|System: X360 (XBLA)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Rockstar North||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Rockstar Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: February 17, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-16||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Adam Brown
At this point in the video game industry, downloadable content (DLC) has become more of an expectation than an unknown. Now, almost every game that hits the market gives players the opportunity to spend extra cash down the road on new content in an attempt to keep their experiences' fresh and interesting.
We've definitely seen our share of overpriced lemons over the years (looking directly at Oblivion's horse armor) but there have also been several pieces of DLC that have properly balanced their price and content. Games like Burnout Paradise have even continued to keep players coming back with their year-long slew of great, and free, downloadable content. While The Lost and Damned may not be free, its price still seems surprisingly low considering the quality and quantity of content contained within the sizeable twenty dollar expansion pack.
Once again taking players back to the streets of Liberty City, The Lost and Damned tells a story that runs concurrently to the one found in GTA IV. Players will take on the role of Johnny Klebitz, second in command of the motorcycle club The Lost. After a long stint in rehab, former gang president Billy Grey is released and once again takes control over The Lost. The only major problems with this being that Billy has been gone awhile, is a bit (read heavy sarcasm) unstable, and seems to be at constant odds with the more business minded gang Johnny has cultivated in his absence. Looking at these factors, it isn't difficult to see where the events of this game are going, but it is definitely still worth the ride.
Speaking of rides, as part of a biker gang, you will get to spend a good amount of time on the back of a motorcycle. Thankfully, controlling these two-wheeled vehicles isn't nearly as painful as it was in GTA IV. Despite feeling slightly less realistic, the steering and handling of motorcycles is much tighter. This allows players to take corners, avoid oncoming vehicles, and skillfully splatter numerous pedestrians with relative ease. Running into obstacles also isn't as detrimental this time around, since Johnny's previous riding experience seems to allow him to stay on his bike much better than Niko ever did. The simple act of running into a median, vehicle, light post, et cetera won't necessarily dislodge Johnny from his motorcycle's seat. Actually, unless you have a direct collision with an obstacle at a high speed, you'll likely just spin around and be on your way.
However, if you do manage to take some unexpected spills, get hurt during a mission, or your bike begins to emit smoke, there is an interesting fix. When traveling as a gang, The Lost will attempt to remain in formation when not racing each other to their next destination. Johnny's desired placement is indicated by a badge on the street. If you can stay above this badge, you'll regain some health, repair your bike, and be treated to extra dialogue between gang members. Unfortunately, this can sometimes be easier said than done, since remaining within the limits of this badge in the middle of a dozen moving motorcycles that are frequently changing speeds and directions can be incredibly difficult.
Of course, your gang isn't just along for the scenic rides. Some or all of The Lost will accompany you on most of your missions. This results in some of the largest firefights yet seen in a GTA. These battles can get pretty hectic when there are thirty or more participants spraying all manners of pain at one another. Most of these large gun fights will see the deaths of several members of The Lost but the old adage remains true, "Whatever doesn't kill you, makes you stronger." After the successful completion of a mission, every surviving gang member will receive a boost to their hardness meters, while the dead are replaced by recruits with minimum hardness levels. The more hardness a character has, the better their skills are, and the more useful they will be during altercations later in the game.
Although this help is usually appreciated, Johnny doesn't always have the luxury of backup, at least without phoning it in. Whenever he finds himself alone, he'll need to rely entirely on his own skills, impressive arsenal, and mid-mission checkpoints to survive. That's right, if you meet with an untimely demise during any mission in The Lost and Damned, you'll likely restart either at the mission's opening or directly following an in-mission cutscene. However, this won't always be necessary, since Johnny seems to handle himself in combat just as well as Niko, with the same melee attacks and a similar aptitude for handling firearms. Despite the similarities, fighting as Johnny still feels fairly unique thanks to his dissimilar arsenal. The Lost's weapons of choice include the all-new automatic pistol, sawn-off and assault shotgun, grenade launcher, and pipe bombs.
In fact, despite this expansion sharing some of the same plot points, characters, disc in the drive, and the same city, there is just so much that is different that it can often feel like a completely unrelated product. While completing missions, you will frequently catch glimpses of and/or interact with Niko. However, instead of playing alongside him, you'll be taking on different objectives. In GTA IV, when Niko and Playboy X have a deal go bad due to some undercover cops, Johnny is also present. The previous characters' escape involved running for the rooftop, but Johnny's has players blasting their way out of the front door and evading the police on the back of a bike. This type of interweaving is pretty tastefully done throughout and helps fill in GTA IV's story, although it can eventually begin to feel like playing a game of "Where's Niko" when watching cinemas or listening to dialogue.