Okay, first, actual, this is for real post since gaining TAY authorship. Well... First, thank you admins! Second... well... now what? Yeah, I did kind of promise to do a review of Forza Horizon 2, except school came into the picture, I played the game for a week, and... long story short, I thought the game was good but not great, I think the first Horizon is more enjoyable even if the sequel is for all intents and purposes better, and I’ve instead gotten around to playing the Watch Dogs DLC I paid for months ago, but never ended up playing since I (like most people who’ve played Watch Dogs) have at best mixed feelings about the game. But after playing Bad Blood... I’ve decided to instead do a segment on times when I’ve noticed add-on content being better than the main game, since it’s a... phenomenon that while (thankfully) rare, does indeed happen from time to time. And it should be noted for when it does happen, since it can bring out the best in a game that may have been decent from the start, but never fully realized what it could’ve truly been due to a few unfortunate design choices.
Now for fairness sake (and so that I don’t incur mistaken wrath from readers), I will only be talking about games I’ve actually played where I’ve noticed this happen, and for one (or two, depending on how you view ME3) case, the DLC was for a game that was great to begin with. And hey, this gives someone a chance to say something good about Watch Dogs on this site. So... here it goes.
Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut & Citadel
It’s just occurred to me while writing this that three of the four games in this article have also been on most people’s “Most Disappointing GOTY” list(s). Take that as you will, but it does highlight how DLC (aside from patches, obviously) can “save” games. And if there was ever a case of DLC saving a game, it’s Mass Effect 3. Personally, this is my favorite of the three games; it’s the one that got me into the franchise after I played the demo, it had the right balance of RPG and third-person shooter elements that made it damn near perfect to play through, and it had insidiously brilliant multiplayer that required people to play it, in order to get the most out of the single player campaign. But, a shitty ending can sadly make all of those points moot... but unlike movies, a developer can save face by re-writing said ending to provide actual closure, and they can further save face by releasing DLC that felt like the textbook definition of what a love letter is. And Citadel was that love letter.
Citadel was the actual goodbye the series deserved. It did justice for every character that’d been a part of your crew, it had some of the best dialogue in the entire series (despite the admittedly silly story), and it even gave James Vega a moment to shine; that last one should’ve been impossible, but such was the awesomeness of Citadel. It and the Extended Cut actually completed the flawed game ME3 was originally, just by giving players satisfactory ending(s) to the series they had grown to love. It still amazes me that EA didn’t release a ME3: GOTY edition with all the content after the dust had finally settled. Maybe they finally realized what quitting while ahead means...
Bioshock Infinite: Clash in the Clouds, & Burial at Sea Part 2
Bioshock Infinite will go down as one of those truly love it or hate it games. My own take on it? Damn good gameplay, and a campaign where... it looks good, but if you’ve seen enough Doctor Who episodes, it doesn’t really do anything for you. The characters where done before, the overall story didn’t do anything spectacularly new like the original Bioshock did, and even the game’s marketing polarized people, from the generic guy-with-a-gun cover art of a supposedly deep game, to “why isn’t Elizabeth on the cover?” issue that will actually be settled with the upcoming GOTY edition that’s coming out... on last-gen systems, weirdly. Damn, and I was this close to calling a game release for once...
Anyhow, the DLC. CitC is basically horde mode, but adds... “re-play-ability” to a game that could really use it (and comes with nifty rewards for completing various waves), but it is nothing compared to Burial at Sea. What Burial (episode 2, if we’re being specific) does is completely change how the game is meant to be play, so much so that it feels like it’s from one of the alternate realities the main story explored in. Instead of the Wolfenstein-esque bullet sponge you’re used to playing, you take control of Elizabeth, which forces you to play the game as a first person stealth game. Turning from a Halo into Dishonored... that’s a change for a game to make. And a welcome one, after the initial shock (and back to back deaths) goes away. Even with a slightly underwhelming story and ending, the new protagonist and gameplay helps a bit with the sting that was the original version of Bioshock Infinite.
