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
You only need to check out the Game Add-Ons tab in the Xbox Live Game Store to see that the world of downloadable content, once so feared and mistrusted, is here to stay. There's been a bunch of notable new material released just recently - and even more since we started on this instalment in our Xbox Live DLC Roundup series - and most of it has helped to prove the naysayers wrong. There's been fresh content for recent blockbusters, and older cult favourites. There have been updates for full price releases as well as Live Arcade games. And, best of all, the paid-for content has generally been reasonably priced and balanced out with a surprising amount of freebies. Here are some recent examples that you might want to check out.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare - Variety Map Pack
Overlord - Raising Hell expansion and Challenge Pack
Every now and then, someone pops out of the woodwork to complain that the games industry isn't innovative any more. This is clearly nonsense. Certainly, publishers might have an ongoing love affair with barely distinguishable sequels and a herd mentality that makes sheep look strong-willed, but consider this - year after year, the industry invents new and previously unheard-of ways to make you part with your cash. If that's not innovation, what is?
Download Content (DLC) is a new arrival in the exciting field of wallet-stripping, and the Xbox 360 is on the vanguard. Many Xbox 360 games have content available for download sometime after launch, allowing you to hand over a few measly Microsoft points for access to new maps, models, missions and the likes. It's a great idea in theory, obviously - who doesn't want to extend the life of their favourite game a bit? In practice, though, there's some suspicion about it. Nobody wants to find themselves paying extra money for content that should have been in the game in the first place.
Hence these DLC roundup features, where we'll be looking at the bits and bobs that have made their way onto Xbox Live - and, soon, PSN - in the past few months, and checking out what's worth whipping your card out for, and what deserves to sit, dusty and unloved, in the digital dustbins out the back of the Marketplace.
If I'd spent anything like the amount of time with an actual guitar as I have with Guitar Hero, I'd probably be playing to packed-out stadiums by now. I'd be the next Hendrix, only female, right-handed and with slightly less excellent hair. There are people who might consider spending about six hours a week playing a pretend guitar laughable, but you understand me, dear readers. You understand how important it is that Neversoft gets Guitar Hero III right, especially after the (Harmonix-designed, I should point out) damp squib that was Rocks the 80s.
Happily, it's all worked out as well as could possibly have been imagined. We've got seventy fantastic tracks, all transposed perfectly into five-button tablature. We've got perfect, roof-raising multiplayer modes, all of them fully online. It's worth pointing out that Legends of Rock is not technically a new game; it's a nicer-looking, more complete version of an old game. But when that old game is as good as Guitar Hero II, and the chief additions are fully licensed songs, an incredible co-op career mode and long-awaited online functionality, that criticism falls completely flat (except, perhaps, in the case of the comparatively rough-looking, online-deprived PS2 version). Guitar Hero III isn't an expansion pack, and Neversoft has not been remotely complacent in bringing the series forward. The changes here aren't padding; they're conscious, informed adjustments that make a great game much better.
Firstly, there's that gorgeous, weighty new controller. It has 'Gibson' proudly flashed across the head of the little plastic headstock, a detachable neck and faceplate, a much sturdier strum bar, prettier buttons, and absolutely no wires - which in itself opens up whole new levels of rock-shape-throwing possibility. Apart from looking much cooler (indeed, I'd venture that it's about as cool as pretend guitars can look), it also plays a bit better than the old Xplorer and SG models thanks to its comfortable weight and smoother buttons, which are clearly designed to take a lot of punishment.