Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation
- 10 new planes (200 Points / GBP 1.70 / EUR 2.40 each)
- 2 Idol Master planes (400 Points / GBP 3.40 / EUR 4.80 each)
- 1 new multiplayer map (100 Points / GBP 0.85 / EUR 1.20)
At first glance, the DLC page for Namco's superb flight combat game looks like a treasure-trove of wonders. There are sixteen items in total up there - the 13 listed here, along with three freebies (a set of plane skins decorated with the Scarface emblem from Ace Combat 2). Surely enough to satisfy the demand of even the most ardent sky warrior?
Perhaps not. Throttle down for a moment and consider this; if you buy everything on that page, you end up spending 2900 Microsoft Points, which works out at GBP 24.65 or EUR 34.80. In other words, there's enough DLC up there for you to spend a fairly significant portion of the purchase price of the complete game on. Ouch. So what are you getting for your money?
This is where it starts to get really disappointing. The GBP 1.70 you spend on each new plane doesn't actually get you a new plane - it gets you a new skin for an existing plane, and a new set of statistics to go along with it. There are no new in-game models up there, just new paint-jobs for existing aircraft, and a few tweaks to the spreadsheet that works out handling, speed and the likes. The Idol Master planes, which are decorated with garish paintings of the paedoriffic anime girls from the Idol Master game, are even worse value; over three quid for a lick of paint!
The new multiplayer map, at least, is a bargain, coming in at under a quid for a fairly solid new Team Battle locale (although of course, maps are less crucial in a game which is mostly about sky combat anyway). The rest of the DLC, however, is hard to see as anything other than a rip-off. It's not that it's entirely pointless - Ace Combat fans will definitely enjoy having a few more planes with different stats and flight models to play with. It's just that it's hugely overpriced, since all you're getting for your money is a texture and a few figures to tweak the stats. Combine all ten of them into a package for 400 points and you'd have a solid piece of DLC; at 200 points each, this feels like really blatant gouging of loyal customers.
Phantasy Star Universe
- Ambition of the Illuminus expansion (1600 Points / GBP 13.60 / EUR 19.20)
This is the single most expensive item we've reviewed in this roundup (although it doesn't come close to the overall cost of Ace Combat's planes). It's also easily the single most fully-featured, content-rich piece of DLC on Xbox Live - featuring a new storyline that continues on from the single-player, new levels, new lobbies and mini-games for the online side of the game, and a host of new weapon types, character design elements, clothing and special attacks.
In other words, it's a complete expansion pack - and indeed, if you're playing PSU on the PC or PS2, you'll be paying twenty quid for it as a boxed game. That makes the asking price for Xbox 360 owners seem really very reasonable, especially when you consider that this isn't just an expansion which sticks new components into the multiplayer - it's also got a whole new storyline experience in there.
Phantasy Star Universe itself, of course, is a divisive game - and we're still really not convinced that it's worth spending seven pounds a month on a subscription for the rather limited online content. If you're happy with doing so - and that's a big "if" - then Ambition of the Illuminus is a very solid expansion, however. The new zones are nicely atmospheric and varied, while the new in-game items continue to evolve Phantasy Star's wonderful neon aesthetic.
We like the new storyline, too. Allowing you to actually play as your own character for the first time (in the original game, the single-player story focused on the existing character of Ethan Waber), you get a chance to roam around and interact with heroes from the first game as you hunt down a new Human Fundamentalist faction who are wreaking havoc in the Gurhal system. It's not exactly epic sci-fi, but it's enjoyable and fairly light-hearted - much like the original PSU.
Plenty of other nice updates come bundled with the Illuminus pack. The new grid system for laying out your room and furniture is a welcome improvement to the staid placement system in the original game, and the addition of new Photon Arts and weapon classes will, of course, give online players plenty of new content to get their teeth into.
Ultimately, though, the fact that Illuminus is a solid (and incredibly good value) chunk of DLC isn't enough. It doesn't fix the most basic problems with the online game - like the fact that the subscription is bloody expensive for what you get, and that enforced grouping means you need to have a group of friends playing (and paying that sub!) to enjoy it. A fine update for existing fans, then, but not really worth considering if you've been steering clear of PSU thus far.