Question: when is the prospect of downloadable content arguably more exciting than any of the full games are being released when it drops?
The answer, of course, is when it's DLC for Call of Duty - which can't help but to generate sales figures that blow the mind and leave most developers and publishers nauseous with envy. Small wonder, then, that Infinity Ward hasn't been lazing around since Modern Warfare 3 came out last year.
We've already had three slabs of MW3 DLC this year - Liberation, Overwatch and Piazza - and there are three more which will combine with those to constitute Modern Warfare 3's Content Collection #1. They're called Black Ice, Negotiator and Black Box - and we've played them all.
DATES FOR THE DIARY
As we've now become used to, since Call of Duty Elite came into being, there are carefully delineated release dates for the latest DLC-drop. So, if you're an Elite subscriber, you'll be able to get your hands on all three on 13 March, for free.
If you're merely one of the CoD-playing hoi polloi, alas, you'll have to wait for that Content Collection #1 to arrive on 20 March. It will contain all six of this year's chunks of DLC, and will set you back 1,200 Microsoft Points.
Sadly, if you've been playing MW3 on the PS3 or PC, you'll be left feeling aggrieved. Content Collection #1, according to Activision, "Will be released on other platforms at a later date", and nobody is yet specifying how much it will cost non-Elite subscribers.
But if you're a CoD faithful it might just be worth the wait, we spent some quality with each of the new maps, here's what we thought...
FOR THE RECORD
Black Box is a new multiplayer map but can also be played in MW3's survival modes. It emphatically keeps up the exceptionally high level design standards that have so far been such a striking feature of Modern warfare 3's DLC. It takes place in an unspecified Southern California setting, around the wreckage of a downed Air Force One. You spawn just next to the President's plane, which looks as though it crash-landed as it isn't burnt out, and is sufficiently intact for you to run around some of its corridors.
That isn't necessarily the best plan however as it's pretty confined. It's at the lowest point of the map, which is very large and has plenty of elevation, so we opted to head up the hill, into a residential area characterised by large (and rather posh) family condos. The nearest one to the plane housed the weapons armoury. Which, of course, we couldn't use without dealing with the first wave of onrushing terrorists and earning some cash. Given that the gun we had been given at the start was a shotgun, we were extra-keen to buy something a bit more versatile.
As we dealt with further waves of enemies, including the customary dogs wired with explosives and Juggernauts, we started to explore the map a bit more. It was huge, rich and varied. Activision pointed out that the presence of a building site alongside three condos provided the necessary elevation for those who favour sniping - although with those aforementioned dogs and Juggernauts around, we've never quite worked up the courage to snipe in Survival mode ourselves. But there's no doubt Black Box will become a new favourite map for Survival aficionados.