Rockstar Games latest episodic content in the renown GTA IV series delivers a definitive package that expands upon the success of the original title. With the release of GTA: Episodes from Liberty City the series closes in dramatic fashion and firmly builds anticipation for future titles to come. Here is some information about what you get on the compilation disc.
Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City is part of a complete package that contains both The Lost and The Damned and The Ballad Of Gay Tony episodes on one disc. The Lost and The Damned was the first DLC released for GTA IV back in February of this year. The recent release of The Ballad Of Gay Tony is the final episode in the three part series. This content is available exclusively for Xbox360 and can either be purchased separately for 1600 Microsoft points ($20) a piece or as a compilation disc for $40 respectively. Please note that if you do purchase the Episodes disc then you do not need the original GTA to playthrough both stories.
The Lost and The Damned:
The Lost and The Damned is a story that explores the turbulent lives of the members of a biker gang known as The Lost. You play the role of Johnny Klebitz, the unruly Vice President of the Biker club. Your life begins to turn upside down when your head boss and club President Billy “ William” Grey returns after a brief stint in rehab. From there you constantly bump heads with him throughout the game, which accounts for a great deal of the missions and story elements you encounter. On the surface this content is reminiscent of the hit FX series Sons Of Anarchy because of its dark tone and excessive violence. The added film grain look provides an edgier glimpse into the shady underbelly that is Liberty City. Overall as a story the set pieces aren’t particularly strong but do enough to tie up the loose ends leftover in GTA IV.
In terms of gameplay, this title is very similar to GTA IV but with the ideal focus on building gang unity. After every intense gunfight that you and your crew win, everyone is instantly leveled up. This concept takes the meaning of “being hardened by war” to another level and will force you to think strategically when fighting. Another addition to the missions are the biker races you can participate in with rival gangs. If you get too close you’ll be able to melee your opponents with bats, therefore making it hard for them to successfully compete against you. Even the Clubhouse itself acts as a safe haven for you to play cards, participate in arm wrestling mini-game matches, and pay respect to your fallen comrades. The overall campaign mode can easily last up to 12 hours depending upon your desire to complete every side quest. Adding new modes like Witness Protection and Own The City have also bumped up the online features. Witness Protection splits players into two teams with one acting as officers transporting a witness to safety and the other as Lost club members aiming to take out that same witness at all costs. Own the City is more of a modified version of Turf War. Overall these modes are extremely fun to play and add replayability to the episode as a whole.
The Ballad Of Gay Tony:
The Ballad Of Gay Tony brings a fresh approach to the tried and true formula distinctly known as GTA. You play the role of Luis Lopez, a former army veteran/ex con turned Bodyguard and Business Associate of Anthony “Tony” Prince. Tony is a prominent Nightclub Owner of the most popular straight club, Maisonette 9, and its gay counterpart, Hercules. Things take a turn for the worse when Tony gets himself caught up in debt and therefore has Luis do favors as his form of repayment to his lenders. Luis also finds himself in a power struggle having to attend to the drug selling ways of his childhood friends Armando and Henrique, while also participating in cage fights to help his mother pay off her own debts she acquired from dealing with a loan shark. As a result the story becomes heavy on explosive battle encounters with the same playful side missions as GTA games of the past. It can easily be debated that this entry in the series could very well be the strongest based on the compelling characters. Yusef usually steals the show with his outlandish demeanor, while Luis’ mother has a softer side only wanting the best for her son. My only knock on it would be the lack of showing conflict when making choices. One of the reasons GTA IV stood out was because there where moments when Niko questioned the morality in doing certain actions. This not only gave the character further dimensionality but also emphasized a sense of humanity and forward thinking. When playing as Luis this isn’t quite as apparent as he only reacts to a situation without worrying about the consequences. I would be interested to see how these ideas are portrayed in future editions.
Again, the gameplay mechanics are similar to GTA IV but with a greater emphasis on offering improved cars and weapons. Some cars also carry nitro, which comes in handy when you need to outrun the cops. Overall, the drivers you deal with on the road are terrible and given that the same came be said about real life drivers today I believe this will force you to become better at maneuvering. In regards to weapons, the sticky bombs are used heavily to blow up trains, planes, cranes, and just about everything else. Likewise adding the p90 SMG offers superior gunplay when getting into intense gunfights. This comes in handy when you playthrough the dock smuggling mission where you and your friends are ambushed and have to shoot your way out. When it comes to having fun in Liberty City, you can do the same activities as before but with the addition of now managing clubs. This may appear to be a boring concept but what makes it fun is the inclusion of dancing mini-games and drinking games you can have with the locals. The dancing side games are time based and require you to sync Luis’ movements to the music. Successfully pull that task off and you’ll be rewarded with a tasteful sex scene between you and the woman you danced with at the nearest bathroom stall. While this definitely isn’t the kind of girl you want to bring home to momma, it can’t be denied that these comedic elements make for a fun experience. The campaign also clocks in at about 12+ hours of gameplay. Once you beat the game you have the ability to replay each mission to get a higher score. Achievement whores will find this beneficial because by doing so they can net themselves bonus points. My one criticism with the online play is the lack of modes. The Lost and the Damned made an attempt to offer new player experiences, while The Ballad Of Gay Tony recycled the same modes from GTA IV. Clearly the inclusion of maybe an online Cage Fighting championship mode, or dancing contest could have easily pushed this concept to a new level.
Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City surpasses what the definition of value DLC really is. While most gamers will be quick to spend $60 on any game, its hard to deny that at the $40 price point this game offers more bang for your buck. If you have ever been a fan of the GTA franchise I would urge you to pick up this title. Maybe then and only then can you truly live the American Dream.