Review by sam_fisher_23
"By far the most impressive piece of DLC yet!"
Since the release of Rockstar's: Grand Theft Auto IV last April, many X box 360 gamers have been anticipating the exclusive DLC for the console. Now, almost 10 months later, the first episode is here.
Very little has changed in terms of gameplay from GTA IV. The cover system is still here, all the controls are the same and most of the vehicles control the same. Except for a huge improvement to the bike physics. Because the stories protagonist, Johnny, is a biker, Rockstar has tweaked the physics so that now it is almost impossible to fall off your bike. You pretty much have to slam headfirst into a wall to crash. Also handling has been improved and it is much easier to turn corners without spinning out. A minor complaint with these new physics that I had were the crashes. When you crash, you crash hard, this normally will cause Johnny to fly anywhere between 20 - 100 feet on average and in some missions, no matter how funny they be, it can be really annoying. Another large addition to the gameplay are the mid-mission checkpoints. Essentially, when you have a cutscene or a major event happening in a mission, that's a checkpoint. If you die, you are returned upon request to the last checkpoint you reached. Some older fans of the series might find this feature to be slightly too easy for them and the option to turn them off is not available, but most people will see this feature as more of a god send. Three new mini games have been added as well: arm wrestling, air hockey, and a hi - lo card game. The air hockey and the hi - lo game are well put together ( besides the awful animation in the latter), but arm wrestling is slightly less fun seeing as you have to shack the right stick super fast to win and for many a tired gamer, this will be impossible. Aside from those minor enhancements the lost and damned stays very close to GTA IV in terms of gameplay.
The audio in The Lost and Damned, is Excellent. Every character delivers their lines with good diction and truly makes all characters feel alive and interesting. Even though this is biker culture, Rockstar could of left a few more F- bombs out though. It will get a little annoying for, some gamers, after a while when the tally of F-bombs goes over 20 in a one and half minute scene. The other major addition to the games audio, are 53 brand new licensed tracks added to the games radio stations. Liberty Rock Radio, The Beat, Liberty City Hardcore, and Radio Brooker all receive updated tracklists. LRR, and LCHC are obviously updated to support the biker theme and they succeed on all levels. LRR adds Iron Maiden, AC/DC and Deep purple to name a few while LCHC adds a slew of new Death Metal Tracks. All are fantastic. The other stations updates I cannot speak personally for, seeing as I don't listen to them, but from what I have heard they are great additions as well.
GTA IV was a good looking game when it came out, and it still looks great. The city is top notch as are the character models. The facial expressions though, are starting to show some age with many of the characters looking a little ghost faced at times. This is unfortunate because the acting is so great. It was obvious that Rockstar spent less time animating these characters than GTA IV's. Another addition to the presentation is a "grain filter" that was added to give the game a grittier and dirtier look. It defiantly succeeds at its intention, but in a game as pretty as GTA IV you will want to turn it off as soon as you have the chance. The Lost and Damned shows that GTA IV is still a great looking game, but the additions to its looks could have been better.
This where The Lost and Damned falters the most. Unlike Niko, Johnny is hardly a likable guy and because of this, I felt very disconnected from him. The rest of the biker cast carries the same burden as Johnny and most come off as Mean, Immoral, A-holes. The story is also very flat with predictable plot points, and the lack of any real set pieces at all, aside from maybe the last mission. On the plus side though, the story is genuinely funny with some definite laugh out load moments that, in my opinion, make this the funniest GTA yet.
After many disappointing pieces of DLC in recent memory, in terms of value, (operation anchorage I'm looking at you!) Rockstar has truly raised the bar of what can be put in an expansion. Just by the numbers, the average player is looking at about 12-15 hours at the least for this expansion and given the length of most $60 games these days, that's a deal! The 23 mission story should take approximately 7-10 hours to complete, but there are many more things to do after that! There are side missions that include, Gang wars ( very similar to the police missions of GTA IV, but now they are larger battles between 5-6 person biker gangs!) Races ( Also similar to the races of GTA IV, but you are now on bikes with a bat to "whack off" your opponents!) and Bike Stealing missions ( essentially the same as the car equivalent in GTA IV). On top of those missions you have 6 new weapons to enjoy, 16 new bikes and three new cars! There really is no reason why a GTA IV fan should not pick this up just for its sheer value! And we haven't even talked about multiplayer yet!
The multiplayer of The Lost and Damned is separate to that of GTA IV and includes 9 modes (6 of which are new) Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch return olong with free mode, but the real meat of the multiplayer lies in its 6 new modes. I am not going to go in depth with each mode, but lets just say they are all alot better than those in GTA IV. Rockstar really learned a lesson about multiplayer in GTA IV and it shows here, many of the modes are based in vehicles, which arguably were the best part of the original multiplayer. These new modes are all fun from Chopper vs Chopper (where one person is on a bike and has to pass through checkpoints while another player has to try to take them down with a helicopter) to Witness Protection (where a team of NOOSE officers has to escort criminals while a team of bikers has to try and take them down) the multiplayer is really fun. Rockstar fixed some matchmaking problems as well and added an instant action option as well. Finally rockstar added new multiplayer characters dressed up in some leather biker gear that also add to the atmosphere. Overall the multiplyer is a great change from the old multiplayer and I think in the future we will see that this rounds multiplayer will have more legs than the last round.
The lost and damned is a great first outing of DLC for GTA IV, there really is so much content here that slapping down $20 or 1600 Microsoft Happy Bucks is really not much of a stretch. From the fun and funny story to the new gameplay additions to the engaging multiplayer, The Lost and Damned is a must buy for all GTA IV fans.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 02/20/09
Game Release: Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned (US, 02/17/09)
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