Review by JT_Grogan
"More of a Totally New Game Than a Game Add-On..."
When Grand Theft Auto IV hit store shelves almost a year ago, it was an instant classic. With the most recent add-on for the already superb game, not much has changed. Now this isn't necessarily a bad thing. You just have to decide if you're willing to shell out 1,600 Microsoft Points for it.
A Different World
When I say not much has changed, don't get me wrong. A lot HAS changed. Characters, story, vehicles, radio music, etc. What I mean is that no major game play changes have been made. The first difference you're going to notice is the entire cast of new characters. From the sensible bad-ass Johnny Klebitz to the leader of the Lost MC Billy Grey, The Lost and the Damned features a whole new cast of characters, not just a new protagonist. Of course, that's not to say that you won't see a few familiar faces, because you will (Niko Bellic included). The members of the Lost MC aren't just new character skins either. You're going to see new attitudes that weren't often shown in Grand Theft Auto IV. While Johnny Klebitz generally maintains the attitude of Niko Bellic, the rest of the Lost MC add a new layer of depth to the game. The members of the biker gang actually make you feel as if you are part of something bigger than just two cousins trying to make it on the streets. I won't go as far as to say that you feel like you're part of a family when you play this game, but you feel closer to it than in the original GTA IV.
Put Yourself In Someone Else's Shoes
In Grand Theft Auto IV you play as Niko Bellic, running around trying to stay alive for a few more days in Liberty City. However, your progress is hindered time after time by unfortunate mishaps that keep occurring to your cousin Roman. In The Lost and the Damned, you play the story opposite to Niko and Roman. During one mission in GTA IV, Roman is kidnapped and taken to an abandoned factory. In TLAD, you're the guy who kidnaps Roman and takes him to this abandoned factory. During GTA IV, you must chase down and kill a member of a motorcycle gang who is having a relationship with your boss's daughter. In TLAD, one of your "brothers" is the member of the gang who gets Niko kills. There are countless examples of these similarities between the two games. This adds a nice feel of nostalgia if you, like many others, thoroughly enjoyed the story in GTA IV. Of course, the story isn't only limited to acting as the "Anti-Niko." You also have your own problems to deal with. These problems range from rising tensions between the members of the Lost MC to an all out gang war with The Angels of Death, a rival motorcycle game. The story is nice because it mixes elements of the original GTA IV story with something entirely new, and it finds an almost perfect balance.
Grand Theft Auto IV: Lite Edition
I say this not because the game is any worse than GTA IV, because it isn't. I say this because a lot of the features that were a major part of GTA IV were taken out of TLAD. While many of these features will undoubtedly be missed, the effect that the removal of them achieved was critical to making the game feel the way it did. You no longer feel as if you're trying to live a regular life on the streets. You feel as if you are part of a fraternity, and that your entire life revolves around this group of "brothers." You can no longer go on dates with women you meet around the city. You can now only do activities with fellow members of the Lost MC. This isn't a bad thing however. It makes you feel connected with those members of the Lost MC. You are also unable to change your clothes. While it would have been nice to be able to purchase and wear different biker related clothing, in the end the Lost leather jacket and jeans make you feel like more of a bad-ass. Besides, what other clothes would you want to wear from a biker shoppe? It really is harder than one would think to find a good combination of biker related clothing without looking like a punk from some death-metal band. One final activity that was removed for TLAD was the ability to jump in a police car and go hunt down criminals. While these side missions provided some good fun during GTA IV, they just go against everything the members of the Lost MC stand for and would have added a sense of hypocritical irony to the game. But fear not, you can still jump into a police car and terrorize pedestrians whenever you feel like it. But with all of the activities that were removed, some new ones were added. For instance, the ability to go play air-hockey with your friends has been added. Short on cash? Then just head over to the Lost club house and play some hi-lo. Or for the more macho gamers, go enter an arm-wrestling match for a winning pot of $200. And if you're craving something retro, go play a game of CUB3D. There is also the ability to enter into motorcycle races in TLAD. You drive up to them just like a mission and start racing down the street, using your aluminum baseball bat to smack other players off of their bikes. And whenever you're just looking for some senseless violence, go start a gang war. You and your buddies go and take out a group of rival gang members. So while a few nice things from GTA IV were taken out, enough new activities were added to keep even the most furious gamer happy for a long time.
