Recently, I purchased the Grand Theft Auto IV: Episodes from Liberty City expansion disc for the XBOX 360. The disc contains both "episodes" of extra content that Rockstar produced using the Grand Theft Auto IV engine. This review will be about the first episode: The Lost and the Damned. In The Lost and the Damned, you play as Johnny Klebitz, Vice President of the Lost motorcycle club. If you played Grand Theft Auto IV, you may remember Klebitz, as he made an appearance during a few missions during the game. Interestingly, in TLATD, you get to play those same missions, only this time it's from Johnny's point of view. Anyway, the story takes place during the same time period as the events from GTA IV and mainly focuses on Johnny and his gang, the Lost. The president, Billy Grey, has just been released from prison, and seems determined to make up for lost time by picking fights with everyone and starting wars that had stopped during his incarceration, including one with the Lost's main rivals, The Angels of Death. Johnny, meanwhile, is trying to keep Billy from going too far, and the two constantly butt heads over the direction the group is taking. Johnny has some serious backup in Jim, the Lost's treasuerer, Terry, the Sergent-at-Arms, and Clay, the Road Captain. These men prove to be quite handy throughout the game, escpecially Clay, who can get you any bike you want at any time during the game. Johnny also runs into to various crooks and theives and criminals throughout the game, and from time to time will work with them to enhance his own standing, as well as The Lost's standing. A few notes about this game:
- One thing I liked about this game was that they didn't just make a new story and stick all the same stuff from GTA IV in there. By that I mean, there are new weapons available to Johnny, including an automatic pistol, combat shotgun, a grenade launcher, and pipe bombs. Since this is a game about a motorcycle gang, it makes sense that Rockstar would give you a lot more motorcycles to ride, including Johnny's personal ride, the Hexer. Another change in this game is that the motorcycles are a LOT easier to handle than they were in GTA IV, so missions involving motorcycles won't have you cursing in frustration the whole time.
- Also, changes have been made to the radio stations, which feature all new songs from the originial and a couple of new stations as well. The rock station is much better in this game, at least in my opinion, and the soundtrack seems to fit the whole motif of the game. There's also new activities your character can do, including playing air hockey with your friends, racing motorcycles (in which you're given a bat, and you can whack your fellow racers with, Road Rash style), gambling in a card game known as "High-Low", and even arm-wrestling, although I wasn't too good at that.
- Like GTA IV, you can hang out with your friends and do a variety of activities with them, including playing pool, going to the strip club, getting drunk, whatever. Unlike GTA IV, your friends won't bug the hell out of you and ask to go bowling for the 17th time this week. Also, they won't be hurt if you go a while without doing anything with them, and each character's ability is unlocked at the beginning at the game, so you don't have to do anything with them, really, but it is a nice option to have.
- Your friends also come in handy during missions and in 'gang wars', a side mission not unlike the gang wars in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. You and a group of your brothers go out and attack various other street gangs. Some of the lesser gang members will parish during these battles, but if they live long enough, they'll get more experience points and get better weapons and more health with each battle. The main beneficiaries are Terry and Clay, since they can't be killed off and you do most of the missions in the later stages of the game with backup from both men, so you're not just taking on 75 guys by yourself all the time.
- One of the complaints that I've most heard about GTA IV is that the missions weren't different enough. I'd like to say that things are different in TLATD, and although there are a few different types of missions not seen in GTAIV, a lot of the missions are the same basic scenario, shoot a bunch of guys and run from the cops type of missions. Well, at least you get different guns to use, so it's a little different, but still.
- If you want to play this game, you had better know what you are doing, as the game assumes that you've played GTA IV before and throws you right in the thick of things early on. However, I am pleased to say that there isn't one mission that is super difficult in this game, unlike the Snow Storm and Three Leaf-Clover missions in GTA IV which frustrated a whole lot of gamers to no end.
- There are 23 missions in the main story of the game, so TLATD is a lot shorter than GTA IV, which could be a chore to complete. If one were so inclined, you could beat this game in about 5 or 6 hours. However, I got caught up in all the races and gang wars and other extracurricular stuff so it took me quite a bit longer to beat it.
- One of the complaints that my friends had about GTA IV is that they didn't like many of the characters in the game, particularly the protagonist, Niko Bellic. Well, Johnny is kind of like Niko in that he tends to complain a lot and has some sense of morality even though he's a murdering thief, but unlike Niko, at least Johnny seems to realize his own hypocrisy. However, Johnny's supporting cast is a lot more likeable than Niko's, partly because they don't bother you as much and partially because they are interesting characters on their own accord, particularly Jim, who was my favorite character on either GTA IV or TLATD.
Overall, if you're like me and really like GTA IV, than if you haven't played this by now, I recommend that you do so as soon as possible. If you weren't crazy about GTA IV, than I wouldn't spend the 20 bucks to download it on your X-Box, and I would recommend that you either rent it or find the Episodes from Liberty City disc real cheap somewhere if you're curious about the game. Although there were some changes, if you didn't like GTA IV, than you're probably not going to like this game either, although I will say that this game seems to be more "action-packed" than GTA IV, which started out slow in my opinion. But I liked both games, and I'll give The Lost and the Damned an 8.3 out of 10. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have suggestions for future reviews, than shoot an e-mail my way at KtheC2001@gmail.com or find some other way to give me your idea.