GTAIV: The Lost and Damned DLC.
The first of the two exclusive downloadable content packs has arrived for GTA IV on the Xbox 360 and at 1600 points (£14-ish) it might seem a little expensive, but is it worth it? Depending on where you shop and how old the game is you can buy a full retail release for not much more than that, so it has quite a lot of competition for your money.
If you take the plunge, after downloading the content you’ll load up GTA IV and after the usual Rockstar logos you’ll be greeted by a question, asking if you’d like to play The Lost and the Damned. Upon saying ‘Yes’ a new loading sequence will initiate with characters from this episode.
The Lost and the Damned doesn’t follow Niko Bellic from the main GTA IV story, instead you control Johnny Klebitz, Vice President of the biker gang ‘The Lost’, who you may remember encountering whilst playing through the main game. At the start of the game a cutscene plays out showing Billy Grey, the leader of The Lost being let out of prison after being caught for possession. Due to Billy’s absence Johnny has been acting President for the past year, running The Lost differently to Billy by forming truces and trying his best to keep the gang alive.
Now Billy is back he’s looking to take the gang back to their old ways, making The Lost a force in Liberty City, by any means necessary. Needless to say Johnny and Billy’s friendship starts to strain under their disagreements on the direction of the gang and Billy begins to feel threatened by Johnny.
Quickly you’re introduced to a new mechanic for this DLC, and that’s riding in formation on your bikes through Liberty City. It’s not as restrictive as it might sound, but staying near your comrades allows you to have conversations with them as your ride. Your bike is your best friend in The Lost and The Damned, Johnny handles a bike much better than Niko did and most of the time you’ll be required to ride one, although there will be times when cars or trucks will be used, and of course you can still hijack them if you so choose.
However, I found myself enjoying riding a bike a lot and went out of my way to make sure I had one, even if they offer less protection from gunshots. If you are left bike-less at any point you can just call Clay, a fellow Lost member, using your phone and he’ll bring you one. You have a few friends in your phone that give you certain bonuses like in the main game, but the friendship aspect has been toned down quite a bit. It’s still there but you’ll be the one calling your friends, not the other way around.
New activities to do with your friends are pretty slim pickings, but there is one. Air hockey is one where you use the left stick to hit the puck, and the right stick can be used for a power shot. There are a few new activities to do without friends though, like an arm wrestling game where you waggle the right stick as quickly as possible, a high-lo card game where you guess whether the next card out is going to be higher or lower than the card in front of you, and a Road Rash style race mode where you can use a baseball bat to attack either left or right to hit your opponents off their bikes.
Another welcome addition is the introduction of mid-mission checkpoints, so if you die on a mission you no longer have to drive all the way to your destination, you’ll automatically start at whichever point you failed at after reactivating the mission. This is a feature that has been called for since the series went 3D, but unfortunately it doesn’t update the original game to implement this feature.
Obviously they haven’t changed the basic mechanics of the game so if you enjoyed GTA IV you’re not going to dislike this, however a couple of negatives that should be pointed out, minor though they are, are that the new text used is slightly harder to read than previous (try finding ‘Jim’ on the map too, dark grey on grey/black?), and by default there is a grainy filter applied to the graphics which doesn’t really add anything and makes the text even more difficult to read, but this can be turned off in the menu.
All in all the DLC weighs in at about a third of the length of the full game which is around 10 hours depending on how quickly you move through the missions and how much time you spend messing around in the world, reading the internet and watching TV shows (of which there have been updates to both). That is longer than a lot of full priced releases these days, and although the missions don’t really do anything new and mostly involve going from A to B and killing people, the story and characters are as strong as you’d expect and make the game feel separate from GTA IV, and not merely the same game with new model skins. You are often reminded that you’re playing the same game though, as Niko makes cameos in cutscenes as his and Johnny’s stories cross paths.
The DLC doesn’t just give you access to a new single player campaign however, new multiplayer modes are made available from Johnny’s phone. There is some overlap from the old game modes like Deathmatch and Free Mode but you’ll find some modes missing (you can access them from Niko’s phone in the main game still) and a few new interesting modes, as well as new biker based clothing options for your online character.
‘Witness Protection’ has a bunch of bikers trying to destroy a bus whilst the cops protect it, ‘Race’ is the Road Rash affair from the story mode, ‘Lone Wolf Biker’ is like a game of violent tag and has one biker trying to survive against everyone else, ‘Own the City’ is a capture the point game mode, ‘Club Business’ which is a variation on the Team Mafiya mode in the original game and ‘Chopper vs Chopper’.
Possibly my favourite addition, ‘Chopper vs Chopper’ has you set a time/point limit and then if you spawn as the biker you just have to drive for your life hitting as many checkpoints as you can (they are very far apart), whilst if you spawn as the helicopter you must fly towards the biker and try and shoot it (I couldn’t hit him with my blades, so I either missed or this feature has been removed for this mode). Kill the biker and you spawn on the bike and it is now you who are must hit the checkpoints and stay alive.
You can’t hide as both blips appear on the radar and the biker has an orange glow when you’re the helicopter pilot, so trying to find a route which involves many skyscrapers or low bridges becomes a priority. Also a neat touch which adds to the excitement of this mode is the ability to press the B button to view what your opponent can see, especially useful on the bike. Imagine the truck chase in Terminator 2, but with a helicopter and you won’t be far off how this mode feels.
So on top of a 10-ish hour story mode with extra activities, music, and TV shows and all those things that made GTA’s world so real in the first place, you get six extra multiplayer modes to have fun with, some of which are better than anything in the original. Not bad at all.
There has been a lot of hyperbole surrounding GTA IV since its release, and before, both for and against it. When it came out it was largely given incredibly positive reviews (including here at Peoww), but shortly afterwards people started emerging claiming it was a lemon (including here at Peoww). Both views hold some water but as far as The Lost and The Damned DLC goes, if you actually enjoyed GTA IV, if you’re looking for another excuse to visit Liberty City, or maybe you never stopped playing it, then this is worth your money. Once I experienced the multiplayer it confirmed this as a worthwhile purchase for me without a doubt.
As mentioned it feels like a whole new game, like Liberty City Stories to GTA III, and if it was released on a disc for about £20 you’d have had a few complaints, but most people would have been satisfied. To release it as DLC (at under 2GB) for less, really shows what can be achieved with downloadable content and, even at twice the price of most other DLC, really puts others to shame.
The biggest negative is that I’m going to have to purchase a bigger hard drive soon.