Facepalm: Resident Evil 4 received a bizarre combination of paid and free DLC over the weekend. The free update includes a Mercenaries mode with players defeating as many enemies as possible within a time limit shooting for a high score on the le. Capcom had promised a Mercenaries mode, so it was expected. It's the second part of the update that is somewhat inexplicable.

Alongside, but separate from the free Mercenaries mode, players will find that they can now purchase "Resident Evil 4 Weapon Exclusive Upgrade Tickets." These digital coupons entitle the player to a "weapon's exclusive upgrade." Each ticket costs $3, with bundles of three for $7 and five for $10. So to unlock every exclusive weapon upgrade in the game, you'll spend $40 when buying in bulk and $60 if you buy the 20 tickets needed individually.

Before now, players had to grind through hours of gameplay to earn enough Pesetas (in-game currency) to buy just one weapon upgrade. For example, players can get a 5x critical rate for the game's starting handgun (SR-09 R) for 80,000 Pesetas. And there are several weapons with upgrades costing 100,000. Only a couple of cheap ones ring in at 10,000.

All totaled, a player would need to save (read: grind for) 1,427,700 Pesetas to buy all the unique weapon upgrades in the game. That figure does not include the cost of purchasing the weapons from the in-game merchant. If it sounds familiar, it's because it's the exact same content paywall that EA used for Battlefront II, which it eventually ditched because of player blowback.

The difference is that RE4's microtransactions make the game easier to progress through. Battlefront II's locked content primarily consisted of playable heroes with no distinct advantages that made them better (cosmetic).

Back in the day, sometimes developers would lock content behind cheat codes. Generally, they were free with the game if you could figure them out or got them from gaming magazines. They were a little treat that developers essentially gave to players as a thank-you for buying the game. Now developers are charging players for their "cheat codes."

Look, I get it. I'm an old-timer. Games are more expensive to produce these days, especially for some of the higher-budget titles. In many cases, prices have not inflated to match production costs, and paid DLC and optional cosmetics that do not affect gameplay help to offset this discrepancy. I totally understand and am okay with paying (or not) for those things.

What I don't get is nickel-and-diming the player to unlock upgrades that fundamentally change the gameplay. Holding out content and making the player suffer through hours of needless repetitive play to earn it unless they pay a ransom seems chintzy, especially since RE4 is an exceptionally difficult grind.

Do you like pay-to-progress business models in gaming?