Finally, A Reason To Keep Your Cars
Admit it. In past GTA games lacking car customization or any incentive to really hang on to a car for more than a few minutes, you would just go flying around the streets recklessly and when you're car broke, you would go steal a new one. Everybody would. But TLAD finally presents you with a reason for keeping your vehicles safe and secure. You see, in TLAD, there are a number of custom motorcycles. All of the major members of the Lost MC have one. These bikes can't be found anywhere in Liberty City except under its respective gang member. For instance, you have a custom Hexer with blue stripes on the gas tank. Jimmy Fitzgerald has a totally black bike with red rims, of which there is only one in the city. If you lose your Hexer, and there's absolutely no way to get it back. If you go on a mission where you are forced to leave is behind that's a different story. In that case, you'll eventually find it in front of the club house. Eventually. So try not to lose it.
New Game, New Toys
Well you didn't expect an entirely new game to NOT come with any new toys did you? Not only are there a load of new guns, but they are very satisfying guns indeed. The new arsenal consists of a fully automatic 9mm pistol, a new shotgun used by the police, a fully automatic shot gun, a sawed-off shotgun able to be used while riding a motorcycle, a grenade launcher (which is different than an RPG), pipe bombs, and various melee weapons including a pool cue. That list alone should be enough to convince anybody to buy TLAD. On top of all of this, you also have a host of new vehicles to play with including new biker gang style bikes and new street bikes such as the Double T. Unlike with GTA IV, you can expect the bikes in this game to have an edge over many of the cars. Playing TLAD, bikes are more abundant than they were in GTA IV. Top end cars such as the Turismo and Infernus are much harder to find than in GTA IV as well. This can be assumed to be because the main focus of the expansion is on bikes, not cars.
New On-Line Game Modes? You Bet!!
The final issue to be reviewed is the Xbox Live multi-player. While TLAD retains the major game modes from GTA IV (death match, team death match, etc.) it also adds exciting new game modes. For instance, in Chopper vs. Chopper one player pilots a helicopter and another rides a motorcycle. The helicopter pilot must shoot the biker before the biker reaches all of the checkpoints. While the biker has the street to use as his cover, there are times when he will need to come out of his cover. This is when the helicopter pilot fires off a spray of exploding rounds at the biker and hopefully kills him. The rolls then switch. There is also a game mode where one biker is "it" and every other biker has to hunt him down and kill him. Whoever kills him is "it" next. The fun and strategy in this game lies not only in knowing the streets to avoid and cut off your opponents but to know the city inside and out. Because you can get off you bike and take cars or hide in buildings, it is essential to know key strongholds you can use to escape opponents, such as the old Sprunk factory. And as usual TLAD still has free-mode, so you can go terrorize Liberty City anyway you want, now with bikes. Free mode is especially useful if you want to create your own game modes. There isn't a game editor like in Halo, but that means you can make up your own rules with no limitations. One might suggest the extremely challenging but classic hide-and-seek. Now take off radar blips for an extra level of difficulty.
Same Old, Same Old
Aside from what is listed above, most of the things in TLAD stay the same as in GTA IV. The graphics engine is the same. That's definitely a good thing. The physics haven't changed much. Also a good thing. This makes driving much more realistic than in past GTA titles. The same radio stations are on the air. And of course, the same hilarious comments from pedestrians.
Now You Decide...
So after reading this review you have to ask yourself: are you truly a GTA fan? If you answer yes, then the next thing you need to do is go out and buy Grand Theft Auto IV (if you don't already own it) and download The Lost and the Damned expansion from the Xbox Live Marketplace. For only 1,600 Microsoft Points, equivalent to $20, you can't afford not to buy it. If you answer no, you either have never played a game in the Grand Theft Auto series or you have something seriously wrong with you.
Pros: Great story, Decent length, Loads of new content, New On-Line modes, Feel of GTA IV nostalgia, Great new feel to the series, Great graphics, Lots of character depth, Cheap considering how much you get, Xbox 360 exclusive
Cons: Removal of some great GTA IV content, Takes up a lot of hard drive space, You probably won't appreciate it if you haven't played GTA IV all the way through
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 03/10/09
Game Release: Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned (US, 02/17/09)
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