Monday, August 19, 2013

Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost And The Damned review

    In addition to Grand Theft Auto IV, my Complete Edition pack came with The Lost And The Damned as well as The Ballad of Gay Tony. These latter two were the two DLC campaigns made for the game, which were also released separately in-stores as Episodes From Liberty City.

    The premise of TLATD is our protagonist, Johnny Klebitz, is a member of the titular Lost outlaw biker gang. Much like on television's Sons of Anarchy show, the Lost talk a good game about brotherhood and freedom but are riddled with internal divisions.

    This is no more apparent than when the leader of the Lost Motorcycle Club, Billy Grey, gets out of rehab only to immediately start throwing his weight around. Johnny has been leading the Lost for several months now, so he's not precisely happy to see Billy return. It's less about the fact that Johnny wants power than Billy is a violent thug who cares more about hookers and drugs than making money. It doesn't help Billy also intends to start a re-war with a much-larger, much-nastier group of bikers.

The mass motorcycle rides are a cool little mini-game, encouraging you to drive in formation.
    The campaign of TLATD is, necessarily, much shorter than the main story of GTAIV. Nevertheless, it's a fairly huge game with more story time than many single-player campaigns. There's eight-to-twelve hours of content here, easily enough to keep your average gamer occupied.

    The storytelling is nowhere near as good as Grand Theft Auto IV but it's not bad either. Johnny Klebitz has his moments but he's an insufferable killjoy in the parts where he's supposed to be an outlaw criminal and he's an utter bastard in the parts where you want him to show a softer side. In short, he's just not as compelling a protagonist as Niko Bellic.

The bike controls are impressively enhanced for this DLC. Sadly, they don't transfer to the main game.
    The game-play enhancements for motorcycle use are considerable. In the main game, it's almost impossible to use them. You get knocked off the bike by just barely tapping vehicles. Johnny Klebitz is a much better biker and his ability to handle them is amazing.

    The addition of several motorcycle variants also helps broaden the appeal for motorcycles in the game. You never want to use cars and that's a major plus. There's also several new weapons, my favorites being the grenade launcher and automatic shotguns. Unfortunately, none of these transfer to the main game so there's not much point other than to enhance the game's somewhat lackluster campaign.

The supporting characters are interesting and well-written, equal to the ones from GTAIV.
    There's a couple of interesting new mini-games too, including a demolition derby variation of bike racing as well as "Gang Wars." The only downside to the game is the combat as TLATD makes use of trash-mob hordes of enemies with guns taking half-a-clip to take them down. Head-shots are necessary to achieve anything approaching victory.

     If there's any problem with TLATD, it's the fact the game is a bit on the depressing side. Niko Bellic's adventures included enough comic relief, specifically in the form of his cousin Roman, to distract from his ever-present PTSD. Johnny Klebitz, by contrast, is just a horrible human being who lives a joyless and humorless life. Rockstar has even incorporated an optional grain filter to make the DLC that much grittier.

     So do I recommend The Lost And the Damned? Well, it's not necessary to enjoy the Grand Theft Auto IV experience but is pretty enjoyable. Inferior to Grand Theft Auto IV is not really much of an insult, since most games are. Instead, I think of it as an excellent little side-game which is well worth the DLC price. Pick it up if you haven't gotten your GTA fix by finishing the main game.


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