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D+PAD’s 2012 DLC Awards

14:5719/01/2013Posted by D+PAD Staff55 Comments

Following on from our Games of the Year 2012, D+PAD’s Raymond Webster and Charles Etheridge-Nunn take a look at a year in downloadable content….

DLC is an intrinsic part of the gaming experience now, for better or worse. In the last two years there’s been a vast increase in day one DLC, and in season passes. It’s now expected for console games to have DLC by default, and even Nintendo have got in on the action recently with their first foray into paid DLC for their own games, after Shigsy himself said they wouldn’t bother.

DLC is a way of life, but while we look at video games of the year, we rarely celebrate it in the same way with teary-eyed retrospectives. Unlike the best of 2012 article, we’re handing out a few awards to the most note-worthy DLC we’ve experienced in 2012. Because each piece of DLC is so different that it’s really weird trying to judge them against each other.

The Most 2012-ish DLC of 2012 Award – Dance Central 3, Gangnam Style

As far as dance moves go, the horsey dance of Gangnam Style captured the imaginations and the hips of most people. The GameFAQs boards for Dance Central 3 were flooded with people asking if Gangnam Style would be DLC before the game even released. If Harmonix weren’t already planning the song as DLC, then they must have had to rush the choreographers through their lengthy process of recording songs.

The DLC is 240 points for a single song, each difficulty is different but feels intrinsically like you’re dancing exactly as Psy would. It’s a novelty, it’s stupid, but there’s a sense of irrepressible fun to Gangnam Style on Dance Central 3. People may get bored of the horsey dance in 2013, but for 2012, this was my most played song, and by that extension, the most played DLC on my 360.

- Charles Etheridge Nunn

The DLC That’s Better Than the Game Itself Award – New Super Mario Bros. 2, Coin Rush

It’s my pleasure to give this award to New Super Mario Bros 2’s Coin Rush DLC packs. The 3DS outing of the side-scrolling Mario series was bland enough to show that all the good designers must have been busy working on the far better NSMBU. Despite this, the DLC levels were a breath of fresh air. Ten packs of three levels which actually show the innovation we were hoping for in the main game. While you have to run through them before a timer runs out, there’s enough variation and enough new ideas to keep them fresh. Throw in Streetpass functionality as you try to beat other peoples’ coin scores and you’ll find yourself not touching the main ’story’ mode again.

The most noteworthy is the free Classic pack, which avoids the temptation to simply port old maps from the Mario games and instead creates a bizarre trilogy of mash-up levels. For a Mario fanboy like me, it blew my mind to be running through several levels all at once, both helped and hindered by my intricate knowledge of them. It’s just a shame they couldn’t have made the core game this good…

- Charles Etheridge Nunn

The DLC Which Didn’t Get Played Award – Eldar Scrolls V: Skyrim DLC

Skyrim is the winner here. I have all three DLC packs released in 2012, but have yet to even play it since getting Dragonborn and Hearthfire. The ideas are interesting. Dawnguard introduced playable vampires and those who hunt them. While the idea of picking one of two playable factions (much like the stormcloaks and the imperials) is interesting and crossbows are a fine addition, I found myself sighing and going back to The Witcher 2. Hearthfire sounded silly, but I really liked the idea of finally making your mark on the land, one of the main things which really bugged me about Skyrim. And Dragonborn sounds good, but again, I’ve not touched it at all since Dawnguard.

- Charles Etheridge Nunn

The Hoo-Rah Award For Free Content From a Normally Villainous Company – Halo 4, Spartan Ops

We’ve already heard the rant on day one DLC and season passes. These seem to appear even with good games like Borderlands 2. Halo 4 had its season pass for the multiplayer maps sure, but the DLC which really shines is Spartan Ops, which was free. While yes, in theory these replace the beloved Firefight mode, the amount of content being offered is far beyond what the ‘big, evil companies’ normally provide. You make a character for Spartan Ops and the War Games (standard multiplayer) and take part in a series of missions which are set alongside the story of Halo 4.

Every week after the launch of the game, a set of five maps have been released. They don’t take a long time to do, maybe 20-30 minutes each. They’re not complex and don’t have an in-depth story, but for a co-op experience, they’re great fun. The missions are simple enough like, “get from point A to B”, “assassinate this dude” or “liberate this artifact”. The delivery system of a new batch simply turning up each week is satisfying, seeing a free delivery pop up. Even better, this happens whether you bought the game new or not. Everyone gets Spartan Ops, and it’s just as simple and as silly as Halo deserves to be. No pretention to being some kind of shootybang ‘high art’. Shoot the big monsters with your shiny gun, get XP, then on to the next one.

- Charles Etheridge Nunn

The Most Effort Put Into Something People Had Decided They Were Going To Hate – Mass Effect 3 DLC

This award can only go to one thing; Mass Effect 3’s frankly incredible amount of free multiplayer DLC. A multiplayer mode derided before release for being a cash-in that would be dead before long turned out to be a surprise co-op hit of the year which just expanded and expanded as Bioware launched more and more DLC; new characters, new maps, new mission objectives for existing maps and new weapons. Indeed, by the end of 2012 Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer was a game in its own right and arguably one which met with greater acclaim than the single-player campaign. The DLC, furthermore, was all free – at first this felt like a kind of apology for the single-player’s issues but in time it became something more – evidence of a genuine desire to make the multiplayer mode into something of its own. And as a result, long after I’d finished the single-player and had little desire to replay it, I was still playing the multiplayer to try and unlock things and master its challenges.

-Raymond Webster

The Omnishambles Award for Worst-Planned DLC – Battlefield 3, Armored Kill

Armored Kill for Battlefield 3 was claimed to be a return to big-map Battlefield, with the slight problem that nobody really wanted it on consoles and the consoles couldn’t handle it. Player numbers, already too low for some of the original maps, made the big maps turn into lonely affairs with hardly any action while the emphasis on vehicles and infantry working together didn’t quite work as intended when combined with the inability to work as a team and love of sniping of many players.

The result was an experience which soured many players of the game once the initial rush of joy at new tanks and planes wore off, although it proved to simply be a low point in an overall high-quality series of DLC. What it did teach many people, though, was that unless consoles can step up their hardware and online infrastructure to match PCs, the Battlefield franchise will not be able to compete in its core-series form.

- Raymond Webster

The DLC That (While Good) Didn’t Quite Live Up To Expectations – Borderlands 2 DLC

Borderlands 2 was a great game with some fantastic writing and comic moments, and so new DLC for it was eagerly anticipated. The free new character offered for all those who pre-ordered proved an interesting diversion for a second playthrough but it was the first batch of narrative DLC, the Captain Scarlett missions, that were going to be the make-or-break deal. The DLC, when it arrived, was high-quality stuff, with plenty of content on offer, new vehicles, levels and some fun sequences – but the problem was a lot of what made the core game so good was the character of Handsome Jack, the recurring villain – his consistent interruptions and insults drove the player forward, and without him the DLC missions were lacking much of the presence and crude appeal of the main game. For a title so heavily defined by a coherent plot and narrative force, the self-contained nature of DLC missions didn’t fit – maybe on a second playthrough it would feel less jarring, but as part of the natural process of progress and discovery of a first run it was too discrete from the main plot.

-Raymond Webster

If there’s anything you feel we’ve missed, or any awards you want to give to DLC from 2012, please let us know in the comments section below.

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