Top 10 DLC of the Generation
Written Thursday, October 31, 2013 By Lee BradleyView author's profile
The end is nigh. As the Xbox 360 nears the end of its tenure as Microsoft’s leading console, X360A is remembering some of this generation’s highlights. So, in the run up to the launch of the Xbox One, we’ll be publishing features that celebrate the very best the current-gen console has to offer. This time, it’s DLC.
While downloadable content has existed on consoles since the days of Dreamcast, it came into its own during this generation. From the faltering steps of Oblivion’s horse armour all the way up to single-player add-ons that equal or outstrip their host game, we’ve come a long way in seven years.
Of course, great DLC isn’t just about story-based add-ons. It can come in many shapes and sizes, and we’ve attempted to reflect that in our list. Here’s our picks for the best and most important DLC available on Xbox 360, encompassing map packs, expansions and in the case of a couple of titles, general DLC support. Find out what they are below.
BioShock 2 - Minerva’s Den
Very few add-ons manage to earn more accolades than the game from which they spawned, but BioShock 2’s Minerva’s Den is one. Actually, Minerva’s Den is the only one we can think of, spinning off from the main game’s storyline and crafting a memorable, generous five hour adventure that stands alongside anything the venerable series has produced thus far.
Written and designed by Steve Gaynor, the chap behind this year’s remarkable Gone Home, Minerva’s Den tells the story of Subject Sigma, an Alpha Series Big Daddy, who sets off on a mission to liberate an advanced artificial intelligence called… know what? We don’t want to tell you any more. Just trust us that with a twist that does BioShock proud and some remixed gameplay and new enemies, Minerva’s Den is definitely worth your time.
Mass Effect 2 - Lair of the Shadow Broker
After a few false starts offering largely substandard DLC for the Mass Effect series, Lair of the Shadow Broker finally saw BioWare flex its gameplay and storytelling muscles in pint-sized form, nailing an add-on for the brilliant Mass Effect 2.
A perfect encapsulation of everything that’s great about its parent game, Lair of the Shadow Broker offers blistering battles, spectacular set pieces and brilliant boss fights, weaving them into an engaging story that strengthens the bond between Shepard and Liara, while providing a nice kick of a twist. BioWare has since perfected the art of story-based DLC, but few are as satisfying as Lair of the Shadow Broker.
Rock Band - Track Library
Few games have received as much post-launch support as Rock Band. Over the course of more than five years and 275 consecutive weeks, Harmonix released over 4,000 songs for the platform, accessible to varying degrees across the three core games, Rock Band Blitz and LEGO Rock Band. It’s a dizzying amount of content.
Harmonix’s commitment to Rock Band paid off. More than 130 million songs have been downloaded from the Rock Band Store since it opened in 2007, ensuring that fans across the world could stumble in from the pub with mates, fire up their console and live out their drunken dreams of stardom. Harmonix ensured there was something for everyone. Except maybe your neighbours.
Red Dead Redemption - Undead Nightmare
While Red Dead Redemption’s main storyline was deadly serious, Undead Nightmare is a tongue-in-cheek riot of exploding zombies and undead animals, a love letter to B-movie horror films that’s unapologetically camp and undeniably fun as all hell.
It’s startlingly well-produced too, with a virus that spreads across the dusty expanses of the environment in real time, the original voice actors in place, a new soundtrack, spooky landscapes and fun, fresh weapons including holy water and blunderbuss that uses zombie body parts as ammo, reducing shambling attackers to a messy mist. Breathing new life into the undead, Rockstar dug deep to create a DLC classic.
Grand Theft Auto IV - Episodes from Liberty City
Alright so we’re kind of cheating with this one. Rockstar’s add-ons for GTA IV are great for different reasons and we struggled to pick a winner, so we’re chucking both of them in.
Lost and Damned earns plaudits for telling the thrilling story of Johnny Klebitz, the stand-in leader of the infamous, eponymous bike gang who weaves in and out of the events of the parent game while crossing paths with characters from GTA IV’s subsequent DLC. Little of Rockstar’s output matches up to this in terms of storytelling.
