Rockstar's ambitious Grand Theft Auto IV downloadable expansion, The Lost and Damned, tells a new tale in Liberty City, focusing on the vice president of The Lost Motorcycle Club, John Klebitz. Fans of the GTA series need no introduction to the content within this episode and will likely relish the opportunity to fulfill more of the series' staple quests. For those of you who couldn't care less about the franchise, however, know that Rockstar has set a wonderful precedent for the quality and size of a DLC offering with The Lost and Damned. It's practically a game within a game.
Now, here's the part where you make your choice: "Continue" on to read our full review or jump to our video review below and give your reading eyes a rest. [And don't forget to enter for your chance to win The Lost and Damned right here!]
The length of The Lost and Damned's campaign is fairly epic, and without the devolution that occurred in GTA IV's story halfway through. Focusing on The Lost and the people surrounding the club, players will meet a slew of new and interesting denizens of Liberty City, and even run into a few old ones. Once you scratch the surface, however, you'll notice The Lost and Damned feels familiar.
That's because most of the quests and errands you're charged with completing in the episode, you've done before in GTA IV ... and in GTA San Andreas ... and so on. It's merely a matter of taste, because if you're the type of gamer who's subscribed to Rockstar's formula in the past, then you probably finished GTA IV and you won't mind playing through this expansion.
It's not all recycled material, though. There are 25 "Gang War" events that have you riding with a pack of your brothers and battling opposing gang, the Angels of Death. There are even some new weapons, including the deadly grenade launcher, automatic 9mm pistol, and some pipe bombs to help you take out the competition. Twelve races are also available and highly reminiscent of Road Rash. So ... that's awesome.
There are more activities to enjoy with your comrades, as well. Thanks to a smart stat-based upgrade system, your crew can improve themselves the more they ride with you, or as you place them in combat scenarios. Simply call them up on the phone and request their presence and they're riding along with you, bantering back and forth. It really helps the world seem more real, and beefing up the gang is a worthwhile time sink.
Rockstar also spiced up the multiplayer, offering a few distinct variations on the previous gamplay modes. For one, Chopper vs. Chopper is a pretty compelling mode, where one player tries to race through checkpoints, while the other pilots a gun-toting helicopter, trying to prevent the racer from finishing. There's also Witness Protection, which is a Lost and Damned variant of of GTA IV's Cops 'n Crooks, where the gang of bikers tries to stop an armored bus carrying snitches. All of the new modes are entertaining, especially Own the City, in which two gangs battle over territory in the city.
With the depth of content available here, GTA fans will find the new downloadable content well worth $20. One could easily dump twenty (or more!) hours into The Lost and Damned and still find things to do. But if you weren't already an initiate of the franchise, don't expect The Lost and Damned to convert you.
[Warning: Contains potty-mouthed bikers]