It’s strange to think that, as of this writing, Grand Theft Auto IV is more than a year and a half old. It’s even stranger to think that the story it began is finally complete, with the two downloadable episodes – The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony – filling in plot holes and offering up inventive new ways to explore the city that most GTA fans probably thought they’d exhausted of possibilities by now.
Above: Looks like you’ve got some more exploring to do
The episodes follow the stories of biker-gang lieutenant Johnny Klebitz and club-owner flunky Luis Fernando Lopez, both of which take place in roughly the same timeframe as, and run parallel to, the events of GTA IV. The three storylines frequently intersect, and only by playing through all three of them can you really get a complete picture of what happens, and why.
If you haven’t downloaded either add-on yet, then you might want to consider picking up Episodes from Liberty City, which collects them both on one disc that you don’t need Grand Theft Auto IV to play. It doesn’t offer any new features over the downloadable editions, unless you count a static game-select screen as a “feature,” but if you lack the time or the bandwidth to wait for the lengthy downloads, or just don’t have GTA IV, this is the best way to get your hands on them.
Above: Seriously, this screen is the only thing the disc version has over the downloads
Besides, while the episodes are just add-on expansions by themselves, bundling them together makes for one badass, two-part adventure that easily rivals GTA IV’s greatness and makes Episodes from Liberty City – and the score we’ve attached to it – a little greater than the sum of its parts. In short, it’s awesome, and if you’re any kind of GTA fan and haven’t played the episodes, you should pick this up immediately. Here’s what to expect:
While GTA IV’s story is far from cheery, The Lost and Damned takes the game’s tone in an even bleaker direction, even going so far as to add a grain filter to make everything look as washed-out and depressing as its protagonists. Focusing on an aging, decaying biker gang called The Lost, TLaD introduces players to Johnny Klebitz, who has held the gang together while its belligerent leader was in court-ordered rehab – and who is then forced to watch as said leader comes back and tears it all apart in the name of nothing more than petty greed and the thrill of living fast.
Above: Not that Johnny is exactly a saint, of course
While TLaD’s story offers up a look at the grungiest aspects of Liberty City’s already-seedy underworld, it also brings a raft of new gameplay features and improvements, not the least of which is the ability to stay on your bike if you suffer a minor collision. Throw in sidekicks who level up the more they’re used, a few new weapons and new, biker-centric multiplayer modes, and The Lost and Damned is a fun – if unrelentingly gloomy – romp through GTA’s even-rougher side.
Drawing a sharp contrast to The Lost and Damned, The Ballad of Gay Tony is colorful, silly and packed with cool things to see and do, and its tone and presentation fall somewhere between GTA IV and the overtly ridiculous GTA: San Andreas. Following the exploits of Luis Lopez, the bodyguard, business partner and friend of nightclub baron “Gay” Tony Prince, it delves into Liberty City’s neon-drenched club scene, as Luis runs violent, high-speed errands for some of the city’s richest celebrities and power players.
Above: Also, it has tanks, which GTA IV doesn’t. We probably should point that out more
Gameplay-wise, TBoGT introduces new luxury and sports cars, a new attack chopper, a small armory of expensive, high-powered firearms and explosives, some ridiculously destructive missions and – most importantly – the ability to strap on a parachute and BASE jump out of helicopters or off the city’s many skyscrapers. It’s a lot of fun, and comes the closest to delivering the over-the-top craziness that a lot of GTA fans expected after San Andreas.