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Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City


Finally Playstation 3 Owners Get It!
Almost two years after Grand Theft Auto IV hit store shelves, this follow-up expansion pack is taking aim to re-vitalize Playstation 3 owner’s relationship with Liberty City. These two expansion packs have been available for the Xbox 360 since last year, but recently hit Playstation 3 & PC audiences in April. Grand Theft Auto: Episodes From Liberty City is comprised of two, separate expansion packs: The Ballad of Gay Tony and The Lost and the Damned. Both packs offer the same type of car-jacking, bullet-firing gameplay found in the original game and, interestingly, the stories of both packs intersect with each other as well as Niko’s storyline from GTA IV.



The Ballad of Gay Tony puts you into the shoes of Luis Lopez, a hired bodyguard and business partner for his coked up boss, Gay Tony, who happens to own a couple music-thumping nightclubs in downtown Liberty City. As Gay Tony continues to get into trouble with some of the worst elements of Liberty City, it’s up to Luis to protect his boss and ultimately keep their business interests alive. The storyline is highly entertaining and offers a solid 15 hours of enjoyment. While Luis isn’t the most charismatic main character, Gay Tony and his cohorts makes up for Luis’s shortcomings. The story is rife with jokes poking fun at celebrity paparazzi, the horrific state of the auto industry (a topic highly relevant during the Xbox 360 release, not so much now) and a variety of pop culture references.

The Lost and the Damned is a different beast, a cruder, dirty version of Liberty City chock full of suspect individuals. The story follows the progression of Johnny Klebitz, something of an anti-hero even by Grand Theft Auto standards. He’s thrust into becoming the temporary leader of his motorcycle gang, The Lost, and has to deal with the return of the previous boss of the gang. One excellent element of this expansion pack comes in the form of your fellow gang members that offer posse benefits when riding with them in the form of power-ups. The story is just as polished as ‘Gay Tony’ and offers a similar amount of game time to completion.



If you have played GTA IV, you will be at home with the combat system and the driving mechanics. Rockstar didn’t alter much of the core functionality, but did include new weapons / vehicles in both expansion packs. Giving Luis a parachute for leaping out of aircraft was a key improvement to the gameplay as well. There’s nothing more satisfying that perching on a building and sniping your way to the highest star level. Rockstar also included a rating system assigned to mission in case you want to retry them for a higher score. A nice inclusion, but it wasn’t something that I took consistent advantage of.

Regarding multiplayer, The Lost and the Damned introduces a couple new modes, Witness Protection and Chopper versus Chopper. I had the most fun with Witness Protection, a mode where one team (cops) attempts to escort their witness to the court as the other team (The Lost) attempts to take them down. Chopper versus Chopper pits motorcycle versus helicopter. It felt too skewed to the player in the helicopter unfortunately.



Graphics
  • Both expansion packs both have distinctive filters that give the city a different look than GTA IV. In The Lost and the Damned, Liberty City has a grimy appeal designed to depict how Johnny Klebitz sees his despicable surroundings. In The Ballad of Gay Tony, the city seems polished, bright and designed to highlight the exciting lifestyle of downtown LC.

  • Performance wise, both expansions suffer from the same problems that plagued the original title. There are frame rate slowdowns and pop-in issues all over the place. Additionally, the visuals look like they were built for a game that was launched two years ago (surprise, surprise)

Audio
  • Similar to the original title, the audio is nothing but stellar. Voice overs bring the main and ancillary characters to life and the script is filled with humor that just works.

  • Radio stations are fantastic as well with over 50 new songs and a Vice City FM station bringing you the same tunes / banter heard when Ray Liotta’s character was roaming the streets.

Conclusion

If you loved Grand Theft Auto IV, you will love both expansion packs. There’s more than enough content in these packs to justify the full retail price. Watching the stories intersect with each other, particularly the diamond heist storyline, is highly enjoyable for anyone familiar with the GTA IV narrative. While the multiplayer is aged due to the engine it was built upon, you will find a solid 30 hours of Grand Theft Auto action in Grand Theft Auto: Episodes From Liberty City.

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