Version tested Xbox 360
It's been a while since we last did this - just over four months in fact - so it seems like a good time to dip back into Microsoft's Game Store to see if anything of interest has been added. This won't be a complete list of every new bit of downloadable content released since April, but rather a closer look at the bits and pieces that caught our eye - whether it's for all the right, or all the wrong, reasons.
As always, we'll be breaking down the cost of each item in real money so you can gauge the relative value of your precious Microsoft Points, and also giving you the lowdown on what you get for your outlay and whether it's worth the effort.
Ninja Gaiden 2
Team Ninja's rock hard hacknslash might have struggled to carve a name for itself at the checkout, but that hasn't stopped Microsoft extending the experience with some additional content. That wall isn't going to piss money all over itself.
In terms of new gameplay, those with the testicular fortitude should direct their attention to Mission Mode, an 800-Point (GBP 6.80 / EUR 9.60) offering which adds 24 standalone challenges to the game, much as the original Xbox version of Ninja Gaiden did back in 2005. Your virtual pennies buy you sixteen Karma Attack missions, eight survival missions and ten new Achievements worth an additional 250 Gamerscore points.
Both modes are fairly self-explanatory. Karma Attack is a score attack mode by any other name: frantic battles against a finite number of enemies in an enclosed arena drawn from the main campaign. You do get all the weapons and some health refills, but it's still pretty fearsome. Get the highest karma score you can, then upload it to the leaderboards and whimper at how crap you are. The battles get progressively tougher, as you'd expect, and often feature the bosses from the story mode - sometimes one after another.
Survival is even more straightforward - stay alive for as long as possible against waves of enemies using just one of the games weapons and no health items. Of little use for the novice player then, but a solid - if rather pricey - way of prolonging the punishment for grizzled veterans.
Also available are three costumes for Ryu, all of which have been hurriedly swept into our Horse Armour file, where all pointless and over-priced features must reside. Clocking in at 200 Points (GBP 1.70 / EUR 2.16) each, you can choose from Biometal Hayabusa, Shadow Walker Hayabusa or Fiend Hayabusa. Each comes with five colour variations and changes Ryu's appearance in game, but does precious little else. Plain old re-skins, then, with no impact on the gameplay whatsoever. It would have been nice if each outfit could have been tied to a specific ninpo magic attack, or given you some status effect, just to make the choice a tactical one rather than merely aesthetic, but there you go.
There's no doubting that Bungie knows how to work this online malarkey. With a rabid fan-base to placate, all clamouring for fresh content, new maps, old maps, more, more, more, Master Chief's overseers have made a clever little niche for themselves in the world of downloadable content that has left other shooters falling over their invisible feet to catch up.
Rob already ran his fingers lasciviously through the tousled hair of the Legendary Map Pack, which has now dropped in price from 800 Points to 600 (GBP 5.10 / EUR 6.48). That's because of Bungie Day, the annual holiday that doesn't require you to leave the house. This celebration also brought with it the latest remake of a classic Halo map, Cold Storage, better known to old people as Chill Out from the Halo: Collector's Edition. And because Bungie was playing at Santa, Cold Storage is absolutely free - and will remain that way.
The layout will be instantly familiar to anyone who battled across the electronic frontier of the old Xbox Live servers, or lugged consoles and tellies around for LAN matches. It's almost exactly the same as Chill Out in design, even though there have been some minor tweaks to allow for Halo 3's different physics, control and speed. The biggest overhaul has been in the look of the map. The original had a Covenant theme, but for this new version that's changed to a spooky Flood containment facility.
With eerie storage pods filled with twitching samples, and the creepy sight of infected things scuttling about outside the windows, it's a fun place for a deathmatch. Fairly small in size, the map doesn't really suit anything more complex than an old-fashioned Slayer frag-out, but there's nothing wrong with that. It's a great map for that sort of play, and if you pull it into the Forge you can even liven things up with some new energy blockers, a flamethrower or even a Mongoose or Ghost - even though they're more hindrance than help in this claustrophobic interior.
Of course, just because something is free doesn't mean it's good - although it does mean you have less to moan about if it's bad - but in this case there's little to grumble about. It's a classic Halo map, it's perfect for back-to-basics deathmatches and it costs you absolutely nothing. Yay.