greatest DLCs Of This Gaming Generation
In recent years downloadable content has become synonymous with cash-grabbing, penny-pinching cynicism in the eyes of many gamers – with Day One extras, cut-content and over-priced map packs provoking controversy and ire among audiences.
However, while DLC remains something of a divisive issue in the industry, it’s important to bear in mind that gaming’s “first DLC generation” has produced some truly amazing expansions and add-ons when developers and publishers have got it right.
Indeed, some DLCs have been so terrific that they’ve actively enhanced and improved upon already-great games. DLCs like…
Oblivion – The Shivering Isles
Transporting the player to the huge, mind-bending and beguiling realm of Sheogorath, prince of madness, this impressive expansion from Bethesda added a colossal amount of gameplay and novel landscape onto the already-vast fourth installment of the Elder Scrolls.
For those who’d already mastered the Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood, saved Cyrodiil from certain destruction and become champion of the arena, The Shivering Isles offered fresh and thrilling opportunities for exploration, and a genuinely fresh twist on proceedings.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent – Justine
Armed with a sublime, skin-crawling story and packing a dose of psychological-terror so powerful it actively horrified even Amnesia veterans, in some respects this short but shocking standalone saga actually bested Frictional’s notorious main game.
Deeply macabre, hauntingly atmospheric and devilishly-paced, it saw you determine the fate of various prisoners in a vast series of underground chambers, while being menaced by a trio of twisted, tragic grotesques who proved even more petrifying than the central game’s nasties. Its revelations and backstory were narrative perfection; its sadistic box of tricks gaming horror at its best.
Fallout 3 – Broken Steel
This huge expansion to the acclaimed open-world action RPG not only added in new enemies, weapons, side-quests and sub-plots to the eventful Capitol Wasteland – it also extended the game’s main storyline by about 10 hours, throwing in some truly epic set-pieces and confrontations in the process.
The awful thrill of encountering an Albino Radscorpion for the first-time, or unleashing surface-to-air destruction on a Vertibird with the new Tesla Cannon, was superb. Indeed, as an exercise in beefing-up content and providing a range of new challenges Broken Steel remains almost-unsurpassed: but it was the sheer wealth of extras – from fresh perks to a huge lift in the level-cap – that made this a must-buy for fans.
Borderlands – Secret Armory Of General Knoxx
The Zombie Island Of Dr Ned may have had a more deliciously off-the-wall, entertaining premise and tone; but this beefy add-on to Borderlands’ hugely enjoyable gameworld was the real meat of Gearbox’s excellent DLC packages – boasting a quite jaw-dropping array of quests and extras.
Cool new vehicles? Check. Giant daddy long-legs monsters? Check. A near-invincible boss called Crawmerax? Check. Crucially for everything that’s great about the shooting-and-looting insanity of Borderlands, we also had loads of new guns and enemies, a whole treasure trove of loot waiting to be hoovered-up in the titular Armory, and 44 – that’s 44! – new missions. Simply put: it was substantial and sublime.
GTA IV – The Ballad Of Gay Tony
Bringing back some welcome craziness to Rockstar’s hugely-successful franchise, this additional adventure was packed-full of outrageous characters, sharp scripting, glamorous locations and a whole host of ludicrously entertaining action sequences – with more boat-racing, sky-diving and rooftop shootouts than you could shake an Uzi at.
Injecting a little bit of insanity back into the proceedings, Gay Tony offered both a well-judged shift in tone and an incredibly engaging story to get stuck into.
Fallout 3 – Point Lookout
Arguably the greatest of Bethesda’s DLCs to date, the real delight of Point Lookout was in its complete change in direction and setting from the main game’s desolate desert – relocating the player to foggy, atmospheric swampland and a ghostly resort town brimming with intrigue and secrets.
The goofy ’50s horror B-movie feel of the mutated yokels out in the marshes; the spooky gothic mansion; and the hilarious scheming of an evil brain-in-a-jar added character to a cool central quest-line (setting a bomb on a Big Wheel is always fun). But it was the array of amazing locations and side-quests – including a brilliantly executed hallucinogenic trip out in the middle of nowhere – that made this a truly astonishing package.
BioShock 2 – Minerva’s Den
The main game may have plenty of detractors – mainly because of its grievous crime of being not-quite-as-good as the first, seminal BioShock – but Minerva’s Den was universally-agreed to be a sensational addition to the series and its mythology. And quite rightly so.
A self-contained story and campaign that took the player to new areas of Rapture, and explored its own compelling set of evocative and thought-provoking ideas, Minerva’s Den’s strength lay not only in its fresh range of locations, enemies, weapons, plasmids and characters, but also in its genuinely intriguing and powerful plot. It offered something quite distinctive and superior to BioShock 2 as a whole – and actually deserves to be viewed as a great game in its own right.
Mass Effect 2 – Lair Of The Shadow Broker
After the extraordinary highs, tension and edge-of-the-seat action of that suicide mission, it was always going to be tough for ME2’s add-ons to top the thrills and spills of the main campaign. But my goodness, the best of BioWare’s bridging DLC did just that – providing awesome set-pieces, compelling revelations and expanding the mythology and possibilities of the wider universe in stellar fashion.
Bringing back one of the series’ most beloved characters into the heart of the action, and directly addressing one of the most talked-about intrigues of the saga so far – the identity of the mysterious, sinister ‘Shadow Broker’ – both the DLC’s journey and its ultimate pay-off were terrifically thrilling. Few DLCs actively alter the way in which you think about a game and its wider context, but this was certainly one of them.