GTA IV: The Lost and the Damned
The Lost and Damned is the new expansion for GTA IV. The story line follows Johnny Klebitz in his escapades across Liberty City. This new episode introduces a variety of new vehicles along with brand new weapons and around 20 new missions, accompanied by some fresh mini-games and little tweaks. The game play time of roughly 15 to 20 hours almost makes it a new game in it’s own right. The story is less believable than the main game but it still draws you in.
The missions have changed a great deal from the original ones involving Niko. The difficulty level has been ramped up and with this, checkpoints have been added to aid you during particularly long or difficult missions. Some of the missions feature cameos from characters such as Niko, Elizabeta and Roman Bellic. The new episode slots into the main storyline amazingly, tying up previously unseen links to make the game as a whole feel more complete. The missions see you accompanied by a group of bikers who follow you about the city to support you during fire fights. After a vital storyline twist (which I won’t mention for spoiler reasons) you gain the ability to call in back-up, bikes, cheaper weapons and the occasional free gun with full ammo from your cronies. One of the little additions is that in the earlier missions (while you are still a ‘cronie’), when on the move to different locations, the Lost and Damned logo appears behind the leader Billy. If you move into this logo, and stay in it for the allotted time (around 5ish seconds), you will receive a health bonus which will be welcomed if you have just had a particularly hard fire fight. The only thing that came as a disappointment for me with the missions was the finale. I would’ve thought that as it was the last mission, they would try and make it extremely hard, with less ammo and harder enemies to defeat. Unfortunately you get given unlimited free weapons and you can practically walk through all the enemies only to find a rather dull end to a good story. The story is a little unbelievable at points and the last mission will definitely reinforce that in your mind.
Unfortunately one of these little tweaks provides the most annoying thing about the new GTA episode. For some reason Rockstar decided to add a ‘lovely’ new grainy effect to the camera which makes it looks like you are constantly watching an old film reel. Luckily, when the story really gets going this slips out of your mind as so much more is going on that is so much more important. These little tweaks are what let this largely terrific game down.
The next new feature I would like to comment on is the wide variety of weaponry. A variety of new ‘toys’ to suit all your homicidal needs have been incorporated. A fully automatic ‘glock’-like pistol, a sawn-off shotgun, pipe bombs, a grenade launcher and – by far the most fun weapon – the fully automatic shotgun or known by some as the street sweeper. This new range of weapons is not what some people wanted but it will no doubt be happily used online and in the story to clean the streets of Liberty City over and over again. I personally think that without these weapons, some of the missions would have been bordering on impossible. Early on when you are only supplied with the sawn-off shotgun, you quickly realise you need a pistol to quickly dispatch the fast approaching enemies. Then very conveniently the next mission, you gain access to the fully automatic pistol, completely dismissing the need to carry a submachine gun. Unfortunately, the pipe bombs aren’t really anything new as they do the exact same thing as grenades except they are a very useful ‘long and thin’ shape which is very helpful as you aren’t even playing the game (Yes that was meant to be sarcastic and I know it didn’t come off to well :D). The grenade launcher is slightly more accurate than the RPG but it is still tricky to aim due to the way the grenade dips as it flies through the air. Now, onto my absolute favourite weapon. The street sweeper really can sweep the streets. When I first unlocked this gun I just spent the first half an hour or so walking up the busy Star Junction letting rip all the ammo I could buy, into passing cars, buses and of course pedestrians. The only downside to this gun is the relatively small magazine capacity. You can reload the gun, hold down the trigger and let off all the bullets in 2 or 3 seconds. I for one presumed that if the weapon was automatic, you would instantly make the magazine bigger. Obviously I was mistaken.
