Why is it so satisfying to throw things at people? I honestly have no idea. I'm guessing that the answer has something to do with the 'lizard brain' - that bit of our squidgy matter that deals with all the primitive caveman stuff. If we had a resident neuropsychologist in the office I'd ask them to explain just why the tomahawks in the Legends and Killers Pack are so immediately lovable. They'd patiently reel off a load of scientific theory, and then when they were finished, I'd lob a stapler at their head. Why? Because that's what the lizard brain would demand, of course.
The tomahawk itself is a great example of why video games are so infinitely better than Real Life. In reality, there's a clear limit to how far I can get away with chucking things around: balls, paper planes and those yellow things from the insides of Kinder Eggs - those are all acceptable. Knives, rocks and small children - those will all get you in trouble (as the police have now made clear to me, on a number of occasions). In a video game, you don't just throw the things that bounce off people; you throw the things that stick in their heads. And believe you me, when you first embed a ruddy great throwing axe in one of your Red Dead rivals, when they slump over with a big wooden handle poking out of their skull, then you'll know that you're getting a dose of the good stuff.
Aside from giving us tomahawks to play with, the Legends and Killers Pack is primarily a map pack for Red Dead Redemption's multiplayer modes. There are new character skins, allowing you to play as Red Harlow, Jack Swallow and several other Red Dead Revolver cast members, but the real attraction is a set of nine new maps for your deathmatch and bag-grabbing needs. As before, they're all culled from areas of the main game world, but given the great size and diversity of Redemption's virtual playground, this still allows for a nice range of different play styles and aesthetic flavours.
Tall Trees was always one of the more interesting areas of Redemption's world, and here it retains its visual freshness, allowing players to stalk each other on horseback amid the hide-and-seek cover of a snow-laden forest. The only mode available is Hold Your Own - RDR's equivalent to Team-based Capture The Flag, with two markers. The relatively large size of the map poses plenty of challenges to both sides, particularly since the trees themselves make it quite easy for invaders to flank around the bases.
Escalera is perhaps the biggest new map on offer - it certainly felt like the biggest of the six I sampled this week. Again, veterans of the main campaign will remember this area well: it's a Mexican village built on a hillside leading up a large villa, the one owned by Colonel Allende, or "that utter bastard" as he's colloquially known. The map itself is almost as treacherous as its self-important overseer, since it's an absolute sniper's paradise. If you're at the top of the map looking down on everyone else, you're laughing; if you're at the bottom trying to work your way up, you're probably screwed. Acquiring a scoped rifle can certainly help to level things out a bit, but the map still feels remarkably tough. That said, it was possibly my favourite of the new locations.
Fort Mercer feels quite similar to the town-based stages that featured in the original set of maps, and as a result it feels a bit like the runt of the litter. Thieves Landing also seems quite familiar, perhaps due to the amount of time spent there in the main campaign, but it actually works very well as a multiplayer setting - principally due to the fact that there's so much water about. As silly as it is that no-one in Red Dead Redemption can swim, this quirk turns Landing's narrow walkways into highly dangerous choke points. The map's two bridges become the focal point for anyone with a gun (which is pretty much everybody), resulting in a pair of bloody killzones, as well as lots of people accidentally running into the lethal wet stuff.
Strangely enough, Blackwater doesn't feature any water at all; instead it's the pack's 'modern' setting, culled from the last third of Redemption's epic plot. As with the main game, it's a place that stands apart from the rest of the world - a rather cold and clinical outbreak of civilization that clashes with the natural wilderness found elsewhere. In gameplay terms it's a very flat map, characterised by broad roads, narrow alleys and automatic weapons. It feels like quite a departure from the other areas, but it works well in team-based Hold Your Own.
Finally, we have Rio Bravo. To be honest, this is pretty much just a big hill with lots of rocky crags to hide behind, but for some reason it feels like the perfect place to try out the new tomahawks. As you'd expect, the throwing axes have limited range and fly in an arc-shaped path, but the feeling you get when one strikes home is brilliant. A tomahawk hit is generally (but not always) an instant kill, usually leading to some form of physics-based hilarity as your rival tumbles over the edge of a nearby drop. I know that I've already rambled on about the pleasures of throwing things, but the tomahawks really do feel great to use.
As with any map pack, you'll probably already know whether you're in the market for an expanded helping of RDR's multiplayer. The only real questions worth asking are "how much am I getting for my money?" and "is the new content any good?" We already know the answer to the first query, and on the basis of what I've played so far, the response to the second should be a solid "Yes." At 800 MS Points, or £7.99 for PS3 owners, nine maps plus a new weapon seems like a pretty good deal - especially when the latter is so much fun to use. Naturally, it could turn out that the last three maps are simply blank screens that permanently brick your console, but assuming that they don't, the Legends and Killers Pack should be well worth the axing price.
The Legends and Killers Pack will be released on August 10 on PSN and Xbox LIVE Marketplace.