When Rockstar announced that GTA 4 would be receiving downloadable content, and that it would be exclusive to Xbox 360, fans entered a frenzy. Console exclusivity is becoming a thing of the past and with a game of this magnitude it really did change the purchasing decisions of a lot of gamers. Fast forward to when the license runs out and this amazing set of episodes are now available for both PS3 and PC owners for the first time. If you are one of those few that have yet to experience this collection of side stories consider yourself invited to partake in the proper way to utilize DLC. Episodes from Liberty City is the definition of how to keep a game fresh long after its release date.
Just a side note to anyone reading our review, we did an extensive write-up on the previously released Xbox 360 version and within the transition very little has changed. Consider this just a recap of what makes this collection worth owning.
Lost and the Damned is considered one of the most substantial and feature-rich expansion packs ever released. You play as Johnny Klebitz, a member of the biker gang known as the Lost Motorcycle Club (LMC). When your leader is released from rehab he reclaims his role at the top and begins spiraling the gang down a path of bad decision after bad decision. Your role is to try and talk some sense into him before it is too late. The strong narrative about friendship and leadership really shines here. Rockstar has always had a knack for creating compelling dialogue and interesting characters.
In addition to a concurrent running story Lost and the Damned also brings some added features to the GTA mix. For starters there are a host of new weapons that can be used including shotguns, pipe bombs and even a grenade launcher. This expansion also introduced the ability to use your gun while riding a bike. Considering you spend most of your time in Lost and the Damned on a bike, this was a necessity. It is also really cool when you start leading your gang around town in formation. A lot of attention was paid to making the biker aspect of the title as authentic as possible, and they have succeeded. Finally the last addition worth noting is mission checkpoints. This alleviated a lot of the frustration from the original game, and make playing longer missions much more bearable.
Alone Lost and the Damned is probably bigger than most games that clock in at $40. Considering that you can download this pack from PSN for $20 granted you still own GTA IV, is a steal. Episodes from Liberty City not only gives you both expansions, but also the ability to play them even if you have parted ways with the original disc. This is great for anyone who traded in the original game after completing it, those with limited hard drive space, or even people who have yet to experience the game. Though if you have not completed GTA IV, I highly recommend doing so before starting either expansion, and in fact make sure you play them in order to full appreciate every little nod that each one makes to the others.
The second expansion: The Ballad of Gay Tony delivers even more unique experiences to the mix. This expansion, which is also available strictly as a download to the original game follows Luis Lopez, the bodyguard of the game’s namesake Tony Prince. Luis is a very likeable character, and you immediately begin to relate to him within the first couple of cut scenes in the game. He is trying to get his life and friends back on the right tracks after spending time in prison for dealing drugs. As with most GTA games the protagonist has a hard time staying out of trouble, and actually prefers being in it, but also wrestles with the moral dilemmas that he faces on a daily basis.
One of the cooler aspects of both DLC packs is how they intertwine with the original storyline from GTA IV. There are missions that you will partake in that let you see it from a different perspective thank Niko. The Ballad of Gay Tony also has the most diverse mission structure of them all giving players a chance to take more to the skies with helicopter and parachute missions that are easily some of the most exciting of the trilogy. It also helps that the storyline for both games are so compelling that you are always wanting to progress the narrative to find out what happens next.
Missions in Gay Tony are also now scored based on things such as kills, time, damage and other mission-specific criteria. Once you complete the game you can also go back and replay the levels to earn better scores and upload those scores to a global leaderboard. Speaking of online modes both games bring something new to the table. Lost and the Damned adds in the ability to race bikes and swing bats in what can only be classified as Road Rash reborn.
Two other new modes were also added but only one deems mentioning. Chopper vs. Chopper is probably one of the most fun diversions I have played online. Basically one player is in a helicopter while the other rides a bike. The object is for the biker to make it through a series of checkpoints before the helicopter blows them to bits; great stuff here. Gay Tony doesn’t offer any new modes but it does focus Free Mode to a more vertical fashion with parachute jumps and choppers galore. Both games contain all of the original modes from GTA IV and offer up just as much fun online as they do off.
Amazingly the city of Liberty City still looks good even after all this time has passed. Of course it is also starting to show its age, but the designs and layout still make it stand out from some of the more recent offerings. Both expansions also add in tons of new music and content for both TV and internet. There is one show that runs during Gay Tony that involves a half-naked anime girl and her perverted sensei that must be seen by anyone who knows what anime is. The hilarity could have you channel surfing for quite some time.
Episodes from Liberty City is still one of the best packages available in gaming. It is chock full of so much content it is impossible not to recommend to anyone who even remotely likes the GTA series. Considering you can now even play it without owning the original game is just another bonus, but it would have been nice for an install option to keep from having to swap discs between all three games. If you have missed out on either of these exceptional expansions now is the time to act. Both could be passed as full retail games and for the low price of $40 for both it is a steal. It is great that now both 360 and PS3 owners can enjoy this fantastic content in one convenient package.
Review copy provided by publisher.