GTA IV: Lost and Damned Review
When Microsoft coughed up $50 million for two exclusive pieces of downloadable content for Grand Theft Auto IV it seemed like a big deal. Now that the first return on their investment, The Lost and Damned, is here, we can finally find out if it was boon or bust. Gang warfare and riding in formation are in, but should you check this expansion out?
You play as Johnny Klebitz, the second in command of The Lost biker gang. As the game begins the crew’s leader, Billy Grey, is released from incarceration. It doesn’t take long for him to return to his old ways. He’s been away for a while, and in his absence Johnny has moved the gang from lowdown, dirty scoundrels, to lowdown dirty scoundrels who care about finances. That doesn’t sit well with Billy, and the power struggle ensues.
You’ll rub elbows with plenty of characters from the original including Mr. Bellic. The writing is incredibly sharp as it captures the slack-jawed, party-at-all-costs outlaws in their most raw form. There are enough F-bombs to facilitate a drinking game. Johnny and Billy are well-developed, but the concept of a fiscally responsible biker gang is a little far-fetched. You’ll be surprised how much you care, though, and there are plenty of laughs to be had.
If you’ve played Grand Theft Auto IV, then you’ll know what to expect from the game’s design. It’s just as free-form as you want it to be, and there are three new vehicles in addition to a ton of bikes to make your way around Liberty City. [note: the three new vehicles are the towtruck, the burrito van, and the slamvan] Yet, you don’t have to use them much. You’ll find yourself falling into the same pattern of using cabs to teleport, buying body armor, and then tackling a mission. There are lots of objectives that require you ride with the gang, but the rest of the vehicles are only there as toys.
Making your way through the campaign can become a pattern of driving to a location, watching a cutscene, completing the mission, and then watching another cutscene. The objectives walk a narrow path. Most involve shootouts with rival gangs or racing from point A to point B. Few approach the quality of the bank heist or the online dating scenario from the original, but the constant trigger action allows you to get used to the new weapons like the grenade launcher, the automatic pistol, and sawed-off shotgun. That said, there is a surprising amount of missions to complete for the $20. Granted, it costs twice the cash as most downloadable content, but you also get far more than double the play time.
The extras just keep on rolling up. You can hit The Lost safe house for some arm wrestling or a game of Hi-Lo, watch a new roster of shows on the TV, or surf the web for new sites. A close attention to detail is paid to everything.
The single-player quest is almost long enough to be sold as a full game, but you also get a bevy of new multiplayer modes. A lot of them are cleverly veiled classics that you’ve experienced in countless other games, but own the city is a new twist on an old idea. You must capture spots scattered around the city that are held down by AI or human opponents. Kill them all and your own drones are spawned. He who takes the most territory wins. Witness protection has the cops taking snitches to a safe house while the other team tries to take them out. Just like with the original multiplayer, there are a lot of unexpected features to fiddle around with and the open world gives each one a twist.