Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and the Damned expansion takes the all new Liberty City that Rockstar Games introduced last year and gives it a biker gang makeover.
Not so much a makeover, but a whole new story from a different perspective, with the main character Niko Bellic replaced by Johnny Klebitz, a member of The Lost biker gang featured in several missions from the main game. With new vehicles, new missions, and new multiplayer modes, is The Lost and the Damned worth downloading, or are some stories better left buried deep within this naked city?
Let's ask the toughest gang on the internet - the game critics.
Although Rockstar may not be adding much to the footprint of Liberty City with The Lost and Damned - conjuring a fresh island out of the muddy rivers, or laying down a fine spray of new skyscrapers, flyovers, and dockyards - the company has been hard at work building stories; sculpting new characters, fabricating dense relationship networks of cause and effect, and plumbing in a buried system of deadly motives and smouldering resentment.
Don't assume that because your character is billed as being part of a biker gang that you're immediately a badass for hire. For the first-half of this expansion, you do ordinary errands: go here, deliver that, and steal this. Missions start to feel repetitive and lack innovation; an issue the series has struggled with throughout its history. Nine times out of ten they end in a familiar firefight or car chase. Johnny only comes into his own later in the story, but by then the eight-hour adventure has already started to draw to a close.
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If you make sure your buddies survive a gunfight by assisting and saving their arses, they'll become better shots and generally less rubbish. You can also boost their abilities by initiating conversation during bike convoy sequences, which reward you for staying inside a Lost emblem projected on the road with a health boost and dialogue. The team dynamic is at its most useful when you start picking up the phone and calling your Lost brethren for assistance and backup. Getting on the blower to biker buddies Terry or Clay will have them deliver weapons, bikes or even assist you. Your Lost mates can and will save your arse on numerous occasions, which adds to the whole gang feel.
GTA fans of course expect a great story and they get one. Or at least a really really good one. New weapons and vehicles are also a necessity of any downloadable expansion, and those are here too. But there are many other aspects of a GTA game that are thankfully included here to round out the experience. There are new songs and DJ chatter on the radio stations, new TV shows and websites to explore on the fake internet and new minigames to engage in like arm wrestling and air hockey. There is a ton of new content for you to enjoy and explore, and Rockstar isn't letting anyone down with The Lost & Damned.
This is DLC for the initiated. There's plenty of content here to keep even the most skilled GTA gamer happy for a good number of hours. We can't see any players being disappointed in the DLC's value for money and even though the missions weren't quite as varied as we would liked them to have been, the ingeniously woven parallel storyline is more than enough to keep things interesting.
As a side story that's a third the length of IV's, The Lost and Damned's tale of violence and friendship simply isn't as epic or satisfying as the struggle of Niko Bellic. Despite that, The Lost and Damned gameplay experience is ultimately fulfilling, if only for the new weapons, new adventures and the peculiar attachment one begins to feel for the game's motorcycles, choppers you'll feel almost obligated to ride throughout. After all, what self-respecting member of the Lost would be caught dead in a Blista?
Sounds like a damned fine expansion.