Downloadable content is to games as cannibals are to surgery: Both are meant to make things better, but both can eat my asshole. DLC allows developers to make extra content for their fans in the same way swords allowed people to go to neighboring villages to help carve turkeys. Virtual clothing packs cost more than entire independent games, but at least virtual horse armor is now the good old days. Modern DLC is paying developers to discover the exact minimum quality gamers will accept.
These are the assholes who fell short of that minimum with all the grace and subtlety of a long jumper missing the sand because they were trying to pick the judge’s pocket as they ran by.
#5. Paying For Temporary Titillation
The Saboteur was the final release from Pandemic Studios, a developer owned by EA at the time, and it played like the bailiffs hauled it from the building along with the coffee pot and vending machine. It was definitely filled with things developers might one day turn into a finished game, but not something you should spend $50 to sit down and play. The game ran like the Matrix on a 486 with stuttering animations, random glitches, and AI that occasionally decided it would rather die than keep playing. Either that or there was a subplot with the unquiet spirit of a dead cat randomly possessing people to stand on high places, run out across roads for no reason, then suddenly lie down on the ground.
But the studio didn’t have time to finish the game. Instead, they developed the worst DLC in the history of the world. The Midnight Club add-on charged $5 to add nipples to the simulated strippers along with some basic bullshit gambling games, aka: “things you not only find for free online but things you can’t help BUT see online.” This game charged real money to add what most people install Adblock to skip.
It’s the purest possible expression of true DLC: They hadn’t even finished programming “enemies die when you kill them as opposed to when they get bored by your presence” but shifted resources to “replace these cartoon pasties with cartoon nipples.” In other words, the smallest possible addition an idiot would pay for.
So you’ve just paid 5 bucks for electronic areolae. You’d think things couldn’t get worse. But getting-worse-ology seems to be EA’s entire business model. Because once you’d bought your literally bit-ty titties, EA had your money and that’s where their interest in the situation apparently ended. So they switched off the servers and kept all the money. The nipples disappeared forever — a virtual nipocalypse — along with every other element of the paid expansion, and anyone complaining was buried under endless pages of end user license agreement and the crushing knowledge of how far they’d fallen in life.
#4. Tiger Woods Excruciation
Golf is the rich people equivalent of licking the entire countryside so that nobody else can use it. The only human activity to use more ground for fewer people was the Apollo moon landings. Electronic golf is a great idea, because golf was already the most utterly artificially contrived challenge it was possible for humanity to construct. Switching it to software saves people the bother of walking.
Faithfully simulating the “whacking golf balls in front of crammed hordes you
don’t even view as real” dynamic.
Unfortunately, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 treated your first $40 as an entry ticket to the Tiger Woods PGA 13 golf market. You didn’t buy a game; you bought an advertisement. Over half of the game’s courses were locked behind paywalls, and EA’s insistence you could get them without cash didn’t fool anyone for a single second. Because the process took weeks.
You had to earn coins to rent the locked courses, then use your rental time to complete “Gold Course Mastery” challenges. Which were on par with hitting a gold ball through the eye of a needle that already has a camel wedged in it. And was equally aimed at rich people. By the time you unlocked the courses through game play you’d be too busy being presented to the Vulcan Ambassador as the oldest human alive. The exchange rate between playtime and new course rental was about the same as trying to buy real golf courses by working a minimum-wage job cutting the grass. But less fun.
Even Dragon Ball Z would consider the amount of time taken to earn this ridiculous.
All this in a game with loading times that felt like swimming through a molasses warehouse after an earthquake and DLC adverts after every 30-second pause. A more enjoyable and less agonizingly drawn-out version of home golf would be swallowing the balls whole and trying to shit them onto a moving Roomba.
#3. Battlefield 4 Ultimate Multiplayer Shortcut
Battlefield 4 is the latest in a series of army-themed games where the single-player mode truly captures the experience of being a soldier. Because it’s a boring grind of stupid chores mandated by a vague sense of duty instead of the exciting multiplayer combat most people imagine.
