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PLATFORM: Xbox 360

ESRB RATING: M
DEVELOPER: Rockstar North

PUBLISHER: Rockstar Games

Microsoft spent 50 million dollars for exclusive downloadable content for Grand Theft Auto IV, so you know that it wasn’t just going to be some tiny update.

The Lost and the Damned is packed with so much stuff that it could easily have been another game, at the same time tweaking and improving upon the already-fantastic original. This sets the bar for DLC, and is easily the best deal around for fans of the game.
 
THE PITCH

You play as Johnny Klebitz, vice president for the multi-racial motorcycle gang The Lost. Johnny’s been the acting president of the gang for a year because the president, Billy Grey, was thrown in court-mandated rehab after drug charges. Billy’s back now and seems set on destroying the truces that Johnny had laid down with the other gangs in Liberty City, immediately starting up gang wars left and right and trying to make money any way he can.
 
You’re vocal about your concerns with his behavior but Billy is president, and his word is law. Other members agree with you, however, and you soon all start to butt heads…


CHUDTIP-
Don’t forget- you’re not in a cage. You’ve got no cover in a bike, so
you have to rely on your brothers to back you up in a fight.


The story is simple but these are simple people- they live outside of society so they can do drugs, drink, fuck and fight at their leisure. It also holds a few treats for people who’ve played through GTA IV because it takes place at the same time that Niko is exploring his new country. They meet up a few times for various jobs, and this time you’ll see things from Johnny’s side.

THE PLAY

So what’s new? Well, you still are more of a lone gun than you should be, but it does make a difference having a whole crew on your side. You’re not just some chump working by himself, you’re part of a brotherhood, and your guys will fight by your side as long as you keep them alive.

It’s all about riding choppers. If you keep in formation by following the ride leader (there is an icon on the ground where you should be riding) you can repair your ride and talk to your brothers to gain more info about the missions you’re on. The conversations between the guys are pretty entertaining and do a great job of making you feel like these guys are old friends.


CHUDTIP- Make sure you have 1.78 gigs free on your hard drive, or you can’t hang with these guys.



You’ve got two lieutenants that can be called up at any time to provide
backup and depending on how many missions you take them on (and how
well you stay in formation) they’ll level up, gaining more health and
access to stronger weapons. They actually show up with their horns
blaring out the cavalry call, which is awesome when they’re on the way
to save your ass.

You have a chapter house (which actually looks similar to the real Hell’s Angels chapter in NYC…) where you can save, watch tv, and surf the internet- just like GTA IV. You can also participate in a few of the new activities, like playing cards (hi-lo) or engaging in some manly arm wrestling. Speaking of manly activities there’s also air hockey. You can hang out with your friends if you want but you’re not pressured into it this time- it’s all up to you. No more annoying phone calls from assholes who get mad at you if you’re busy!

Of course, the main storyline is where the meat of the game comes from. The missions this time are absolutely fantastic, all of them memorable and a ton of fun to complete. Shifting Weight in particular was a favorite of mine- where Johnny is forced to ride bitch on an acquaintance’s bike and is pursued by dozens of cops. It’s a good example of how much more cinematic the chases feel this time around.

The game is also a helluva lot harder. They’ve slowed down how much money you get so it actually feels like you’re earning your equipment, but if you don’t grab some armor and weapons you won’t get far in this game. Also thankfully this time if you lose a mission you can retry it right at the point where the action starts- no travel or setup required. That’s right, mid-mission checkpoints! We’ve been asking for them for years now, and it was a smart move on Rockstar’s point to finally implement them. Now all we need is the ability to replay missions!
 
Besides the main story missions there are a ton of side missions that can be attempted at your leisure, such as the usual “get me this car” car-jacking missions, or some dirty work for a senator (who likes to show off his junk).

Fans of Road Rash will find the next best thing to an update of their favorite series here, as there are races that give you a baseball bat and encourage you to knock opponents off their bikes. Part of the reason that they’re so great is that the races take full advantage of the fact that you’re on motorcycles, and lead you through alleys and over jumps.

This might sound incredibly irritating to anyone who’s playing GTA IV but they’ve tweaked the handling on the bikes so much. It’s now incredibly hard to be knocked off one. Of course, if you drive straight into a brick wall or car you’ll go flying, but any little bump used to knock you off before. They handle so much better and really you won’t want to drive anything else.


CHUDTIP- The new Assault Shotgun shoots faster than you can believe. Careful with your shots.


There are also Gang War missions which will have you leading your gang against a rival’s, some fun and challenging stuff. These are just some of the missions and new things you can find in the game.

To sum it all up, it’s like if they took all the best bits from GTA IV and condensed it into a game the third of the size. You won’t have a boring moment here… it’s like coming back home.

THE PRESENTATION

When you pop GTA in your system you can choose to automatically start up The Lost
and the Damned
. It’s the only way to play through the new campaign and
multiplayer modes. One feature that will appeal to anyone who hasn’t
completely 100%ed GTA is that you can still unlock achievements for the main game.
I easily got the wheelie achievement this time.



The game looks as fantastic as ever, and the graphics now come with a grainy filter. It can be turned on or off, but of course the grittier look fits the biker world better.


CHUDTIP-
The new sawed-off shotgun is no slouch either, especially since it can be shot from a vehicle.


The radio stations play the same great tunes you know and love, along with even more! Metalheads will be pleased to note that mad Brazilian Max Cavalera (Sepultura) hosts a show called “Blood, Fire, War, Hate” on LCHC that exclusively plays Death Metal. The first time I fired up the game and rode off with my bikers Kreator’s Slaughter of the Soul was blaring, and it made the game for me. So awesome. Fans of classic rock and rap have more stuff to listen to as well, and there are a few more talk station programs, such as a hysterical riff on Howard Stern. Check the full list of additions here.
 
THE REPLAY


Not content to just give you dozens of missions and sidequests in the
campaign mode, Rockstar also included a whole slew of multiplayer
modes.
 


CHUDTIP-
Pipe bombs are tricky to time but nothing will blow up a car faster.


The best is probably the Club Business co-op mode which puts everyone on motorcycles, picks one as ride leader, and gives you a variety of objectives to handle as one gang. It really forces you to work as a team and it’s just incredibly badass to see 16 guys go storming down the road on choppers.

A close second is Witness Protection. The mode splits you up into two
teams and has a gang of bikers trying to take out a witness the cops
are driving to a safe location. It’s similar to Cops n’ Crooks from the
regular game, but reversed.

There are a couple of chasing games such as Lone Wolf Biker, which has you trying to clear checkpoints while everyone chases you on bikes, and Chopper Vs. Chopper, which works the same except that you’re up against one guy in a helicopter. Incredibly fun stuff. There are also the usual choices- Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Gang War (king of the hill), and races.

It’s a ton of stuff that will never get old, unless you get tired of racist 12 year olds talking smack. I’ve got 15 hours logged in the game and only have completed 67% of all the DLC content. All of this for a 20 buck downloadable game?
 

THE VERDICT

The single best piece of downloadable content ever made for a console. Nothing even comes close. With the promise of at least one more episode to come, it’s a safe bet that we won’t be leaving Liberty City for quite a while.

9.5 out of 10