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This pack includes the original GTA IV game (I reviewed this elsewhere) and two new stories featuring all-new characters, The Lost and the Damned and the Ballad of Gay Tony.
I bought this pack having already purchased GTA IV on Steam. There is a large modding community for the GTA series and I needed all of the expansion packs to benefit from this.
In The Lost and the Damned you take control of Johnny Klebitz, a Lieutenant in a Liberty City biker gang. The story revolves around the power struggle going on within the gang and is used as a basis for introducing new features. In some missions you're required to ride in formation, and towards the end of the game you can summon your gang to help out on missions. You can also summon your friends and buy guns off them, or get one of them to drop a bike off for you.
This works well and you really get a feeling of being part of a gang, and they don't relentlessly hassle you like in the original game.
There's some awesome new weapons, including the powerful Street Sweeper shotgun, and a grenade launcher. These new guns are a lot of fun.
There have been no changes made to the graphics engine, but there are new radio station tracks. Probably the biggest change made is how the bikes handle. You've now got a wide variety of motorbikes to choose from and they all have different characteristics. Thankfully they've made it harder to fall off the bikes which is very helpful in missions.
Thematically the game suited me very well, although I can understand some people won't like the new music or the characters. Great pains are taken to establish the fact that, despite being a biker gang, they're not racist or sexist. Indeed, Johnny himself is Jewish and some of the first missions revolve around taking on a rival biker gang who are racist.
In TBOGT you assume the role of Luis Lopez, a bodyguard of club owner Gay Tony. The story is way more far-fetched and outrageous than TLATD, throughout the course of the story you'll find yourself base-jumping, flying gold-plated helicopter gunships and meeting some very odd people.
The missions are definitely more 'out-there' reminding me of the sillier missions from the last GTA games. One will have you playing some golf on a driving range with an informer as the target, in another you will be parachuting onto a moving lorry.
There's more weapons, including a cool handgun and some enjoyable new remote explosives, along with a machine gun and some other bits. You also get some new vehicles, mostly in the sports/executive range. Again more tracks have been added to the radio stations, and there's the usual side missions that you can take on if you're bored.
This pack is tremendous value for money. With each story you get many hours of gameplay, and its interesting to see how the stories of the three characters interweave. Ensure to check the GTA modding community as well for more skins, weapons and vehicles.
If you have the High Spec computer required to play this game, then it is definately a must buy.
The game holds host too two completely seperate story lines, though they do intertwine with one another every so often. The first story is The Lost and Damned, where you lead a Biker gang to dominate the competition. This game is good, though i find the story line did get a bit boring, and the extra weapons you get aren't as good as they are in the other story. The Ballad of Gay Tony is the second story and is much better than the other. In this story you run a series of nightclubs with your buisness partner Tony, and have a lot of debt problems that you are trying to get rid of. The storyline in this game is much better and has lots of twists and turns which keep you entertained throughout.
The weapons in the Ballad of Gay Tony are much much cooler and better than have ever appeared in any GTA game. The Explosive Shotgun is a personal favourite, ruining a car in just 2 shots. The vehicles in The Ballad of Gay Tony are also much better, with a range of new sports cars, and a Noose Tank which has the same weapon capabilities of the explosive shotgun, just mounted on a turret. In the Lost and Damned all you really get is a few new bikes, which to be honest, are all kind of the same.
Nevertheless, this game is still worth purchasing, even if it is just for the Ballad of Gay Tony storyline. Even if you are not playing the missions, the game is great for keeping you entertained running round the city crashing cars and blowing up stuff, GTA style.