Five DLC packs were announced before the game was even released, and after a few seconds players noticed it was released in more pieces than a fragmentation grenade. And was about as fun to experience. More than a month after release it still suffered more crashes than Carmageddon. The next year they were still promising it wouldn’t happen, but in true EA style they phrased it as apologizing for trying to be too awesome. If a real soldier was launched into combat in the same condition as Battlefield 4, they’d be missing their gun, their boots, and at least 10 feet of their small intestines through a ragged hole in their gut. Except a disemboweled soldier at least used to have all its bits in the right place. And could still run better than this game. And if EA was conducting the surgery they’d offer seven different patterns of bandage while forgetting to actually close the wound.
Their DLC dickery pissed all over the wounds by extorting another $50 with the online multiplayer Ultimate Shortcut Bundle. This lets players in a multiplayer game straight-up buy better weapons. You could unlock them yourself in an entertaining, logical progression of rewards, or at least that’d be what you would be doing if a 12-year-old with his parent’s credit card wasn’t shredding you with top-tier weaponry. And if it didn’t take days to achieve each little thing in a blatant case of unlock inflation.
The message is clear: Buy the game, then buy it again or we’ll turn it into a job. And that game is “being shot by idiots,” because they’ve sold the idea of balanced multiplayer. Even though being run roughshod over by people who can afford to spend more is the world we’re playing video games to escape. And you should only be buying things to avoid your day being ruined by screaming children when the children are yours.
#2. Sims 4 Devolution
The Sims sounds like a parody — players sitting at a computer watching their avatar’s virtual bladder bar filling up — but this digital dialysis spawned an incredibly profitable franchise. Up until Sims 3 the games were advancing fast enough to make Skynet nervous. If they’d kept going, EA would have been selling Sims 7 to the Sims 6 and eliminated the human race altogether. But they released Sims 4 missing more parts than Anakin Skywalker at the end of Revenge Of The Sith. Then role-played as Emperor Palpatine with a cybernetic limbs store.
You can’t sell DLC if everything is included in the basic game, so they decided nothing would be included in the base game. They stripped out everything but the word “Sims” and a few models that word could refer to, but far fewer models than were included in Sims 3. A customizable open world sandbox became a DLC catalog in a shoebox. Replace your Netflix with a VHS player and you’ll have some idea of the “upgrade” and more freedom than Sims 4 players because you’re still able to record your own tapes without paying EA.
The powerful Sims 3 Create-A-Style was removed, because making your own home perfect might be the entire point of the game, but it doesn’t generate microtransactions. They didn’t just find the minimum line for a sequel, they erased half the line and offered players a $40 marker. This sequel didn’t build on the previous game; it mugged it, stole its identity, and is busy emptying its house for short-term profits.
#1. Destiny: The Taken Game Features
This is it. This is the worst DLC. Tiger Woods sold you things you’d already bought, Sims 4 removed things previous games already had, but only Destiny takes your game and removes things you were already playing. This is the first “expansion” to expand backwards into the past and destroy things you already had if you don’t buy it. A video game that removes things from your history? That’s not DLC, that’s a Doctor Who villain.
The Taken King DLC “rebalances” the mission structure, shifting its grip on your wallet and throat. A whole swathe of strike missions and playlist options are now gone or crippled. The missing strikes are at least arguable: They’re online multiplayer, and of course they’re going to reflect people with the full game. I mean, it’s a shitty argument, because it just reveals the constant expansions as an unofficial subscription fee applied to what was already a full-price game, but the waters were at least muddy enough for Bungie to claim it’s not them shitting on the fans.
The lost options have no such defense. If you don’t buy the expansion, you’re suddenly restricted to a “classic” set of deathmatches, which isn’t just the set you used to have — it’s smaller than the set you used to have. For example: You used to be able to choose “Clash” or “Control” multiplayer matches, but now there’s only a mixed “Clash/Control” option. Only want to play one of them? Screw you, pay them.
It sounds tiny, but the thin end of the wedge always is. Reprogramming that menu was extra work. So every step was deliberate. That is specifically and carefully chosen to be the very least thing, the tiniest tweak most people would casually dismiss, but that is them taking something you already paid for and removing it until you pay again.