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Long read: The beauty and drama of video games and their clouds

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Xbox Live DLC Roundup

Racing special: PGR4, Forza 2, Test Drive, GripShift.

Everyone likes cars. Even the greens have got their favourites, made of regenerative braking systems, Atkinson cycle engines, old yoghurt pots and bits of rhubarb. And it seems that videogames about cars are just as susceptible to a bit of the old premium downloadable content as anything. Not at all surprised by this, we decided to take a spin round some of it so you don't get run over by poor value. Rev your feeble metaphors and join us.

Project Gotham Racing 4

  • Challenge Pack - FREE
  • Premium Challenge Pack - 400 points (GBP 3.40 / EUR 4.80)

Trust Bizarre Creations to come up with an interesting way of solving the downloadable content conundrum. There are two batches of new stuff for the throbbing crimson beast we call PGR4; one that costs you precisely nothing yet delivers a generous spread of new events and game modes, and one that tops up the freebie offering with seven new cars and three new motorbikes. Of the 250 new Gamerpoints available through this DLC, 170 of them require the premium pack, a decision which will either sweeten the deal or irreparably sour it depending on how much of an Achievement whore you are.

The new challenges, then. Whichever pack you choose, a new single-player option appears in the menu - World Challenge Mode. Beneath this umbrella lurk three new chapters, comprising 20 new events. Arcade Challenge is pretty self-explanatory, and should come as a welcome treat for those who have exhausted the existing arcade options. DLC Challenge requires the new cars, and will only let you race those, while Platinum Plus is strictly for the hardcore - a super-tough mode for those expert drivers hankering for something to make them sweat a little. While there's nothing here that deviates from the established formula, a spread like this would be more than enough to warrant a download - paid for or not. If you've been drifting away from the game, it's certainly enough to drag you back in to burn some more rubber - which is surely what these things are designed to do.

Ah, PGR4. That isn't rain - it's our tears of happiness.

Yet the download keeps on giving, with two new online game modes as well. Tourist is a curious one, allowing you to take time-limited cruises around the cities, taking in the sights and familiarising yourself with their quirks and tricky corners. Kudos can be earned in Tourist mode, but mostly it's just for fun - get some mates together and go for a drive, play hide and seek or something. For me, Cat and Mouse is the highlight of the set - a team game where one player drives a slow "mouse" car while the others are in fast "cats". Mice earn kudos for every two seconds they avoid being smashed, while cats earn kudos for crashing into the other team's mouse while defending their own. It's a concept that nudges PGR4 a little in the direction of Burnout Paradise, which isn't a direction we'd want to see continued for PGR5, but as an optional bit of online fun, it's devilishly addictive and - with the right crowd - absolutely hilarious. At the very least, it shows that Bizarre Creations is continuing to treat its figurehead series as a constantly evolving source of vehicular entertainment rather than a rigid and predictable track racer.

And what of the new cars? The free download offers just one - the hydrogen-powered 2007 Peugeot Flux, taken from the podium of the 2007 Peugeot International Design Competition. Those with 400 Points to spare also get a 2008 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible Concept, 2007 Volkswagen Golf GTI W12-650, 1987 BMW M3 E30 DTM, 2007 Ferrari 430 Scuderia, 2008 Honda S2000 CR, and the 2008 Callaway C16 Speedster. Bike fans can choose from the 2007 Yamaha YZF-R1, 1995 Aprilia RS 250 and the 1998 Aprilia RSV 1000 Tuono R. It's a nice varied line-up, covering sexy new sports cars and in-demand classics, and considering the price of additional vehicles for rival racing franchises, 400 Points represents excellent value.