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'Mass Effect 3' is latest game to be gripped with DLC controversy

Mass Effect 3
BioWare

Downloadable content, or DLC as it is known, has a bad rep amongst gamers. That which is intended to augment and enhance an experience has become, according to many, a means to nickel and dime customers who have already paid full price. It's like going to the movies, and right before the climax, the lights come up and you're asked to pay extra to see the ending. "Mass Effect 3" is the latest game to be accused of such underhanded tactics.

The controversy this time centers on its "From Ashes" DLC. In previous statements, BioWare claimed the add-on was not developed until the final game had been completed, and therefore could not be included on the final retail disc. But someone was able to unlock one of the key characters central to the DLC by changing a single line of code in the PC version:

BioWare issued a statement to Game Informer, in response to accusations that content from the main game was willingly withheld (many believe DLC is developed and derived from it). They note the download weighs over 600MBs, and does indeed include new content, which was created while the final game was being certified.

But some elements were crafted beforehand and included, to help "seamlessly integrate" the DLC with the disc's content. They also mention how a similar procedure was done for "Mass Effect 2" and its downloadable content.

Gamers have long held a love/hate relationship with DLC. The other recent example stems from "Street Fighter X Tekken" in which characters that were originally believed to be exclusive to the PlayStation 3 were uncovered in the Xbox 360 version. Capcom's response: it ensures compatibility between players on differing platforms.

Players on the 360 who encounter those using exclusive PS3 characters will be able to do so by having their info already on their consoles. Yet that still doesn't explain why their endings were also uncovered -- those should have nothing to do with the multiplayer experience. This has led to speculation they're bound for the 360 anyway, for an additional price, something Capcom refuses to comment on.

The real point of contention is how virtually all of the additional character data is completed already; instead of paying for supplemental material (or was part of the primary game, but was withheld, according to conspiracy theorists), you're basically putting down money for the privilege to access content you theoretically already own.

Matthew Hawkins is an NYC-based game journalist who has also written for EGM, GameSetWatch, Gamasutra, Giant Robot, and numerous others. He also self-publishes his own game culture zine, is part of Attract Mode, and co-hosts The Fangamer Podcast. You can keep tabs on him via Twitter, or his personal home-base, FORT90.com.