Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Lost and Damned

It's no secret that GTAIV is one of my all time favourite games, and a true classic both for the technology of bringing an entire city to believable life and the complex and dark story of Niko Bellic's arrival in Liberty. From the moment I finished the main story last year I have been looking forward to the first downloadable content pack, and so I snagged it as soon as it was released.

The Lost and Damned deals with a motorcycle gang called 'The Lost' and the main protagonist is a biker called Johnny Klebitz who has been left in charge whilst the leader Billy has been in prison. When Billy is released, he returns determined to shake things up, starting with getting his old bike back and then starting a war with a rival gang. As the violence escalates each member of the gang is affected in different ways which are revealed though snatches of conversation that are initiated when you ride your bike in formation. The story runs parallel to the events of GTAIV, affording an alternative view on some of that game's iconic missions and characters, and indeed the final post credits movie shows some very familiar events from a soaring aerial perspective whilst the Lost ride past.

There's an awful lot of content included in the pack. Apart from the missions and cut scenes, there are new bikes and cars, some new weapons including a very handy grenade launcher, new websites and tv shows, and more tracks for the rock radio stations. I hadn't really listened to Liberty Rock Radio when playing GTAIV, but it soon became my station of choice when riding my bike around the city. One particularly memorable moment had me setting off in the rain for a confrontation with a particularly nasty Mafia wiseguy whilst 'Five to One' by the Doors played on the radio - no one here gets out alive, baby. Another unexpected treat was an outrageously offensive stand up comedy gig by Frankie Boyle - I wonder how that went down with the Americans, alongside the full frontal male nudity in one scene which no doubt gave some of the uptight conservative fanboys conniptions.

The only faults that I can find with the game are the lack of the moral choices that appeared in GTAIV giving the story a more linear feel and the final mission which turned into a very tricky mass shootout. Also, I found it very difficult to keep any of my gang members alive during the later gang war missions as they seemed determined to run into the line of fire and get themselves killed. Some sort of mechanism to order them to stay in cover might have been useful, but it's only a minor bugbear. The swearing quotient has also been upped rather noticeably - this probably won't be of too much concern to any fan of the series, but you might want to avoid playing if your mother in law is in the room.

On the whole though, The Lost and Damned is an essential purchase for anyone who has played GTAIV. GTA : Chinatown Wars next!

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