When Rockstar announced they would be introducing new weapons, many people were hoping and praying that with this update would come LIGHT SABERS, LASER BEEMS, FLAMETHROWERS and JET PACKS. Safe to say they were heavily disappointed. Now I won’t lie and say I wasn’t hoping there would be ‘unusual’ weapons but I wasn’t holding out for Rockstar to obliterate their game with these stupidly good weapons. When I think stupidly good weapons I instantly think Saints Row 2. Maybe this is because of the precision of the RPG or the massive chaingun, but even without the silly weapons, this new episode does bring with it hints of SR2. The automatic shotgun featured from the beginning in SR2, as did the automatic pistols (well semi-automatic but it’s close enough). It disappoints me that Rockstar appear to have borrowed ideas from rival companies and implemented them into their game. As much as it disappoints me it surprises me. I would’ve thought that if the same issue with the automatic shotgun magazine came up in SR2, that Rockstar would take that idea back to the drawing board and re-think it. Maybe this isn’t the way they do it, or maybe they are just too god damn lazy.
The next new feature I’d like to express my thoughts on is the new mini-games added with this content. They consist of arm-wrestling, playing cards and playing air hockey. The arm-wrestling is played by waggling the analogue stick from side to side repeatedly until you win. While this may seem dull and boring, it’s easy to do and if you need that little bit of extra cash for a bullet proof vest for the next mission, this mini-game is a great way to get it quickly. The card game relies slightly more on luck but it is still a good way to kill a bit of time or get a bit of cash if you’re good at cards. The air hockey mini-game comes as an addition to the friends activities. I love air-hocking in real life but I found this one to be too fast paced and the controls a little too responsive, so you found yourself flicking the stick only to have the puck fly at the speed of light off your bat, towards to opposite end then rebounding into your goal. Now this sounds like an exaggeration and it is, but it does seem like this when you are playing the game.
I have quickly tried out the new multiplayer modes, so don’t expect a massive insight into what they are as, the online on GTA isn’t that great in my eyes. I’ll go through the modes one by one and I’ll give a little explanation. There is one called Chopper versus Chopper, and the name is a bit confusing. This game mode involves one person on a bike while the other is in a chopper. The helicopter driver has the kill the biker before he reaches the destination. This game mode has hints of old game modes like Cops and Robbers, but bringing in new cat and mouse concepts. A new ‘race’ mode has been included which is essentially a bike race with baseball bats. While I didn’t mention what the bike races were like in story mode. You just have the try this online mode just to see how dull batting people off bikes while trying to negotiate corners and get to the front of the pack of racers can really be. One game mode that has been greatly anticipated by the whole GTA IV community is Own the City which brings back San Andreas-esk turf wars but with increased communication and excitement than in the non-online predecessor. While the terrotories are still defended by AI soldiers, your team can be your buddies which make for what is a very fun large scale co-operative mission. The game mode called Witness Protection is similar to a mission in the game where you hi-jack a bus of bikers and take them home. In this game mode, there are two teams: Cops and Bikers. Theres is 1 cop who drives the bus full of witnesses and has the drop them at various locations. The other cops have to defend the bus from oncoming attacks from bikers, who are attempting to kill the witnesses who are going to put them down for their crime. This game mode is basically, cops and crooks with more than one crook ‘boss’. This is the one game mode I haven’t played but once again it demonstrates Rockstar’s apparent lack of creativity.
While I love GTA and the majority of the games Rockstar produce, you can’t help but think that, in some ways this game has been an attempt to pull in the punters and get so more money to produce their next highly successful world wide best selling game. With the danger of contradicting myself, I did love playing through this, even if the difficulty was quite varying. The storyline is quite hard to believe as everything seems to go wrong at once, and then all of a sudden Johnny can solve all the problems with 1 simple bullet. The new weapons are a welcome change as are the new online modes, but the little tweaks and niggles really can get on your nerves. I know I’m just nit picking but I had to because I did genuinely find it hard to come up with seriously bad points about this new content. At 1600 Microsoft funny money, some would argue it’s a steal, while others would say that it should be 1200 for ease and the little niggles that plague this otherwise fantastic game. I’d give it 75% as I feel that things like the new camera effect should be more widely tested to find out that the majority of people really don’t like it. Finally I’d like to apologise if you’ve been confused while reading this article as at some points I really did contradict myself, but I feel I have to as this is what this game does. I’d like to say a huge thank you to Humus who made the banner at the top of this article, I think it makes the article look a lot more complete. Thanks again Mr.Humus. Thanks for reading everyone