Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City review
When it was announced that Grand Theft Auto IV, the hugely anticipated next-gen entry to the franchise, would be not only coming to the Playstation 3 but also for the Xbox 360, 360 gamers let out a collective cheer. Additionally, when it was revealed that the title would get exclusive downloadable content on the Xbox 360, the cheers got louder. Unfortunately, the only thing Playstation 3 owners could do was begrudge their Xbox 360 brethren and cry into their beers.
It’s been a long DLC-barren couple of years if you’re a PS3 owner and GTA fan, but fortunately, your patience has just paid off. Microsoft’s period of exclusivity has lapsed, and now PS3 owners can finally get their hands on both downloadable episodes in Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City.
A stand-alone disc that doesn’t require the original game (good news if you’ve already traded in your copy), Episodes from Liberty City features both episodes previously available only to Xbox 360 owners, The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony. Both expansions are superb in their own right, each offering compelling self-contained stories, different gameplay elements, and hours of content set in the familiar trappings of Liberty City. Getting them together is a great package that will undoubtedly appeal to any GTA fan that couldn’t get enough of the original GTAIV.
The first of the two expansion packs is The Lost and Damned. The Lost and Damned casts players as Johnny Klebitz, Vice President of one of Liberty City’s biker gangs, The Lost MC. Johnny has been the leader of the group while their President, Billy, had done a lengthy stint in rehab. Now that Billy is back, he immediately reassumes control, wreaking havoc and instigating wars with other gangs. Johnny, who wants The Lost to be more judicious in their business deals, takes issue with Billy’s crazy leadership, leading to some conflict within the group.
The Lost and Damned is more than just a new coat of paint and some different missions. As The Lost and Damned puts you in a biker gang, you’ll spend a lot of your time on motorcycles as opposed to behind the wheel of a car, which is a fine change. Motorcycles handle much better in The Lost and Damned than they ever did in Grand Theft Auto IV, and more have been added than were offered in the previous game. You’ll have a lot of fun on a bike in this expansion, and you’ll never feel like you have to steal a car in order to get around. Also in The Lost and Damned, you’re given the ability to call in backup from other members of the gang, who will earn experience for surviving missions, giving them more health and improving their combat skills. However, they can die, which replaces them with a different, much less experienced member of the crew.
Aside from the main storyline campaign, The Lost and Damned offers a ton of things to do. There are bike races, gang wars, and side missions to take on. All in all, The Lost and Damned will take a long time to complete everything, rivaling even some retail games.
The second episode in the collection is The Ballad of Gay Tony. Instead of putting you in control of the titular character, The Ballad of Gay Tony puts you in control of his right hand man, Luis Lopez. Luis is in a bad spot; his boss is a fairly well-known and affluent player in the Liberty City nightclub scene, but he’s hemorrhaging money like a bad nosebleed and is in debt to a lot of seedy people from the city’s criminal underbelly. You have to keep the party going, as it were, keeping your boss afloat financially, not to mention out of harm’s way.
The Ballad of Gay Tony presents a very different side of Liberty City than The Lost and Damned. The majority of the expansion takes place in Algonquin, the ritzy part of town filled with bright lights, flashy cars and glamorous clubs. It also has its fair share of crazy people, many of which you’ll end up running missions for. You’ll deal with crazy Russian mobsters, the son of an Arab Sheik, and several other characters. The missions themselves are also pretty insane, requiring bigger vehicles, more explosions, and copious amounts of mayhem and destruction.
One element that Luis has in his inventory is a parachute. Using this, you’re able to parachute onto buildings out of helicopters (which plays a much bigger role in The Ballad of Gay Tony), jump off of said buildings, and so on. There is also some great weaponry in this expansion as well, including a P90 SMG and even a small tank. There is plenty to destroy in The Ballad of Gay Tony, so it shouldn’t disappoint those looking to create some real havoc. Additionally, the expansion includes a cool new rating system at the end of each mission, allowing you to replay them once you’ve completed the campaign in order to get a better score.
Each expansion has its own set of multiplayer modes, some of which are lifted straight from GTA IV. There are some new standouts in The Lost and Damned including Chopper vs. Chopper, which pits a player in a helicopter against a player on a bike, and Witness Protection, which has a team of cops trying to escort a witness to the police station while another team as The Lost tries to take him out. The Ballad of Gay Tony offers up standard multiplayer modes, but gives you the new weaponry and items to play with.
The graphics aren’t very far removed from the original GTA IV, and are beginning to show their age. There are some occasional glitches here and there, and framerate slowdowns. However, the package contains some 50 new musical tracks from a variety of radio stations both already existing and some new selections, including a great Vice City FM station that plays 80’s classics worthy of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. The voice acting is also superb and the script is fantastic and well written.
Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City is a great deal for fans left in the dark while Xbox 360 owners got first dibs on the stellar expansion packs. Each episode brings in new story elements and great gameplay, giving players the whole she-bang of the Grand Theft Auto IV experience. Even if you’ve left Liberty City, you’re going to want to hop back in with this fine package.