Forza Horizon Rally
This is that one case I was talking about earlier when the game itself is unquestionably good, but the DLC just adds something... more to it. I have come to the position that Forza Horizon is a classic, and at least a must-try if not must have for Xbox 360 owners. It’s a game that unlike every other racing game out there, its emphasis isn’t on car-warfare, nor getting gold medals. All it wants you to do is drive. No matter the car, no matter the play style, just drive. It’s beautiful, it’s great to listen to (aside from the pervasive dubstep), and it’s the one Forza that actually turns gamers into car lovers.
The Rally add-on however... that thing demands you to go faster, to get that corner just right, to not lift on the gas there, don’t brake there, brake here, don’t close your eyes for an instant... even though it is at its core a series of time trials, these aren’t just time trials. On dirt roads, with cars made to do 0-60 in less than six seconds on any and all surfaces, sometimes at night... this was the first driving game I’d played that felt like a real challenge. Like Halo, multiple skulls on challenge. You suck at first, but once you know what the car is capable of, and what the course looks like with your eyes shut... you get a taste of what actual rally drivers do. And you realize it’s a sport that makes F1 look easy. And that’s why it’s brilliant.
Watch Dogs: Bad Blood
And now, for the DLC that sparked this article in the first place. Before I played Destiny, Watch Dogs was at the top of my personal “Most Disappointing GOTY, 2014 edition”. To me, disappointment is when something lets its potential, outstanding potential, potential to be something truly GREAT, go wasted. And that’s what both of these so called next-gen games did. Both had underwhelming stories, underused settings, forgettable, borderline-nonexistent characters... but both look great, sometimes downright beautiful, both are technical marvels of what possible with eight year old hardware, and both have gameplay that can be worryingly addictive. So why is Destiny “worse”? Because it shows the worst side of DLC; when it’s planned out from the start, and instead of a complete game we get a version that’s been sliced, and where if we want the complete version of what “happened”, we’re going to have to pay extra (looking at you, Mass Effect 3's From Ashes!). And if you don’t have the “right” console for a supposedly multiplatform game... we, tough luck. I bought the limited edition thinking it was good value for money (for once), but it turned out to be the actual complete edition of the game. Paying nearly 70% more for a full game... that’s madness.
So... what about Watch Dogs, huh? Why does its DLC get off? Well... cause it’s not essential to make the game complete. It’s there for people who liked the original game for whatever reason, and if you’re one of the random T-bone fans out there, it’s made for you. Except, it’s more than that. Bad Blood does a few things right that the main game got wrong. Hell, it at times feels like it’s acknowledging Watch Dogs screwed up, and goes on with actually trying to make a few things right. The story here, while short and a bit light, actually has moments that make you go “woah”, it has moments that make the characters feel as though they have actual depth (such as a scene where T-bone is graphically confronted with the 11 people he inadvertently killed with his hacktivism), and even the side missions feel as though they add something to the main story, from T-bone cleaning up after Aiden’s mess (Mr. Pierce mercifully only has a few lines in the DLC, and aside from a couple of phone calls doesn’t make a real appearance), to dare I say somewhat enjoyable banter between “the Anarchist” and a detective looking to profit off his actions.
Bad Blood is worth the extra price: it gets right what the original game got wrong in terms of story, characters, and themes of confronting the past; it makes you actually want to do the side missions, and best of all it has an RC car with a stun gun. Somewhat overpowered, yes, but... it’s an RC car with a stun gun. It is almost an outstanding piece of DLC; not essential to the main game, but rather a nice surprise to people who were left cold to Ubisoft’s newest IP.
Anyhow, these are my choices, and I and most other people could make an Honorable Mention list miles long, but I’ll end this with a question: what are your choices of DLC that were better than the main game?
TGRIP is a film student studying in Portland, OR. TAY’s resident Xbox and racing game fan, he also (part time) reviews and does opinion pieces on games, movies, television, comics, and anime. He also runs his kinja sub blog Work(ing Title) In Progress. You can follow this third person narrating weirdo on Twitter @Dennis_wglasses, and his Gamertag on Xbox Live is “Aventador SV”.