Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City

The Lost Ballad of Liberty City

We went back to Liberty City to find out what has changed since our last trip to the capital of the world.
Author: Parjanya C. Holtz
Published: August 12, 2010
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The moment I first laid hands on Grand Theft Auto III on my at the time newly acquired PS2 console, I immediately fell in love with Rockstar (North), the "bad-boy"-developer of the video games industry. While Iíll be honest here and admit that it was the revelation of the stunningly unique open-world gameplay at the time, and not so much their wicked sense of humor that made me fall for them in the first place, itís the humor that stuck with me once I got a hold of it, and itís their cleverness (and some would say arrogance) that has kept that love alive for all these years.

When Dan and Sam Houser proudly presented their third 3D open-world title on the PS2, GTA: San Andreas, I felt like there was nothing they could do in a potential sequel to top the insane combination of fantastic humor and hilariously provoking social commentary combined with flawed but insanely fun, over the top vehicle driving, airplane flying, parachute jumping gameplay. And then came GTAIV.

Unfortunately my insane expectations were somewhat underwhelmed as to me it felt like Rockstar was so busy reinventing the seriesí core gameplay mechanics, and polishing the excellent presentation, that they forgot to work on evolving the general mission design. It was hard not to get frustrated by the "go there, shoot that guy, lose the cops" feel of many of the missions. Fortunately the overall quality of the title was rather impressive, and I was more than willing to forgive Rockstar the absence of my beloved parachute and private jet thanks to the sheer amazingness that Liberty City suddenly had become on this new generation of consoles.

With Episodes From Liberty City, two separate downloadable Episodes (also available as a disc-based standalone bundle), Rockstar had the chance to use the amazing technology they have created with GTAIV, and to make up for some of the screw ups in their main game. The good news is; they tried. The bad news is, they only really succeeded with the second of their two episodes, The Ballad of Gay Tony.

[The Lost and Damned]

Donít get me wrong; The Lost and Damned is very far from being a bad game, however playing it on a reviewerís tight schedule makes it very apparent how monotone some of the missions can feel. There just isnít a lot of new stuff to surprise those who played GTAIV. On the other hand, Rockstar took a rather unique approach with a darker, more depressing story that revolves around a biker gang called The Lost. While Nico Bellicís story dealt with issues surrounding the immigration to the land of the free, Johnny Klebitz sees things from the perspective of someone who grew up in Liberty City, and has similarly significant issues to deal with. In fact Johnny gets to work alongside Nico on a few missions, and you get to experience a few important GTAIV missions from a different perspective. While the story has a few plot twists that you will see coming miles ahead, I enjoyed it quite a bit. Thatís partly because of the once again amazing writing and characters, including Johnny, who I at first had trouble warming up to, but then ended up becoming rather attached to.

However itís not just the story, but also the presentation and with it the atmosphere that has changed from Nicoís adventure. By adding an interesting grainy filter over everything, The Lost and Damned is visually quite distinguishable from its bigger brother. Also, it seems like Liberty City is dealing with a few more foggy rainy days and thunder storms than itís used to.
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