The Ballad of Gay Tony, meanwhile, offers vibrant characters, laughs and crazy missions, injecting a bit of fun back into GTA IV’s often rather grimy, depressing world. Hell, you can even participate in a hilarious dance-off in a gay club, making TBGT 1000 per cent more fabulous than any other DLC on this list.
Skyrim - Dragonborn
Moving the action to the icy, ashen environs of Solstheim in Morrowind, this Skyrim add-on sees your battle-worn character’s position challenged by the reawakening of the original Dragonborn, Miraak, and he’s not best pleased that you’ve stepped on his turf.
As with the main game, however, much of Dragonborn’s appeal lies in wandering around and engaging in side missions, getting caught up with the exploits of Solstheim’s inhabitants, crawling through its dungeons and seeing the sights. Editor Dan loved it enough to award it 9/10, pledging to continue playing even after 10 hours of adventuring. The best DLC for one of this generation’s best games, it’s just a shame the dragon riding was a bit crap.
Burnout Paradise - DLC Support
Criterion’s DLC support for Burnout Paradise is legendary. For more than a year the developer issued free update after free update, adding numerous modes, features and improvements to the game at a time when such post-release attention was virtually unheard of consoles, something that earned the studio endless admiration from the gaming community.
And then the premium add-ons started coming, bringing even more fun new vehicles (including a DeLorean!), modes and environments to play around with. By the time Criterion had finished, nine updates and a total of seven add-ons had been released, transforming the already brilliant open world racer and ensuring that players stayed engaged long after it first hit shelves. Burnout Paradise is a model example of how post-release support should be handled.
Borderlands - The Secret Armoury of General Knoxx
Gearbox’s add-ons for the Borderlands series have typically been strong, but it’s the original game’s The Secret Armoury of General Knoxx that we remember most fondly, offering up a focused narrative encompassing 40 new missions, three new vehicles, a new class of rare weapons, as well as fresh environments.
Despite Borderlands’ obsession with stats, however, the numbers don’t tell the whole story. It’s the quality of TSAGK’s environments and enemies that does it for us, forcing you to shoot and explore your way around a bombed-out freeway overpass and the wastelands beneath, all of which is crawling with giant, spindly-legged Drifters, purple slashing Assassins and huge mech Devastators. More than just cutting room floor rejects, the new elements introduced in TSAGK are among the best in the game.
Mass Effect 3 - Citadel
Never before has such extensive fan service been crammed into a single add-on as with Citadel. The final piece of downloadable content for Mass Effect 3, coming after the palaver about the parent game’s ending and the subsequent DLC attempts to address complaints, is a fitting send-off to a memorable cast of characters and the best RPG trilogy in existence.
Stuffed with humour, action, brilliant level design and thrilling firefights, as well as some fantastic character moments and the party to end all parties, Citadel is the kind of DLC that developers dream of making, an indulgence for both them and us. Plus you might get to learn about Wrex’s revitalised sex life and witness this wonderfully awkward conversation. It’s all completely joyful.
Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition
Just like the PC version, Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition is a vastly different game than the one released at launch. Already a massively compelling space within which to build your dreams, developer 4J Studios has drawn from the Mojang original to provide update after update after update, adding considerable depth to an already remarkable title.
Creative mode, new mobs, The End, new biomes, new materials, bigger worlds - it’s impossible to give an effective overview of the sheer amount of new content released for the game. Already a bargain on XBLA considering the amount of hours you can lose in it, Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition’s post-release support would ensure it a place on this list even it came in the form of premium DLC. But it doesn’t, it’s free! Now if only more developers would follow Minecraft’s lead...
Honourable mentions: Fallout 3 - Broken Steel, Left 4 Dead - The Sacrifice/Cold Stream, Borderlands 2 - Mister Torgue's Campaign of Carnage/Tiny Tina's Assault On Dragon's Keep, Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening, Oblivion - Shivering Isles.