|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
January 30, 2009 - As a series, Grand Theft Auto (GTA) has had a huge impact on gamers and the video game industry alike. GTA III introduced gamers to open-world, sandbox experiences, in no small part helping to solidify the PS2 as the console of choice last generation. A couple years later, GTA: San Andreas made a serious splash by pushing the boundaries of the ESRB's rating system and turning "Hot Coffee" into one of the most widely over-used phrases in pop culture history.
While Sony may have enjoyed the exclusive/timed rights to this juggernaut series last generation, Microsoft wisely got GTA IV released first on their console this time around. In another shocking move, they also managed to secure the exclusive rights to two downloadable projects, despite their hefty collective $50 million price tag.
As February 17 rolls around, Xbox 360 owners will finally have the chance to start reaping the rewards of this massive deal as the first expansion entitled GTA IV: The Lost and Damned will at long last become available for download. While it would be easy to label this package simply as downloadable content for an existing game, that might be a bit of a misnomer. Although it may not come from a store shelf, will require a copy of GTA IV to play, borrows its disc-based predecessor's backdrop, and enjoys a storyline that interweaves at times with Niko Bellic's exploits, The Lost and Damned is very much its own unique and sizeable experience.
GTA IV had players chasing the "American Dream" as Niko, an interesting character who was tricked into relocating to Liberty City (LC) by his cousin. This time around, players will be in control of the longtime LC resident Johnny Klebbitz, second in command of the biker gang The Lost. While Johnny is more of a business and money oriented character, the same can't be said about Billy, the president of the gang who retakes control of it after just recently being released from rehab. It doesn't take long for some bad choices, and perhaps some irrational thinking, to result in Billy shooting a member of the rival biker gang The Angels of Death, instigating a full-scale gang war.
Unlike Niko's fairly lonely adventure that saw players functioning as their own personal one-man-army, Johnny's outing seeks to foster feelings of brotherhood and camaraderie amongst the members of The Lost. At almost no point will Johnny ever be alone, having at least a member or two of your gang in tow at all times. These members will be an invaluable commodity while playing, as they will help you complete missions, cover your back, and even become more useful as you play.
While it is entirely possible for a member of your gang to die at any time, you'll never run out of fresh recruits waiting in the wings to replace your fallen brothers. However, the stipulation that will give value to these otherwise very expendable characters' continued existences is their ability to better themselves over time. Sure, early in the game, if gang member one dies, gang member two steps in and nothing has really been affected. Of course, if gang member one has already been by your side through a few missions, gaining permanent bonuses to his health, accuracy, and ability to do damage, an entry level replacement certainly won't feel like an even trade.