As we close out the 2016 gaming year, the focus is squarely on downloadable content rather than new releases. Three of the year’s biggest games — Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, Batman: Arkham Knight and Disney Infinity 3.0 — get their longest-awaited, most impressive DLC packs to close out the year.
We also take a look at Amazon’s new Fire TV, which comes in a special GamingEdition packaged with a controller.
Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate Jack the Ripper DLC
(Xbox One, PS4, $15, Mature)
Assassin’s Creed developers are known for digging deep into history with its DLC, adding a superb chapter to nearly every game in the series long after initial release. In the past, players have freed slaves, taken on a power-mad George Washington and tried out some of Leonardo Da Vinci’s most spectacular inventions. This time out, you match wits with one of history’s most dreaded serial killers.
Playing as a middle-aged Evie 20 years after the events of the main game, you take on the prostitute-slaying sadist, liberating Victorian-era hookers from abusive pimps along the way. Emotionally charged and disturbing, the mission also packs a powerful twist by having you alternate perspectives with an unexpected character. The mission is the crown jewel so far in the content included in the $30 season pass.
Batman: Arkham Knight — Season of Infamy: Most Wanted DLC
(Xbox One, PS4, $10, Mature)
The DLC finale to one of the year’s best games rounds up some of the Dark Knight’s most vicious villains for a series of hunt-and-disable missions set in some of Gotham’s deadliest areas. The rogue’s gallery includes the Mad Hatter, Mr. Freeze, Killer Croc, Ra’s al Ghul, Prometheus and Black Mask. All of the characters have played major roles in previous games in the series, but have been largely absent so far in this game. TTheir appearance makes fora welcome send-off to one of the greatest trilogies ever to hit consoles.
While it’s the best and lengthiest of the DLC packs that came with the $40 season pass, there still isn’t much here to chew on. You can breeze through most of the missions in less than 90 minutes. The short playtime isn’t necessarily a drawback, since what’s there is a tight and riveting experience that holds up well in comparison to some of the main game’s stronges missions. In addition to the main storylines, there are also some side missions, several new character skins and a new combo attack.
Amazon Fire TV Gaming Edition
As far as plug-and-play video streaming devices go, the Fire TV can hang with Roku, Apple TV and Chromecast. Problem is, even though the newest version of the box is upgraded — with more memory and speed than previous generations — most gamers won’t care much for the Fire TV’s streaming capabilities because they already have one or more boxes hooked up to their TVs that are every bit as capable of doing the job. The Fire TV does distinguish itself from the rest with its voice-activated Alexa integration, which loads it up with many of the features that come with the Amazon Echo.
Where the Fire TV stands apart, though, is as a low-rent gaming console, giving you access to Amazon’s decent lineup of cheap or free mobile games. The controller, available separately for $50, triples the value of the device, unlocking dozens, if not hundreds, of more games that you can’t play with the packed-in remote control. And the controller makes every game easier to control and more enjoyable to play. If only Amazon had as strong a gaming catalogue as iOS or Anroid.
Disney Infinity 3.0 The Force Awakens Playset
(Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, PS3, $30, Everyone 10+)
Hitching the Disney Infinity 3.0 train to the Star Wars train in the yaer of The Force Awakens was one of the savviest moves Disney could have made. The playset piggybacks on the monster success of the movie, letting gamers take control of Rey and Finn as they button-mash their way through some of the memorable settings from the film. If you’re cool with breaking canon, you can also use other Star Wars characters in the playset, but Disney draws the line there. Don’t expect to be able to use Mickey Mouse or Elsa to throw down on Jakku,
The missions included are run-of-the-mill Disney Infinity grab-and-smashers, playing like reskinned versions of Avengers levels. Like most other Disney Infinity playsets, this is a dud in single-player but takes on new life when you throw a friend into the mix. Playing out geeky Star Wars fantasies makes for prime bonding opportunities and is a factory for spontaneous hilarity. Kylo Ren and Poe figures are also available, sold separately at the usual wince-inducing $14 price.