The PC port of GTA IV was a failure. Its performance was dreadful, and has remained dreadful as of the date of this review despite numerous patches being released during the intervening year and a half. The game itself was marred by poor AI and clunky controls, and these problems existed across gaming platforms from day one. GTA: Episodes From Liberty City (EFLC) is built upon the same engine as GTA IV, and therefore suffers from the same problems. A new patch was released to coincide with the release of the PC version of EFLC, which aimed to both patch the new game(s) and also to bring the original GTA IV up to date with the improvements of EFLC. The patch had almost no impact on the game's poor performance, although it did add a few more graphics options which allowed more control over shadows and anisotropic filtering. It also solved the problem people have had with drivers of vehicles being invisible at relatively short distances; now you can snipe them from rooftops instead of firing fruitlessly into Herbie Goes Bananas-style self-driving cars.
The performance of the game aside, EFLC is a rather measly offering. The game consists of two separate episodes, "The Lost and Damned" and "The Ballad of Gay Tony". The set is advertised as being "two complete games", but even taken together they don't amount to half of what GTA IV was in terms of the number of missions, characters and side quests which were available. You can complete each game in one or two sittings if you skip the cut-scenes, use cabs and trains when possible and don't die too often.
In "The Lost and Damned" (TLAD) you are a member of a criminal motorcycle club, a club which featured in several missions in GTA IV. The story begins with the leader of the gang, Billy Grey, being released from prison, ready to take over once again. Prior to his release your character, Johnny Klebitz, was acting boss and had managed to keep things on a relatively even keel with regards to the heat from the cops and the gang's relationship with other gangs from around Liberty City. Billy quickly falls into old habits and begins dragging the club down with him through his destructive behaviour. Many of the game's missions overlap with those from GTA IV which featured the gang, and Niko - the main character from the original game - makes several appearances, as do several other familiar characters from the original.
The game understandably makes heavy use of motorcycles as the primary means of transportation, and the mechanics for these vehicles have greatly improved compared to how they were in GTA IV. There are many new bikes and other vehicles to choose from, as well as a handful of new weapons. The new weapons are as follows:
[Automatic 9mm]: a handgun which is capable of automatic fire.
[Sawed-off Shotgun]: a double-barrelled shotgun with a very wide spread and a lot of power if used in close quarters combat.
[Assault Shotgun]: a shotgun which is capable of automatic fire and has a large ammunition capacity.
[Grenade Launcher]: fires a single grenade which explodes after several seconds.
[Pipe Bombs]: essentially the same as hand grenades, these bombs are thrown and detonate after several seconds.
[Half a Pool Cue]: a short pool cue used for battering enemies.
All of the weapons from GTA IV are included as well. A quick list of these weapons follows:
* Desert Eagle pistol
* Pump-action Shotgun
* Combat Shotgun
* AK47 Assault Rifle
* M4 Carbine
* M40A1 Sniper Rifle
* PSG-1 Sniper Rifle
* Molotov Cocktails
* Hand Grenades
* Baseball bat
The voice acting in TLAD is pretty standard GTA fare. The only noticeably weak link in the cast is the actor who plays Johnny Klebitz, the main character. He sounds rather strained, like he's trying a little too hard to sound like a tough biker type and instead ends up sounding like a bratty adolescent. The actor who plays Billy Grey is mostly convincing, although his incessant jokey sarcastic tone belies the apparent cold blooded nature of the character. This probably has more to do with the writing than the way he's played, however.
The side missions are scarce, and are primarily focused on gang wars (taking a selection of your crew with you to wipe out a rival gang) and racing. The racing is reminiscent of the old DOS game Road Rash; you are allowed to carry a baseball bat with you during races, and you're allowed to whack anyone who gets too close to you. Obviously the races are all conducted on motorcycles - if you turn up to a race in a car or on foot you'll get a message on-screen telling you to find a bike.
Besides these side quests you also have some largely meaningless activities you can perform, such as killing 50 seagulls or playing air hockey at the bowling alley. The air hockey is a very underdeveloped minigame, and it's both hilarious and frustrating to watch your AI opponent attempt to figure out how to get the puck out of the corner of the table. A way of earning easy money in TLAD is to participate in arm wrestling competitions, which are performed by frantically moving your mouse around in every direction.
