Itâs been a long time coming, but the extra downloadable content for Grand Theft Auto IV is finally on the PS3. Conveniently packaged for your playing pleasure on a single disc, Episodes From Liberty City combines both The Lost and the Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony. Several years on from the release of the original GTA IV, is this still worth your while? If youâre still a fan of the series, then the answer remains an emphatic âyesâ.
Both episodes are, in general, a lot tighter than GTA IVâs original storyline. Their scope is smaller, sure, but this only serves to provide a more focused, streamlined experience free from a lot of the faff you had to wade through before. Look at the titular âLostâ biker gang for example: all the gameplay and narrative elements revolve around the simple premise of driving a bike around. Sure, thereâs a lot more to it than that, but having a single element to concentrate on gives these two titles a lot of cohesion.
Of course, youâll still be doing all the things you expect from a GTA title and its missions: namely, driving, shooting, and more driving. It can get fairly repetitive after a while, but at least this time round we get mid-mission checkpoints (hurray!) â and again, if youâre into the narrative, it helps you get through any gameplay lulls.
Lost and the Damned riffs on the themes of loyalty and brotherhood, and does so pretty impressively. As Johnny Klebitz, youâre a biker who actually uses his brain, and is keen to get a slightly more meaningful life going for the gang. But after a stint at the top, old leader Billy Grey returns from rehab with a burning desire to keep things just as they were â and drive the gang down a one-way street of nihilism. Naturally, conflict occurs! As per previous GTA games, you start off fairly poor and small-scale â although weâre not talking Niko levels of poor. Still, itâs a well charted ârise to the topâ course that you take in LatD.
In The Ballad of Gay Tony, on the other hand, youâre pretty much at the top from the start. You are Luiz Lopez, associate of successful nightclub owner Tony Prince. Luiz, somewhat disappointingly, is set in the same mold as every other GTA protagonist, but this is mitigated a lot by the often hilarious supporting cast.
This is the episode where it seems Rockstar thought, âscrew it, we need more skydiving!â Everything goes big here â you can take part in cage fights, base jumping, helicopter rides, and a lot more. Explosions abound, and the game is all the better for it. Aerial combat, a big selling point, felt pretty hard to pull off, but itâs a fairly minor blip.
A host of mini-games and sideline activities help flesh out both episodes, and thereâs actually a surprising amount of content here. It matters not one bit that Liberty City is largely the same as before â youâll be doing a lot of new things within this sprawling playground.
There are a couple of things that wonât be up everyoneâs alley. The main characters of both episodes arenât generally all that sympathetic â if youâre here for the stories, you may be slightly turned off. But then, thatâs always been the case with GTA characters â theyâre not exactly nice people. As usual, this is compounded somewhat by the disconnect between your characterâs motivations and personality, and the crazy chaos you can cause outside of the cutscenes. Again, not everyone will care, but itâs worth mentioning.
The graphics are starting to feel a little bit dated, but can still amaze at times â it seems the GTA engines have always been about captivating broad strokes rather than amazing small-scale detail. The feel of the game in general is still surprisingly solid, and while advances have been made in subsequent games over the years, GTA IV can still hold its own.
So there you have it â two episodes that strip a lot of the fat away from the original GTA IV and provide quite a few hours of entertainment. At roughly NZ $70, itâs certainly easy to recommend Episodes From Liberty City â and remember, you donât need GTA IV to play this. In fact, if you just want simple balls-to-the-wall fun in an open world, Iâd almost recommend this over the game itâs based on.