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The Hunt for Meaningful DLC in Horror Games

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When it comes to horror games, their post-release support tends to be lacking. Bad DLC is everywhere, sure, but for fans of this genre, it’s less of a mixed bag and more a bag that almost entirely consists of DLC that’s either unnecessary, unfinished, poorly realized or some combination of the three.

Let’s look at some examples, shall we?

For Resident Evil, for example. Ever since Capcom made the misguided decision to try and shoehorn a competitive element into Resident Evil 5, much of the DLC revolved around new multiplayer modes that most people had absolutely no interest in playing. That kills the multiplayer mode right there by fragmenting the audience that’s active online.

Resident Evil 5 wasn’t all bad. It also gave us Desperate Escape and Lost in Nightmares, the latter of which was surprisingly great and a welcome return to the series’ roots in survival horror.

Then there’s Capcom’s other zombie franchise: Dead Rising. Looking specifically at the latest game, which saw an impressive amount of post-release attention from the publisher in the form of five story expansions. I can’t speak for the final add-on, but I did play the other four, and they were universally terrible for reasons I’ve already gone over.

Capcom may be one of the worst offenders, but they certainly aren’t alone. We need only to look toward gaming’s other popular open-world zombie series to see another awful example of how to mishandle DLC, this time for the Techland-developed Dead Island games.

The Bloodbath Arena was a waste of time for most, mostly because there were already many other series that had implemented similar modes, ranging from Halo to Resident Evil, Left 4 Dead and Call of Duty, among others. We have Gears of War to thank for that massively popular trend.

I won’t even go into the Ryder White expansion, because it’s really not worth reliving.

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Unfortunately, it seems as if Deep Silver hasn’t learned as much as I would’ve liked, because the season pass contents of Dying Lightan otherwise great game — don’t sound like they’re going to make it worth returning to the game, if you’ve already beaten it.

Even Dead Space has struggled with this. The second game’s Severed expansion had an interesting narrative, but that wasn’t enough to make the fact that most of its paltry running-time was made up of back-tracking. Dead Space 3: Awakened was a small step up, but that, too, wasn’t as good as it could’ve been.

There are plenty of other examples out there, but I’m getting bummed out, so let’s cleanse our mental palates by recognizing a few of the games that have been considerably more successful.

Minerva’s Den managed to be more thoughtful and refreshing than BioShock 2, Left Behind managed the impressive feat of being as memorable as The Last of Us, the Left 4 Dead series DLC wasn’t perfect, but most of it was good stuff.

Horror-themed DLC shouldn’t fail as often as it does. This genre works great when it’s consumed in smaller portions, much like what episodic games are doing right now. More developers are realizing this and exploring it with their own games, like Resident Evil Revelations 2, Alan Wake, Siren: Blood Curse and Telltale’s The Walking Dead, among others.

Then there’s my favorite: Alan Wake.

With its themes of light vs. dark, it’s fitting that Alan Wake may be the shining beacon for how to use DLC to add to the experience in meaningful ways. Both The Signal and The Writer were fantastic, thoughtful and new experiences.

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I think this is partly why horror-themed DLC for non-horror games works so well. The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned was a great addition to Borderlands, as was Red Dead Redemption’s standalone expansion, Undead Nightmare, and inFAMOUS did a fine job honoring my favorite holiday, Halloween, with its vampire-themed Festival of Blood expansion.

So what’s going on here? Why does the quality of the post-release support that horror games receive underwhelm so often, when this same problem doesn’t seem to be quite as severe for other genres?

It is worth mentioning that there are signs that this trend could be becoming less of a problem. Alien: Isolation has received a ton of DLC, and much of it has been rather good. There’s also The Evil Within, which is scheduled to receive the first of three planned add-ons next month with The Assignment. It looks interesting, but it’s too early to tell.

I’m not bringing this topic up because I have a solution. Outside of asking developers to put a little more thought into the post-release support they give their games, or refusing to buy the particularly bad stuff until they up their game, there’s not much we can do.

The reason I wanted to write about this is because I do think this is a legitimate problem, and as a life-long fan of the horror genre, I’d really like to see it vanquished as soon as possible so I can have a reason to return to the horror games I’ve completed because there’s a new bit of DLC that looks worth my time. And yours.

Granted, this could just be me. I don’t think it is, but it’s possible.

So I’ll leave it to you.

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