The last console generation gave us all manner of things we now take for granted, including the concept of downloadable content.
For many gamers, DLC has become a dirty acronym. How could it not be? Too many unscrupulous publishers have used it as an excuse to withhold content to ransom, or make players shell out silly money for features that, a decade ago, were included in the price of admission.
It's a crying shame, though, because DLC is actually one of the best and most forward-thinking advances of the last eight years. When developers strive to create meaningful and worthwhile extra content, DLC can enhance, extend and enrich our games - if not our lives. So to that end, here are the ten most outstanding DLC packs and expansions of the previous generation... and why they set a superb example going into the new one.
10: Big Surf Island [Burnout Paradise]
Burnout Paradise had a legendary post-launch DLC campaign. From free motorbikes to zany hotseat multiplayer, one of the very best (the best? Discuss) racing games of the generation became even better over time.
Especially when Big Surf Island arrived. This massive new playground was wide, tall and rammed full of crazy stuff to do; keeping Paradise in our disc drives for months.
9: Vietnam [Battlefield Bad Company 2]
Battlefield and Call Of Duty have produced all manner of map packs over the last few years. Armored Kill is a particular favourite of ours: a great big slice of vehicular carnage that plays to Battlefield 3's strengths.
But for my money, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 delivered one of the very best in Vietnam: a generous selection of themed maps that totally changed the way we played, and provided any number of opportunities for desperate close-range engagements.
8: Citadel [Mass Effect 3]
Mass Effect's DLC pipeline was inconsistent to say the least. For every highlight, such as The Lair Of The Shadow Broker, we had nasty throwaway offerings like Pinnacle Station and the highly controversial From Ashes.
Citadel, however, was Mass Effect's crowning glory. Getting the band back together for one last rip-roaring adventure, the very last DLC pack was also the very best, letting us spend quality time in good company and acting as a spiritual ending to the epic saga. As a masterpiece of scripting and a highly replayable yarn, this was fan service at its absolute exquisite best. Plus, you know, Blasto.
7: Dragon Age Origins: Awakening
Is this technically DLC? Yes. No? Yes. Just about. Though it was available at standalone retail on Xbox 360, Awakening was primarily a downloadable expansion pack of the old-school: 25 hours of quality content that expanded the universe, strengthened our characters and generally made our lives a little bit better just by existing.
Regardless of whether you count this as DLC or not, we're including it to make a point. Dragon Age and its sequel shat the bed with poxy pathetic weaselly cynical despicable vomitous little excuses for post-launch content (see also: Witch Hunt), but Awakening proved that there's another way. A better way.
6: Artorias Of The Abyss [Dark Souls]
We were prepared to die, but Artorias Of The Abyss let us die harder. [really, Jon? - Ed] Dark Souls' weighty expansion offered new areas to explore, terrifying new beasts to take down and extra weaponry to equip, adding to the original game in smart and substantial ways.
It's no surprise that the Prepare To Die Edition feels like a complete game, a whole experience, rather than a game and an extra DLC pack.
5: The Secret Armory Of General Knoxx [Borderlands]
Borderlands 2 went big on quality content, but the original FPSRPG set the trend with a tremendously important downloadable expansion. The Secret Armory Of General Knoxx was huge and generous, but stands out for us since it featured a surprisingly complex new nemesis in General Knoxx himself; a relatable and even sympathetic character who we genuinely liked even as we conspired to kill him. Something that he was looking forward to immensely.
General Knoxx was so popular, in fact, that Gearbox took inspiration from the jaded commander when designing Borderlands 2, realising that we wanted a villain to track down and finally defeat over the course of the game.
"We learned a lot of lessons from our DLC in Borderlands 1," art director Kevin Duc told us last year. "General Knoxx had that rich story, and the response from that is that people really like a good strong storyline. So in Borderlands 2, we take those lessons and we apply it." See: DLC really can make for better games!
4: The Ballad Of Gay Tony & The Lost And Damned [GTA IV]
Episodes From Liberty City brought the fun back to GTA IV. Sure, Rockstar's sandbox was technically accomplished, but it never quite scratched our itch for larger-than-life characters and cathartic craziness we've always sought from the series. In fact, in our opinion, it was a bit boring.
Luckily The Ballad Of Gay Tony and The Lost And Damned were on hand to put that right, delivering what easily the best and most memorable hours we spent in Liberty City. This was DLC done right, DLC that improves a game and kept us coming back even after we'd grown tired of our friends constantly ringing up to go bowling every five seconds.
3: Minerva's Den [BioShock 2]
Was BioShock 2 unnecessary and redundant? I personally jumped at the chance to return to Rapture and enjoy a more emotional storyline, but frankly, 2K Marin's sequel justified its existence with a single, glittering DLC pack.
No, not the Protector Trials. Never ever The Protector Trials. Minerva's Den.
This tight, perfectly-paced and haunting story is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, better than BioShock 2, reaching levels of thought-provoking storytelling genius that even gave the original BioShock a run for its money. Had Minerva's Den released as a standalone digital title, it would be in the running for best downloadable game of the entire generation. If you're a fan of the franchise, you must -- MUST -- play it.
2: Broken Steel [Fallout 3]
Fallout 3 is my nomination for the best game of Generation 7, as well as Brendan and my personal favourite game of the last eight years. It was utterly superb, a stonkingly open-ended adventure that's uniquely yours.
Except... that ending. Ron Perlman was on hand to deliver all the closure we could ever want, but Fallout 3 closed with a whimper, and stopped us from going back into the Capitol Wasteland to tie up any remaining loose ends.
Then Broken Steel fixed everything. As one of the best DLC packs of all time, it added more choice and flavour to the final encounter, then went overboard on a sensational new campaign with twists, turns and big decisions aplenty; all while adding loads of new content into the rest of the game. An absolute masterpiece, and an essential download for an essential game.
1: The Shivering Isles [The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion]
When it comes down to it: we're all about expansion packs here at Dealspwn.com. We'd take hours of adventure and rock-solid substance over piecemeal content any day of the week , and one of the first big RPGs of the last console generation gave us exactly what we wanted.
The Shivering Isles was obviously something special from the very outset, when a dingy crypt exploded into a shower of beautiful butterflies, throwing us bleary-eyed and blinking into an enormous new island packed with surprises and memorable moments. With the mad god Sheogorath as our colourful hosts, we explored, battled and quested for hours, facing missions and challenges that added extra variety and fun to an already monstrous game.
Though Bethesda's hilariously pathetic Horse Armour became an infamous meme for the ages, The Shivering Isles set a standard that, throughout the generation, was rarely followed and matched.
Sound off: what downloadable content did you enjoy over the last generation? There's certainly much more to discuss.