TLAD is undoubtedly the shorter of the two episodes, and the tone of TLAD is a little more reined in and gritty than that of The Ballad of Gay Tony (TBOGT). The game is enjoyable, and it's certainly worth a look if you're into this series, but don't expect anything on the scale of GTA IV. This might sound obvious given that TLAD and TBOGT were originally downloadable content, but unsuspecting gamers might be drawn in by the promise of two "complete games" and I want to make it clear that these are nowhere near complete.
The Ballad of Gay Tony is the "wackier" of the two episodes, with a lot of San Andreas-like missions involving parachuting onto the backs of trucks and stealing helicopters from cruise ships. The character you play is Luis Fernando Lopez, a bodyguard and hitman from the Dominican Republic. He works for Gay Tony, the owner of the hottest straight and gay clubs in Liberty City. Tony's involvement with shady characters from the criminal underworld inevitably spills over into Luis' life, who ends up working for some of them and killing others. Many missions undertaken in TBOGT once again overlap with events which took place in GTA IV, and indeed in TLAD. Niko, Johnny and Billy all make appearances and many of the plot points from GTA IV and TLAD start to make a little more sense when they're all pulled together in TBOGT. I've heard the nature of the plots in these gamed compared to the film Pulp Fiction, a film which masterfully intertwines many seemingly unrelated storylines into one, and I'd have to agree with that.
As was the case with TLAD, TBOGT introduces several new vehicles and weapons into the game world. The new weapons found in TLAD are not available in TBOGT, but the new weapons you do have access to are as follows:
[Sticky Bombs]: these are remotely detonated charges which can be thrown against walls and vehicles, or just dropped at one's feet.
[.44 Pistol]: a new and improved handgun which packs a lot of punch but has a lower rate of fire and a slower reload than other pistols.
[Gold SMG]: a golden sub-machine-gun, this weapon is given to you by an associate after the successful completion of a certain mission.
[FN P90]: a silenced machine gun with a high rate of fire, plenty of power and a high degree of accuracy.
[Explosive Shotgun]: while this automatic shotgun can be used with standard ammunition it can also be fitted with explosive cartridges, which put massive dents in vehicles and send enemy NPCs flying.
[Advanced MG]: a heavy-duty machine-gun with a very high rate of fire and a massive ammunition clip. It's not very accurate compared to the other machine-guns in the game, but with a rate of fire as high as this you're not likely to miss twice.
[Advanced Sniper Rifle]: a sniper rifle with a much greater range than that of the rifles from previous games. It can be used with explosive rounds, but these rounds can only be used after a cheat code is entered.
The standard list of weapons from GTA IV and TLAD are also present in TBOGT. The full list can be found above.
For the first time since GTA: San Andreas players can use parachutes to perform base jumps and survive high falls.
The voice actor who plays Luis is superb, and has a genuinely menacing presence. He's a likeable character in many respects, but it's also clear that it takes little to send him into a murderous rage, and this juxtaposition of a frightening psychopath with a nice chap just making a living is written and played flawlessly. As was the case with TLAD the cast is generally typical of the GTA style and tone. Given that this episode is about gay nightclubs you can expect to see at least one or two homosexual stereotypes lifted straight out of a 1970s sitcom.
Side quests in TBOGT include cage fighting for money, base jumps, triathlon racing (parachuting from a plane or helicopter into a boat, then you sale ashore and drive a car for the remainder of the race), nightclub management (essentially being the club's bouncer), drug wars with rival gangs and killing another 50 seagulls.
TBOGT reminds me of San Andreas a great deal, and I think the developers were trying to recapture the gaming experience of San Andreas intentionally.
