Version tested Xbox 360
What's in a name? Infinity Ward's choice of title for Modern Warfare 2's first map pack is telling. It implies an injection of content designed to revitalise an ailing economy of players, stirring up dulling passions and reversing waning success. Despite what community manager Rob Bowling may say, Activision must be concerned by the speed at which rival Battlefield: Bad Company 2 has been closing the gap between the two games in recent weeks, both in terms of sales and online engagement. So is this a stimulus package to overwhelm the competition? Perhaps it wasn't originally planned that way, but today, the hope must be there.
Then, of course, there are the financial undertones: the implication that a Stimulus Package is somehow a gesture of generosity for the Modern Warfare faithful in lean times. But many players would contend that at 1200 Microsoft Points (£10.20 / €14.40) - a quarter of the price of the full game itself - this pack of five maps (only three of which are new to the series) represents anything but value for the penny-pinched.
And what of the wider context to this add-on? Infinity Ward is now a headless goliath, its two founders and studio bosses fired by parent company and arch-villain-du-jour Activision in a messy, public manner last month. What of the staff left behind to craft and polish these environments, those men and women who no doubt feel split loyalties under their new, and probably unwelcome, management? They will be unsure of their futures, made insecure by the way their leaders were taken out back and shot, and at the same time prevented from expressing discontent in public by enough legal threats to sink a Langdell.
It's enough to make you wonder if the severe technical hiccup in getting the map pack out to players on Tuesday afternoon was deliberate sabotage - or, at the very least, someone's punchline to the map pack's choice of name, a gift to gleeful headline writers: the Stimulus Package didn't work! The Stimulus Package didn't work!
Regardless, a few hours of frenzied Twittering and title-update-dissemination later, the Stimulus Package did work, in the most immediate sense at least. Five maps: three entirely new, two plucked from the previous Modern Warfare, each playable with the full range of game types. In the multiplayer shopping list of playlists, Stimulus - as it's now known - enjoys its own separate entry, allowing you to dive in with the new maps exclusively, leaving the familiar 16 bundled with the game to one side.
The first, Storm, is an abandoned warehouse district caught in the birth pains of a storm, the sound of gunfire mixing with the pitter-patter of determined rainfall. Perfect for games of Sabotage and Search and Destroy, a main warehouse area is surrounded by messy, industrial loading bays and driveways. Empty wooden pallets, stacked like impromptu staircases, allow players to hop up onto the haulage containers piled loosely at the feet of a crane that dominates the skyline.
The wire-fenced backdrop is bleak in the same way every Modern Warfare 2 map is, being a playground for brutality and fierce twitch competition, but the failing light gives Storm a melancholy edge, enemies sinking into its muted colour palette even as they dip behind the trucks that punctuate the area.