Breaking Immersion with DLCs
by Rohan

I’ve been waiting a long time for Mafia II. 2920 days, in fact. Since I first saw the truly extraordinary opening video for the original Mafia. Hell, I didn’t even need to have played the game before I was excited about whatever they might do with a sequel. Once I’d actually played the game, I went from excited about a sequel to frustrated that I couldn’t play it immediately.

Being a huge fan of the era (and the genre) I was, naturally, pretty quick to pre-order the uber-awesome feature-packed special edition, complete with A2 posters of ’50s pin-up girls and even some bonus DLC.

Flash forward to the 26th of August, and I’m at home and slowly, methodically punching in the DLC codes into my xbox before booting up the game for the first time.

Now, you need to understand something about me. My fixation with the ’30s through to the ’50s is pretty full-on. I’m one of those people who’s read most James Ellroy novels more than once, and who even tolerated ‘Mobsters’ and ‘Mulholland Falls’ despite them having almost no redeeming features as films.

This being the case, when I boot up a game like Mafia, I try to get as involved as humanly possible in the story. I don’t run around like an unruly hoodlum – I try to behave in-character as much as I can. This means a that, in a story like Mafia, I try to consider the situation the main character is in and let it guide my decisions.

Vito, the protagonist of Mafia II, quickly finds himself sleeping on his friend Joe’s couch, doing wet-work for the mob while wearing a grotty leather jacket and driving a stolen car whose plates have been changed. This seems to sum up the tone of the early game pretty well – a game that spans a decade. As the game progresses from the part of the story in the ’40s to the ’50s component, the world changes appropriately. The music, cars and the look and feel of the city shifts.

But at the beginning, you’re stuck with whatever clothes you can buy in the city of Empire Bay during the final months of World War 2 – an era defined by shortage, food & fuel rationing, et cetera.

So when I realised what the DLC had done, I was quite perplexed. Let me explain – by unlocking these pre-order DLCs, I had brought four new ’50s sports cars and some mob/vegas style outfits into the game. Cool, no?

Definitely cool. Some additional kit to make Vito look like a really successful mafioso, and some swanky new sports cars to make getting away from the cops just that much easier. The only problem is that, being bonus DLC, the content is promptly made available to you from the beginning of the game.

While the game’s story is guiding you through stealing your first car and shopping for ’40s-style clothing throughout the shops of Empire Bay, sitting in the players’ garage are four anachronistic sports cars and in his wardrobe, four outfits that there’s no way a man who’s having trouble coming up with the cash to rent his own place would be able to afford.

I dread to think how much easier the early car chases of the game would be if you drove these ’50s-styled beasts around instead of the ’30s and ’40s clunkers that dominate the roads in this chapter of the game.

Now, I’m fully aware that this is really quite a silly thing to nitpick about – but in a game where immersion in the game world is key to keeping your audience, and where such attention to detail has been paid in every aspect of the game’s visual development, it seems a bit unfortunate to throw in bonus stuff that breaks this.

Me, personally? I’d have been happy if I at least had to spend in-game cash to get the content I’ve unlocked… though I realise that I’m probably alone in this regard, and it would most likely have been a rather bad business decision had they done this.

What do you think? Have you ever obtained DLC of any kind (not third-party mods, but first-party content) that has changed the game for the worse for you? What about the actual gameplay? I suspect these fast cars will give players with this DLC an advantage in the early-game, although it’s just a theory so far. Have you ever obtained DLC that altered the difficulty of the game itself?

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3 Responses to “Breaking Immersion with DLCs”

  1. Liam says:

    I am one of those strange people that don’t have the internet hooked up to my consoles. This has become increasingly frustrating for me in the past year or so because I feel that DLC’s are nothing but a big gimmick.
    Over a year ago I was really excited about Dragon Age Origins, I picked up the collectors edition to find out the only extras you get for paying the $30 extra was little cardboard DLC codes. Accepting this, I bit my tongue and got stuck into the game disguarding the codes.
    After a few hours into the game a character offered me a quest to go fight a gollum, intrigued I accepted his task. The game suddenly threw up a message stating that I have to go onto Xbox live to now pay for and download this mission. I was so angry that I ejected to game and traded it in straight away. I feel that DLC is now a something that developers feel they can cash in on content that was meant to be included in the first place.
    Recently I was playing Need for speed Shift, the game asked me if I wanted to pay for the new paint job on my car with either ingame money or Live points, it’s getting a little out of hand…

    In another note, Kane and Lynch 2, I was cycling through the missions for arcade mode and came across a message on the screen which said “Do play this level you must use your unigue download code” A little frstrated but accepting of this I was about to escape back when another message popped up “check you box for the codes”. What the fuck? are you telling me that everyone gets these codes Kane & Lynch 2
    What the fuck are you doing making me download them? there is a picture of the goddamn level on the screen, I am sure you would have been able to squeeze them onto the disc, plus, the game was only 4 hours long!

    Argh…

  2. Kinsley says:

    I remember Morrowind had that same problem with it’s two expansions. Tribunal had that annoying thing where a pair of assassins turned up and tried to kill you every time you slept — assassins with very expensive armour, which just happens to be better than anything in the core game. And you’d end up with two fresh sets of it every time a new pair of assassins came along to throw themselves on your sword. Pretty soon, you’re rich beyond your wildest dreams, and you and every trader from Seyda Neyn to Balmora kind of looks a bit like an assassin.

    Then there’s Bloodmoon, which if you’re silly enough to load it before finishing the core game changes every single conversation you’ll ever have with any NPC. All of a sudden, nobody cares anymore about all the little local rumours and goings on, and starts banging on about all the crap going down in Solstheim like a bunch of zombie astroturfers on an internet forum. Arrrgh!

    More recently, I made the mistake of trying to start Burnout: Paradise while my PS3 was plugged into the internet. “Hey,” it said to me, “There’s a bijillion updates, let me download them for you.” Yeah, big mistake, that. An hour later, when it finally let me into the game, the whole thing was pretty much destroyed. The menus were different, the map was different, everything. And any time I tried to use any of the new content, it said, “Sorry dude, you haven’t purchased this DLC yet.” Arrrrgh! Uninstall.

  3. Rohan says:

    I usually agree about the gimicky nature of DLC – I only installed the Mafia 2 stuff because it was free, and because I figured, “Hey! ’50s sports cars! What’s not to like?”

    Boy was I wrong. Incidentally, it continues to be a pain throughout the game. Always having access to silly outfits and hugely over-powered cars is NOT a good thing.

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