Both TBOG and TLAD feature further side missions in the form of "random characters". These people appear on your map as icons, and when approached you'll be treated to a cut-scene during which the character tells you of some problem they're having and asks you for help with it. Completing the mission often earns you money, and the characters are often people you've met, worked with or helped earlier in the game. The missions are quite fun, and when the relevant icon appears on your map you'll find yourself dropping whatever else you were doing and attending to it immediately. Often the availability of these characters depends on decisions you've made throughout the game. For instance, if you kill someone who would have become one of these characters later you'll obviously have missed out on whatever missions he/she would have wanted you to complete. It gives the game a certain degree of replayability on its own, and coerces you into make different decisions the second time around.
The games are third-person shooters, which means you'll have an over-the-shoulder view of your character throughout. The game has a cover system, which involves tapping Q in order to send your character behind a wall or a doorway, ready to shoot blindly around the corner or to poke his head out to get a more accurate shot. This is one of the game's most irritating features, simply because of how unresponsive your character is when he's in this state. During a shoot-out seconds can mean the difference between life and death, and the cover system holds you back bigtime. Likewise, the general control system of your character feels heavy, weighted-down and insensitive. You sometimes have to release all of the buttons and then press them down again in order to stop your character from running in the wrong direction. These problems have plagued GTA IV and now they plague EFLC.
Luckily you are not forced to engage in friendship activities which was something GTA IV insisted upon. You can use your mobile phone's contact list to ask friends out for drinks, games or food but you don't have to. Likewise, you don't have to search for or maintain romantic relationships. Thank you, Rockstar Games!
The multiplayer is largely the same as it is in GTA IV, with some game modes simply renamed to reflect the Episode you're playing. I don't play online, but here are the modes which are available:
THE LOST AND DAMNED MULTIPLAYER MODES
[ Witness Protection ]: a team-based mode in which a biker gang and the police do battle for the lives of witnesses in buses being escorted to court.
[ Race ]: The same as the racing which takes place in the single player game, but here you're playing against other gamers.
[ Lone Wolf Biker ]: a player tries to remain alive for as long a possible whilst the other players chase after him. Whomever kills you becomes the Lone Wolf, and whomever remains as the Lone Wolf for the longest wins the round.
[ Own the City ]: players attempt to gain control of territories around the city.
[ Club Business ]: plays take orders on cell phones telling them to carry out certain tasks in teams of 8.
[ Chopper Vs. Chopper ]: a biker tries to reach checkpoints before a helicopter kills him/her.
THE BALLAD OF GAY TONY MULTIPLAYER MODES
[ Deathmatch/Team Deathmatch ]: the object of the game is to simply wipe out your enemies.
[ Free Mode ]: players can roam the city freely with friends, taking part in base jumps and other activities.
[ Racing ]: self-explanatory, really!
The graphics are largely the same as those of GTA IV; photo-realistic, and still hold up well several years after the engine was fist developed. The performance of the game has already been discussed, but here are the minimum system requirements:
[CPU]: Intel Core 2 DUO 1.8GHz or equivalent/better
[Graphics Card]: 256MB of on-board RAM, preferably something along the lines of an nVidia 7900 or an ATI X1900
[RAM]: 1GB (1.5GB for operating systems later than Windows XP)
[Hard Drive Space]: 18GB
[Operating System]: Windows XP or later
Installing the game will take some time, given the sheer scope of the game's engine and textures. The game is spread over two DVD9s (dual-layered DVDs) and you'll need around 18GB of free space to install it. With the new patch you no longer need to install or use the Rockstar Social Club to play the game, and can instead remain offline. However, you still have to activate your license online and you still have to revoke your license when you decide to uninstall the game, as was the case with GTA IV. You do NOT need GTA IV installed in order to play EFLC - this game is a standalone release.
Overall EFLC is a great game, held back only by its brevity and its lazy PC implementation, hence the three-star rating. If you decide to play through GTA IV, TLAD and TBOGT in sequence you'll find it to be a satisfying and engrossing experience. If you haven't played GTA IV certain parts of the game will make little sense to you, and if you haven't played GTA IV recently you'll probably find yourself irritated afresh by EFLC's clunky controls and inconsistent performance.