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Top Tuesday: 10 great expansions

by Zaid Kriel (Zaid)  Posted Tuesday, April 10, 2012 10:18:31 AM

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Whether through the ancient art of expansion packs or the modern format of DLC, gaming add-ons are a great way to expand the length and scope of a videogame. Here are ten of the best.

10: Cataclysm
Game: World of Warcraft
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
The third, and most important, WoW extension saw enormous changes affect the world of Azeroth, the oldest parts of which had remained exactly the same for the six years since the game’s 2004 release. A sweeping geographical disaster causing the return of evil dragon Deathwing the Destroyer was a neat opportunity for Blizzard to completely revamp the world, nipping and tucking aged quest demands and equipping WoW’s original environments for play with flying creatures, originally not included. With another level hike included, Cataclysm proved a time when many disillusioned Azeroth vets would return to experience a world changed extensively.

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09: Sega lock-on cartridge
Game: Sonic & Knuckles
Developer: Sonic Team
Sonic The Hedgehog 3 was so ambitiously large that squeezing it onto one Mega Drive cartridge wasn’t feasible. So, rather than damning it to an unplayed life on the Mega-CD or 32X, Sega further undermined those expensive peripherals by inventing the ultimate tech-dodge: the lock-on cartridge. By plugging Sonic 3’s board into Sonic & Knuckles, the two standalone games became one huge, sprawling platform adventure, effectively making Sonic & Knuckles the first (and only) piece of extra content for a Mega Drive game. Sonic 2 could even be plugged in to make Knuckles playable, while any other cartridge resulted in some randomly generated 3D special stages.

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08: Mew
Game: Pokémon Red/Blue
Developer: Game Freak
A masterstroke of Nintendo marketing, the necessity to attend much-hyped public Nintendo roadshows was the only way to grab the vaunted 151st Pokémon, whose cute, feline shell enjoyed insanely high stats on ferocious psychic powers. As well as being just about the only known example of post-game addition to a Game Boy cartridge, it was technically one of the first instances of ‘on-disc’ DLC to hit the streets. Savvy, and a great opportunity for Nintendo to further extend the life of both its revolutionary first Pokémon iterations and the venerable handheld itself.

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07: Ghost Bear’s Legacy
Game: MechWarrior 2
Developer: Activision
Back in the days of premium-priced PC ‘mission packs’, players often expected more game for their dollar in terms of expansion. One of the earliest – and greatest – was this add-on for Activision’s giant robot sim MechWarrior 2, which further expanded its dynamic treatment of the FASA Battlemech universe
by relocating the action to snow-filled planets, adding many, many new machines to tinker with and even including a whole new soundtrack. For a snip of the price of the original game, this was effectively a standalone title in its own right.

mechwarrior.jpg  

06:The Secret Armory Of General Knoxx
Game: Borderlands
Developer: Gearbox
Gearbox proved throughout the whole of Borderlands’ post-release DLC packs that it understood the concept of expansion: new and brave story arcs, amazing attention to detail and more genuinely new content than appears in some other series’ direct sequels. The Secret Armory Of General Knoxx stands out furthest, however, with a massive new open space to explore, new vehicles to drive and some incredible new enemy designs. The Devastators – huge robots as large as houses – stand out here, particularly when positioned in the episode’s generously bundled arena mode. The Secret Armory is one of gaming’s greatest bonus chapters.

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05: Heroes & Heralds
Game: Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3
Developer: Capcom
Another card-based extension, Heroes & Heralds addressed the criticism that the game had little content for offline play. A fully featured offline mode is only the beginning, as the cards gathered up enable you to modify your teams of three, giving them combinations of outrageous power-ups to suit your play style. Back online, in competitions that could span a week, trading your idiosyncratic systems with others completely changes the mechanics and focuses of fighting, with forced X Factor triggers or ridiculous power boosts rewriting the rules of combat again and again. An astonishingly inventive expansion by Capcom, and free too.

ultimate-marvel-vs-capcom-3.jpg  

04: Keys to the City
Game: Crackdown
Developer: Realtime Worlds
Though interesting cheat modes were prevalent in the 16-bit heyday of platform games, the greater complexity of coding meant that debug modes were slowly abandoned due to quality issues in the generations that followed. Not so for the Xbox 360’s Crackdown, the free DLC package for which let players fiddle with player stats, powering them up into instant superheroes, and spawn cars and guns straight into the world. In a co-op session it proved a scream, and enabled people to bend the world’s rules and invent whole other games within games.

crackdown.jpg  

03: Point Lookout
Game: Fallout 3
Developer: Bethesda Softworks
After a couple of DLC packages which felt like little more than an enhanced weapons pack (Operation Anchorage) and a thinly veiled homage to Escape From New York (The Pitt), Bethesda pushed the boat out for Point Lookout. The boat, in fact, was pushed out all the way to Louisiana, providing a huge area of standalone swampland with its own plot arc, side-quests and hidden secrets. With entirely new enemies, weapons and aesthetics, Point Lookout was like a whole new game in itself.

fallout3 point lookout.jpg  

02: The Ballad Of Gay Tony
Game: Grand Theft Auto IV
Developer: Rockstar Games
Everybody loved GTA IV, but there bound to be a few criticisms. Most were reactions to the subtler, more grown-up tone, which stood in stark contrast next to some of San Andreas’s sillier moments. Where was the parachuting? The secret military bomber planes? The jetpacks? Luckily, after expansion The Lost and Damned provided lots of bikes and little else, The Ballad Of Gay Tony arrived to camp things up. Not only did basejumping make a welcome return, but prototype missile-spewing helicopters, APC chases down the highway and even stealing a train straight from the tracks were all stand-out features of an expansion that hugely changed the tone and possibilities of a whole city.

gay tony.jpg  

01: Brood War
Game: Starcraft
Developer: Blizzard
If there was one thing wrong with Blizzard’s genre defining real time stratergy game, it was that there just wasn't enough of it. For a game the didn't really need a powerful narrative, Starcraft created a very compelling fiction to motivate players to keep playing. And with enough effort it didn't take long beat the game. While satifying, the ending left a the fate of a lot of the characters open. Brood War picked up just two days after the end of Statcraft delivering an excellent narative, that focused on the Queen of Blades herself, Kerrigan. Brood War could easily have been just a story expansion and still be considered fantastic, but Blizzard had other plans. By introducing a host of new units, Brood War elevated it's gameplay as well and firmly entrenched itself as the only competitive RTS.

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