Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned Xbox 360 Review
Over the last few years, we’ve seen the rise of downloadable content for console gaming. This has been a somewhat mixed blessing, with some content being wonderful examples of a developer expanding their games, whilst others have been overly priced and hastily knocked together nonsense. The Lost and Damned, the first helping of GTA IV DLC exclusive to the 360, is one of the most expensive, but you certainly get a lot of additional hours for your cash, whether its worth its fat price is a story for another paragraph altogether.
The disappointed camp (I’m with them), many of which share the same grievances as Chris (review here) about the flawed but still very commendable and enjoyable GTA IV, certainly won‘t be getting much in the way of improvements for their cash though. So car handling still errs more towards the simulation side of things (though bikes are now more accessible to handle) with much of the immediate enjoyment of past games gone, there is lots of way to make money, but still few real things to spend it on. In GTA IV the bad stuff was thankfully balanced by vast improvements to the shooting mechanics and a deeper lead character in Niko Bellic.
Niko has been demoted to a minor character in The Lost and Damned. Instead the story centres around Johnny Klebitz, vice president of the motorbike gang: The Lost. The story is largely compulsive, though, as always, there are occasions where scenes are really nothing more than fancy mission briefings, spiced up with humour and fantastic voce-acting, but at its best it’s truly excellent, and reason enough to see it through to its conclusion.
Being part of a motorbike gang, a fair chunk of the missions have you riding with your team-mates at your side. A nice little touch, which goes some way to granting additional depth to the characters, is the optional comments that are triggered by riding and staying on top of a symbol that pops up from time to time.
Apart from this, missions in The Lost and Damned are largely of the kill people, blow things up and steal car school of thought, and whilst still enjoyable, are almost completely devoid of any form of inventiveness. It’s an increasing problem for the series, but also, because of the sheer volume of them over several games, one that is obviously inevitable. It’s hard to see how Rockstar will be able to rectify this, without ripping out all those nasty criminal themes (lets say the heart then) that got the attention of much of the mass market in the first place.
Joining the new missions are fresh television, radio and internet content, as well as new weapons and new vehicles. Take everything into consideration and that hefty price finally starts making sense and it might even begin to feel like a generous price to pay for such quantity.
On top of all this are several new multiplayer modes. There’s motorbike races, that with their weapon based racing owe more than a little to Road Rash. Lone Wolf Biker, where one player is the Lone Wolf, whilst all other players have the task of hunting them down to become the lone wolf themselves. Chopper vs. chopper is a one on one mode, with one player controlling a bike who is tasked with racing through checkpoints, whilst the other player must take him out with an attack helicopter. Witness protection has one team attempting to protect a busload of witnesses whilst the other tries to take it out. Own The City is essentially like the gang wars in San Andreas and has each team trying to take over territories, and finally there’s the mission based club business.
The Lost and Damned is typical Rockstar, a hugely ambitious undertaking. It’s just a shame that the mission design is more of the same, though it would be churlish to expect much more from DLC, especially when the DLC in question quite simply sets a new standard for digitally distributed content in both its generosity and overall quality. Worth its fat price? Without a doubt. I look forward to seeing what goodness Rockstar pull off with their last slice of DLC for GTA IV. If this example is anything to go by, it should be something truly special indeed.